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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Things we've learnt since moving

Its been a long long time since our last post- 3 1/2 months to be exact! I suppose its the way things go- life gets busy!
We have been at our new place for 6 1/2 months now and have been happy chook keepers for almost as long. For our first post after such a long hiatus, I thought we could talk about some of the things we have learnt, or are in the process of learning, since moving house with a toddler and a lot of stuff.

1. Its so easy to get attached to stuff.
By stuff I mean anything. General stuff. Things that you couldn't bear throwing out when you had space for it due to whatever reason: sentimental or the 'I might need it someday' mentality. We both tend to fall into the latter category.
Freecycle was a god-send. Its so easy to get rid of things using that site- generally within an hour of me posting an Offer ad, I would have replies and in some cases, people would come and pick up straight away.
Much easier and less hassle than auction sites like Trademe and no fees!

2. Reducing your reliance on a car is surprisingly easy
Simple: we just go out when we have something on. We are lucky to be next to a park but also, the shops are in walking distance and Mr nearly-2 doesn't need to go and do a bunch of activities to be happy- he is more than satisfied with a walk- especially when a helicopter is circling overhead or there are lots of trucks around. We do use it when we have things on, but way less than we used to.

3. Auckland's public transport really needs an overhaul!
We were lucky enough to get some inheritance which paid for a cheap and economical motorcycle for going to university and back which means we own one car and one bike. If public transport wasn't so expensive and unreliable, it would be a no-brainer to use it more, but for one of us to go to university on Auckland's north shore, it cost at least $10 per day. The bike, on the other hand, even taking into account registration, maintenance and petrol, its a lot cheaper and way more reliable.

4. Its easy to eat less meat
When we were DINKs (double income no kids) we ate a lot of meat. Living off a student loan, its more of a treat than a regular thing. And that's certainly not a bad thing. The Healthy Food Guide has great ideas for cheap healthy meals (we are lucky we were gifted a subscription, but everything is on their website) and you don't miss out on anything by eating less meat as long as you try to eat balanced. Most of our family is vegetarian and I dont think I've eaten anything cooked by these guys that I haven't liked!

5. Chooks are great
Ok, we might be biased, but we have really loved having chickens. We have a lot more now than when we last posted a blog, but are getting between 4 and 6 eggs per day and our babies haven't even started laying yet!
They eat scraps, their poo is fantastic for the garden and, of course, they produce eggs!
It has been a huge learning curve and we did have a couple of sad experiences but we know so much more now and we look forward to learning even more in the future.

Its been a great 6 months- living closer to family, having a fenced backyard and seeing our little one grow up from a baby to a small person! Here's to the next 6 months!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Baby chick set up

Since we last blogged, we have acquired another 6 baby chicks (Orpingtons this time) so our total is up to 12 baby chicks (21 chickens all up...). Since we have a few more, our set up has changed, so I thought I would share it with you as it seems to be working really well.

Before getting baby chicks, we did a fair bit of internet reading and came across ADozenGirlz The Chicken Chick. Her blog covers a wide range of chook keeping and has been a very valuable read. It was on her recommendation that we put down a few puppy training pads (or incontinence pads) before our layers of paper towels which is what the chicks live on for the first few weeks. So far, so good! They seem to be doing the trick really well, and we have layered the paper towels so that we only need to take off the top layer every day (unless it gets really dirty).

We bought a heat lamp from Mitre10 and Mindy's (our housemate) father rigged it up for us. If he hadn't done that for us then we would have bought a fitting and a lamp from the bird barn (pet part) which they use for baby chicks but also reptiles. Thanks for saving us nearly $100! :)

We bought a water feeder from the bird barn as it isn't safe having bowls of water in with new chicks as they can easily drown. We have 2 feeders in there- a bird one and a home made upside down planter on a plate- this will hopefully stop the chicks from scratching and pooing in their food!
The screen keeps it secure, but we still keep the cat well away from this whole area just in case!

So here it is in its glory:

Baby chicks enjoying a dust bath
Will keep you posted as the chicks grow!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

We had a plan...

We got a set of bantams fairly soon after moving house. We've always wanted chickens, and luckily our new housemate did too!
Bantams are great- relatively friendly, cute as a button and easy to keep. Out of 5 bantams, only one of them currently lays eggs though... Its the wrong season, of course, but what we really want are some hens to lay us some beautiful free range eggs.
Bantams are apparently really good mothers and get broody really quickly. Same with a hen we were given too. But as luck had it, none of them have had the inclination so far.

