Permaculture and Creative (urban) Living

permaculture and creative urban living

Having been throwing myself into all things permaculture minded for the past good few years, it was a little tricky looking over at all the identical perfectly mown lawns and not think of how I would like to quietly rip a good proportion of all that grass up.

Sure it wasn’t mine to rip up, but what an enticing dream it would be.

Instead of perfectly manicured ornamental gardens with impeccable weed free edging, there instead might be a line of fruit giving trees all the way up the street as far as the eye could see. All within easy reach of the foot path, all for people to pluck as they needed, and as often as taste buds sung out.

This line of fruit trees would also give a little shade to those that chose to walk the many uphills under a blazing summer sun. The ones that forewent the air-conditioned comfort of cars, that would drive on unseeing to all that food yet to be foraged by knowing fingers.

Or maybe there would be a canopy of beans to walk through, that might be right next to a forest of nuts and bananas, a pedestrian round about, with herbs circling in a mandala kind of fashion.

The possibilities are deliciously endless and certainly not restricted to the street side. So how does permaculture entwine with creative living?

Well in my mind they lie hand in hand, it’s an ability to think outside the square. To be able to create and be adaptable to the environment that you’ve been placed. Making do with what you have essentially, and in a sustainable fashion, thriving from within it. There are patterns, there are creations, and there are probably a multitude of pops of colour.

finding patterns

finding patterns

The more formal definition of permaculture…

What is Permaculture?

‘Consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs. People, their buildings and the ways in which they organise themselves are central to permaculture. Thus the permaculture vision of permanent or sustainable agriculture has evolved to one of permanent or sustainable culture.’ [David Holgrem]

Finding a definition of creativity is a little harder to narrow down. There are so many branches to the word, and as there should be, the word in itself is a creative one of which meaning depends on the user alone.

Not restricting the word to the art world, I did like this line though when reading through the many variations…

‘Creativity is the ability to transcend the ordinary’

And that brings me back to those perfectly damn mown lawns again.

Whether you live in a busy city studio with a cat named Peter or an off grid farm that is the dictionary definition of diversity. What would you do with a street full of perfectly manicured, grassed gardens? Tell me… or even better, what HAVE you done? I’d lovvvve to know.

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(This post is 1 of 3 in a series on creativity.)

Extra Bits 

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” Maya Angelou

Permaculture Principles– a mighty resource that will get you started.

Buderim’s “Eat Street”Urban Food Street, a neighbourhood initiative that started from a conversation about over priced limes 7 years ago. This initiative now covers 11 streets, with people moving into the area, because they want to be involved.

Urban Farming- The Leaky Pipe

 

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Cauliflower Curry- Frugal Friday

cauliflower || cityhippyfarmgirlcauliflower curry || cityhippyfarmgirl

The good thing about having a blog is that you can see how you have changed over time. Looking back on your words, thoughts, photos and certainly for me, my recipes. Sometimes I feel those recipes need a little shake up.

Now come winter time, this dish (or a variation of it) often turns up on our dinner table. It’s easy, it’s seasonal, it’s super frugal and it deserved a better picture than this one from three years ago.

easy cauliflower curry recipe || cityhippyfarmgirl

 Cauliflower Curry

1/2 a large head of cauliflower

3 potatoes

3 sticks of celery

6 cloves of garlic

1 finely chopped onion

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp curry powder ( a bit old school, but I like it)

400mls coconut milk

Dry fry the spices, onion, garlic (fresh chilli if you are feeling bold) and celery in a little vegetable oil. When they smell delicious, add the coconut milk. Let it simmer for a bit and then add your potatoes and cauliflower. Pop the lid of the pot on and cook it until they are as soft as you like.

curry

P is for Plums…and lots of them

plum jam || cityhippyfarmgirl

plum crumble

When a surprise box of plums comes home, there is a tiny pause then a lovely mixture of excitement and ooooh, what am I going to do with them all!

Despite my fervent wishing I still don’t have a walk in pantry, with darkened rustic wooden shelves of assorted heights to store all my preserved goodies on. On the other side of the pantry, I also don’t have a long fermenting bench where I can store all of my current fermenting goodness. What I did have was a box of plums that needed sorting asap, a crowded bench top for fermenting and a small portion of a dresser cupboard to store things in.

I also had enthusiasm, and that should never be underestimated.

