Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pre Christmas Update

I realise it has been very quiet on the blogging front lately.  I read recently that if you want to be a writer you have to live a full life too otherwise you have nothing to write about.  That is very true.  Over the last month I have been continuing to live my sustainable journey and hopefully I have gleaned some fodder for my blog.

Firstly, a little bit on my favourite topic "soap nuts."  Early on in my sustainable journey I felt almost consumed by the topic.  This was a very labour intensive period where I was reading, doing and learning lots.  Now it has settled into a happy medium and I really feel that it is possible to live sustainably without any more effort than is required to live conventionally.  As soon as my soap nuts liquid runs out I automatically boil up a new batch.  Same with my shampoo and conditioner - I can have a new lot made up in about 2 minutes.  In many ways it is easier than realising your have run out and having to go down to the supermarket.  So many behaviours and actions have become automatic.  For instance on the odd day when I forget my recyclable shopping bags I end up packing my own plastic bags at the supermarket.  It is quite funny as the shopping attendant keeps filling new bags and I empty them and put them in the half full ones.  I find that especially the younger attendants look at me like I'm a bit of a crazy lady.  They could have a point but seriously - is there some rule that says toiletry products can not cohabitate with fruit and vegetables? that coffee can't tolerate the company of cheese?  and that horror of horrors - well wrapped meat must be banished to a lonely life in its own shopping bag.  Lastly on the "preaching" segment of my blog - please remember Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.  They are in that order for a reason.  If at all possible don't bring home non organic packaging.  Choose products from the supermarket that are not over wrapped or are in a container which can be put to good use.  If you must purchase inorganic wrapped make sure you can turn it into a lunch box, drink container, handy scoop measure.  I don't use them forever because often the grade of  plastic in these products is not intended for extended use.  There is potential for the plastic to leach into the contents (or that is what the manufacturers tell us).  Recycle them periodically and get a new batch.

I'm continuing to enjoy making cheese.  The last two cheeses have been made from goat's milk as my friends had some spare.  One of the cheeses we ate fresh - like a feta - and it was a hit.  I now have three waxed cheeses which we will start eating at Christmas.  I did make a huge cheese from 9 litres of Jersey milk but it was a disaster.  Much better to stick to 5 litres otherwise I am juggling far too many curds and hygiene gets compromised.  I made my last cheese around midnight Friday night and some time in the early hours of the morning my make shift cheese press keeled over.  This released 17 litres of water into the bathroom and because I didn't hear anything it soaked into the surrounding carpet.  Not very nice and one reason that I would dearly, dearly love a proper cheese press.

On the creative front I have now attended two sessions with the Kaikoura Spinners and Weavers.  There are about eight of us and they are a lovely group of ladies.  There is something so nice about sitting in a group and knitting.  I also met a lovely lady a few weeks back who invited me to her place in Christchurch for a spinning lesson.  Thanks to her I am now able to spin for half an hour at a time without breaking the thread.  My wheel is borrowed from Zoe so I was going to get my parents to bring my old wheel down.  This wheel was only ever intended to be decorative and it would have taken some money to get it functional again.  So instead I bought an upright wheel over Trade Me and my parents are kindly bringing that one down for me.  I'm really excited to see it and get spinning on my very own wheel!  Photos to follow.

Another group of us (young mothers and me) have met a few times for a casual crafting session.  We do all sorts of activities - some of us knitting, others making a Christmas wreath, bath salts, cross stitch, carding wool and even making the fairy for the top of the Christmas tree.  It is really nice to pick up creative ideas from others and the mums enjoy a break away from the kids.

Finally, I am now attending harakeke or flax weaving classes.  In fact I am due there now.  For a koha (donation) and bringing some food for a shared lunch we get to learn from master weavers.  Last week I made a long basket which I am using as my Christmas kete.  It looks great with all the presents inside and its gorgeous flax skirt.  Today I am hoping to make a small bag with a plaited strap.  Actually I better go - I'll save this blog and finish it this afternoon.  I want to add some photos and give a quick update on Katherine and her new friends Gretchen and Maggie Magpie.

Its the next day and I am the proud owner of a flax kete shoulder bag.  Last night I attended the final evening of the Kaikoura High School Night Class.  We delivered our flutes which hopefully will be fired by the local potter very soon.  Then we were taught how to cook using kelp.  How you do this is to hollow out a pocket inside the kelp.  Fill it with fish, meat, herbs, veggies etc.  Then tie off the end with a piece of flax.  Place the kelp pocket into hot embers.  The kelp will turn from brown, to bright green and finally to a charred black.  This only takes about 7 minutes.  The pocket is then cut open and inside is gorgeous steamed food.  I'm going to try this on a beach bonfire cooking fish caught fresh from the sea.  Add a slice of lemon, potato and some cabbage.  Yum, yum.

Quick livestock update.  Katherine is continuing to thrive.  She is a lot more independent now although she continues to hover quite close to the house.  She is pretty much naturally weaned although I'll continue to give her a milkshake every few days until the Anlamb is used up.  She has a huge wool coat and I am going to try and get her shorn very soon.  I don't want her burdened with this in the height of summer.  The goat farmers (Sarah and Daniel) had acquired a goat and her kid from a friend.  As the goat was the wrong breed they did not want to use her in their cheese making operation.  I am happy to report that Gretchen and her kid Maggie Magpie are now living with my neighbour Monique and are thriving.  I am hoping to try milking her (Sarah has offered to give me a lesson) but I will wait until she has fattened up a bit.  Being a young mother has taken its toll on her and she needs some TLC - not some crazed city girl yanking her udders.  : )

Finally - I just want to say a word about "zealots."  All parts of society have them but the sustainability section have more than their fair share.  I have a friend who is vehemently vocal about organics and animal welfare but sadly just does not walk the talk.  Having her lecture me on a regular basis is extremely trying.  I want to point out that while I am loving exploring the concept of sustainability I do not claim to be "without blemish" and I would never force this way of life on others.  Of course I love it when I hear friends are using soap nuts, or trying out the baking soda and apple cider vinegar hair wash - but I'm also a realist.  I do believe the world would be a better place if we all endeavoured to live more sustainably however I realise this path is not easy and often not realistic for busy wage earners and parents.  I am neither - and that makes my endeavours a whole lot easier.  I hope this blog provides some inspiration to try a few different things but I'll still love you if I meet you in the supermarket checkout stuffing commercial detergents into your plastic shopping bags.

Last of all (yes that is technically another finally) I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and I hope you all enjoy a well deserved break.

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