So what was to be made with that of box plums?

plum mead || cityhippyfarmgirl

Plum Crumble

Plum Jam

Chilli Plum Sauce

and the most exciting of them all

Plum Honey Mead

Plum Honey Mead was such a great experiment. The picture here is of the mixture at 24 hours old. Already it’s started to bubble a little, which only increased- and almost volcanically. I was happily telling anyone that paused for longer than thirty seconds beside me, (which can be awkward at pedestrian crossings and other generally non chatty public places.) More to come on this intriguing stuff, so in the mean time how about a Chilli Plum Sauce Recipe? Dead easy and surprisingly versatile in what you can smother things with.

chilli plum sauce || cityhippyfarmgirl

Chilli Plum Sauce

8 plums washed, stoned and quartered

100g fresh chilli

1 medium brown onion

4 cloves of garlic

2 cups (420g) brown sugar

1 1/2 cups (375mls) white vinegar

2 tsp salt

Process plums, chilli, onion, garlic together in a blender and then into a pot. Add the sugar, salt and vinegar and bring to a gentle simmer. Keep it at this level until the sauce thickens. Pop into a clean glass jar and keep in the fridge, (or alternatively process and store as you would jam.)

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And to the winner of the little giveaway- Congratulations Zena from Twigs and Twine, I will be in touch shortly to get your address.

As for everyone else that took the time to comment on this post. I have to say, I feel so honoured to be a part of this online community. I know time is precious and there are thousands of incredibly interesting things to be looking at on the internet these days- so taking the time to comment here means a lot.

I also found it so interesting in hearing about what community meant to different people. I think in asking the question, it’s just confirmed things even more for me. Connectedness and a sense of belonging within a community (of any sort) is so incredibly important and so many of us within this small online space here- value that.

As I send virtual loaves of sourdough and little plates of biscuits to you all- again thank you. You all rock. 

Creamy Mint and Broad Beans- Frugal Friday

broad bean and mint-cityhippyfarmgirlbroad beans- cityhippyfarmgirlzucchini

I had broad beans and zucchini. Outside, a pot full of mint that was threatening to take over the entire courtyard if I was to let it. Cream that had been sitting on it’s lonesome for far too long and a little fetta that really, really needed sorting out.

What to make, what to make?

Creamy Mint and Broad Beans

A couple of good slugs of olive oil

pop some some new season diced garlic in

some grated zucchini

as many double peeled broad beans as you could be bothered

cook it down until soft

add a few good slurps of cream

salt and pepper to taste

then add some roughly chopped mint

crumbled fetta

and serve with brown rice or spaghetti

Eat with gusto

frugal friday- cityhippyfarmgirl

Cauliflower, Leek and Potato soup- Frugal Friday

cauliflower leek and potato soup

If I had opened our vegetable box as a kid, and seen cauliflower looking right back at me- I may well have wept a little.

At the very least I probably would have silently gagged.

Not now though. Now, when I see a little cauliflower peeking from a corner, in the Foodconnect box I do a little happy dance. I can’t get enough of it. Teamed up with some leek and potatoes also from the box, (and locally grown) you have yourself an easy peasy seasonal dinner. 

Cauliflower, Leek and Potato Soup

one chopped large leek

3 chopped large potatoes

half a head of a large cauliflower

1 vegetable stock cube

about 500mls water

salt and pepper to taste

Saute leeks in a couple of good slugs of olive oil, then the rest of the ingredients and cook until soft. Then blitz, with a hand held mixer.

Serve with pangritata and capsicum chilli sauce.

cauliflower, leek and potato soup

(Remarkably similar to last years cauliflower and potato soup…that’s seasonal eating for you!)

picnic

bunting picnic

It was the perfect antidote to a pretty stressful week. A celebration of our city living community. A chance to get together, share food, swap stories, let the kids run loose and put all my worrying tiring thoughts on pause for the afternoon. I needed that.

It had been awhile since the last one. With Autumn’s Equinox and the tail end of a Sydney summer- it seemed like a good excuse for a laden food table and a chance to watch some colourful bunting flutter gently in the breeze.

Thankfully, it takes very little to get a great bunch of people together. A group email invitation to a chosen loved spot. Invitations to invite other friends along with them, and suddenly there is a big bunch of lovely people. Ukuleles, hula hoops, bare feet and rampant yodeling are always actively encouraged at these sorts of things. This is what makes living a busy life, in a small space, in a bustling city… ok. Actually it’s more than ok, it makes it wonderful.

cupcakescityhippyfarmgirl

Jammin’ with Mariana

I love making jams and marmalades. For me it’s the perfect way to preserve the season. Vanilla Plum Jam- a gentle reminder of hot summer days in a jar, when eaten in the cool of winter. Tarty Citrus Marmalade- Autumn love and enjoyed every week of the year on my sourdough toast.

I started making jam and marmalades back when I was a teenager. I’d watched my mum do it countless times and just learnt by watching. A couple of decades on and I still happily make my preserves although I’m not particularly good at why I do certain things, I just do.

For this reason I thought I would do a Q and A on jam making, with the ever knowledgable Mariana from Thru My Kitchen Window. Mariana’s pantry is the kind of pantry I would quite happily raid any night of the week. Those darkened shelves, I know would be lined full of beautifully made preserves. Made with a basket full of love and knowledge, (which is a pretty awesome combination when it comes to cooking.)

how to make jam-cityhippyfarmgirl

Jammin’ with Mariana @ Thru My Kitchen Window

Q: What is the best kind of fruit to jam and do I use over ripe, or under ripe fruit?

A: Fruits that grow successfully or are native to the area where you live.  Apples would be an exception; for example I live in SE Qld and I source my apples at the local farmers market. The apple growers are from Stanthorpe (over two hundred kms away) and I know the apples were picked up to three days before market. Under ripe or close to just being ripe are the best fruit to use in jamming.

mulberries

Q: What is pectin, why do I need it and which fruit has the most? Can I use that packet stuff that says Jam Setter?

A: Pectin can be a hard thing to understand until you’ve worked with quite a number of fruits; at least it was for me. I would describe pectin as a ‘gummy-like substance’ that oozes from the fruit while it’s simmering. Adding lemon juice to simmering fruit helps to further release the pectin. Pectin levels are different in every fruit, eg; apples are high; strawberries are low.  Preserve books generally contain information about the pectin levels in most fruits; consult them or the net and use as a guide to help you achieve the best setting. It’s worth noting that once you add the sugar to the fruit you are no longer enabling the pectin to release; so do not add sugar until you’re happy with the softness or firmness of the fruit. You may think the rind in your marmalade is very soft, but once the sugar is added it actually assists in toughening the skin, so don’t be afraid to cook down fruit with rind, unless of course you like a firm rind.  The sugar will cook with the available pectin to form a gel or set; you may need to persist a few times till you get the setting right. Don’t give up, it’s all learning.

I’ve made and used my own liquid pectin stock. It’s very good; but some of the gels have been too firm so in future I’d only use it with poorer pectin fruits if at all.

I don’t use packet jam setter so I can’t comment on that one.  I’ve heard that these setting agents can reduce the intensity of the flavour in the fruit. However if you’re new to jam-making then anything that will help to boost your confidence in setting the jam can’t be such a bad thing.

how to make jam- cityhippyfarmgirl

Q. How long do I cook it for? Is timing the same for every fruit or does it vary?

A. Cooking times for jams all vary, for example strawberry jam could take 5mins to simmer and another 5 or 10mins for setting, whilst for strawberry and apple jam, simmering could take 20mins till the apples are soft and up to another 20mins till it jells. It’s all approximate unfortunately as so many factors depend on the condition of the fruit. For instance if you use overripe strawberries you’ll most likely end up with a strawberry sauce with very little chance of setting. Unblemished, just-ripe strawberries will in the same cooking time will give you a much better jam result.

jam

Q.What’s the saucer test, and how do I know when it’s ready? Also, I’ve heard about jam getting wrinkly, what does that mean?

A. I used to do the saucer test. Basically it’s to test how well the jam is jelling. Place a teaspoon of the jam onto a chilled saucer that’s been in the fridge.  Allow a couple of minutes to cool. Then with your finger gently push the jam from one side to see if it ‘wrinkles’. If it does then your jam has reached setting point; cease any further cooking. If it doesn’t wrinkle then presumably it needs more cooking.

These days I use my wooden spoon to determine the setting of my jam, jelly or marmalade.  Dip the spoon into the centre of the saucepan and slowly lift the spoon well above the pot. Tilt and watch how the liquid drips back into the mixture. If it runs off quickly, then keep cooking.  When a setting point is reached, the jam should fall off the spoon in small clumpy teardrops . I much prefer using this method than the saucer test but it does take practise to recognise the signs.

blueberries

Q.Skimming scum off the top doesn’t sound very pleasant, do I need to do that?

A. Yes. It’s unavoidable that some impurities will rise to the top as it should. This is a good thing.  Take a metal spoon and skim away from the sides. Don’t attempt to skim from the centre of the pot; you’ll scald yourself.  With some fruits there’ll be lots of scum while hardly any with others. Generally cooking the whole fruit albeit chopped, will produce greater scum. This is usually the case for jelly-making, and even more important to remove because jellies can be quite transparent and therefore the clarity depends on how well you skim the scum away during cooking.

Q. How to sterilise your jars and do I really need to? There seem to be so many different methods to do this?

A. Consult ‘canning books’ or simply ‘google’ to see recommendations on how best to sterilize. I always wash the jars and lids together in hot soapy water; rinse in boiling water, sit on a rack that’s also been placed in hot water.  Arrange the jars on a baking tray bottom side down and place into a preheated conventional oven at about 80degrees; leave while the jam is cooking. Don’t put the lids in the oven till five minutes before the jam is ready. Your jars and lids should be quite ‘hottish’ just before filling. Once you’ve filled your jars, seal immediately. Place the jars side by side in a high sided tin or tray.  Cover with a tea towel to help cool down slowly.  I’ve yet to encounter a problem doing it this way. I read that filled jars should be reboiled for ten minutes, but I find it all so tedious and an extra step in what can already be quite an arduous task.

jamjars

Q. How long does the jam keep for?

A.The greater the sugar content the longer the keeping time. If you use one cup sugar to one cup of fruit then easily a year and even up to two years. You may get some discolouration of the jam as it tends to darken a little the older it is. These days I prefer to use a ratio of between sixty or seventy five percent sugar to the fruit. In this case it’s best to use the jam between six months and up to a year. At least that’s my experience.

citrus

Q. If I have never made jam before, what might be an easy fruit to start with?

A.Choose a fruit that’s in season, one with reasonable pectin levels.  Add some Granny Smith Apples – this will improve your chances for a really good set – and help your confidence for the next jam-making session.  If you want to be really adventurous, go for making marmalade. You’ll have extra work with finely shredding rind, but your chances for a good setting will be excellent as citrus have high levels of pectin.

Q. And lastly, what’s your favourite jam?

A. I love a really good orange marmalade; it’s hard to beat.  However; dabbling in lilly pillies and jaboticaba fruit the last couple of years has been thrilling and has produced some wonderful discoveries.  And the mulberry season this year was one of the best ever. The mulberry and lime jelly I made was so intense in flavour it was unbelievable. My gifts to people turned into a nightmare! They were begging me to buy more of the stuff, so I’ll have to say mulberry jelly is my favourite. One thing it did confirm, there’s nothing quite like the taste of a home-made preserve.

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A huge thank you to the lovely Mariana for taking the time to do this and if anyone has any other questions that haven’t been covered here, please do ask in the comments. Hopefully I, Mariana, or someone else can jump in and answer. Jam making isn’t scary or complicated, it’s following some general rules and then you are away, ready to preserve the season. 

the vegetable that everyone forgot- Frugal Friday

Cauliflower.

Remember that one? It’s got a bad rep, as the tastless tree like cousin of broccoli. It’s not though.

In season now, it’s cheap, tasty and adaptable to oodles of dishes… just right for Frugal Friday.

Cauliflower and Potato Soup

A splash of olive oil

Half a head of cauliflower

One large zucchini

Six small dutch cream or kipfler potatoes (the waxy kind)*

One cube vegetable stock (or your own if you have it)

water

Cook it up until soft. Then blitz it up with a hand held blender. Serve with a scattering of lightly fried sourdough breadcrumbs, for some textural crunch.

* Remember all potatoes are not created equal. A good potato can be the making of your dish.

summer salad- Frugal Friday

This is my standby summer salad at the moment. It’s finding itself teamed up with a whole heap of dishes, as you can make a big batch of it and it’s not going to go soggy when left in the fridge for a few days.

Summer salad

Chopped up raw kale leaves, (don’t worry about the stalks, too chewy)

Steamed and diced carrots

Steamed corn cut off the cob

Sliced capsicum (peppers)

Pecans

If you have any other seasonal goodies hanging around, pop them in too.

Dress with your favourite dressing.

Summer Roasted Tomatoes- Frugal Friday


Roasted Summer

some summery heirloom tomatoes chopped in half

a small roughly chopped eggplant

a few cloves of seasonal local garlic

some great local olive oil drizzled all over

pop in a few potatoes/ sweet potatoes if you feel like it

then roast at about 200C until it smells wonderful and looks how you want it.

Just before you finish the roasting add some

ripped up basil leaves

and sliced soft fresh mozzarella (not the salty waxy yellow type)

Eat with some chunks of sourdough for mopping up those juices.

Simple, seasonal, locally produced, frugal… oh and tasty.