So what did we do? Well, we got some fertile eggs anyway. Luck would have it that Kel's brother's hen was broody, so we gave them to him and his wee hen sat on them for 21 days.
The time arrived, and so did one chick, but no more. And then that chick died.
Sad times indeed.

Instead of wondering what to do next, we took the plunge and bought 6 three day old chicks off Trademe. (off a great breeder based in Helensville) Hopefully they will be all hens and will be our good layers, but we wont know for a while yet!

Having chickens has been a good learning curve- even more so with the babies. Its so lovely having them in our back garden, eating all our wandering jew, talking away to themselves.

We'll update their progress soon

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Easy DIY Lip Balm

Using this recipe HERE I went ahead and made some lip balm of my own! I adjusted the recipe and have included it for you below.

This recipe makes a more chapstick texture balm and would be perfect in a recycled chapstick tube.

This makes about ~30 mls (give or take...), though I did use 2 recycled containers. Here is how I did it.

Lip Balm
1/8 cup beeswax
1 1/2 TB shea butter (you could substitute cocoa or another vegetable butter)
1 TB coconut oil (or other carrier oil- The original recipe suggests Safflower oil. I used coconut as its quite solid and it is a great moisturiser)
2 drops essential oil of your choice (I used Lavender)
optional: a teeny shaving of lipstick to give it colour.

Gently heat the beeswax, shea butter and coconut oil in a double boiler.
Once it has melted, mix in the essential oil and colour if so desired.
Pour quickly into your containers and let set.

See? Easy! For a more spreadable, melt-able balm, add and extra tablespoon of butter or oil (whichever's cheaper haha!). You can experiment with other butters and oils to get something more suited to your needs.

Aside from being quite hard, it seems to work really well and lasts nicely on my lips.

I sourced the beeswax, butter and coconut oil from Lotus Oils though you might be able to find it cheaper elsewhere. Two thumbs up to Lotus Oils for delivering less than 48 hours after my order!

Please do let me know if you give this a go.
Kudos to Gweneth at Yours Truly, G for the original recipe and idea.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Adventures in Sourdough

We have a lovely active sourdough starter which is around 5 months old now and makes the most amazing bread. Although there are a lot of ways you can do it, we thought we should share how we did it.

We pretty much followed the recipe and method HERE though we substituted malt for the honey as that is what we have. There are lots of ways to make a starter if you don't already have yeast, but they seem to take longer and you get varied results. Once this process is done, you just need to make sure you feed it regularly so that the yeast doesn't die.

We found that if we fed it the 1/2 cup water and 1 cup flour, it would always vary as to the consistency we got after it had been fed, so now we feed by weight. Usually I feed 100g plain flour and 100g luke-warm water.
I found this information on a website that I can no longer find, but it has worked for us so far.

You will notice that when you check your starter (before you feed it) there will be a green, grey or brown liquid sitting on the top- don't worry- this is just the alcohol from the fermenting yeast. If it turns pink or the starter smells bad (its meant to smell alcoholic), then your starter has gone bad. If you get to this point, then there might be a way to fix it here

I should have taken a pic of our starter before I stirred it, but here it is in all its wonderful, gloopy glory.
mmm potent...

I have experimented with a few different recipes but this one seems to work really well, and is done all by weight, which is much more accurate than volume. I cant, for the life of me, find where I originally got this recipe from, though it has been a little modified. Apologies to whoever created it!

Sourdough using a 'fed' starter
*your starter needs to have been fed a couple of hours before using until its doubled in size

300g fed starter (~ 1 3/8 cup)
500g flour (~ 2 7/8 cups)
2 TB oil (we use rice bran)
3 tsp sugar (sometimes we substitute honey or malt)
2 tsp salt
enough luke warm water to form a dough

Add the flour to the starter gradually. 
Add in enough water to form a kneadable dough (but you dont want it too sticky) 
Mix in the rest of the ingredients. 
[NB: I also added a handful of kibbled wheat]

Knead the dough for 6-8 minutes until elastic (make an indent and if it springs back, its elastic) 
see here for some great info on basic breadmaking

Then I clean the bowl, oil it a little, put the ball of dough back in and let it rest for 15 mins.

This information I got from reading, re-reading and reading a bit more, a bread book by a kiwi lady called Take Our Bread (by Marcelle Pilkinton). I made bread before reading this, but through her book I've really learned how to make bread.

After the rest period, form into loaves (or whatever- I love to make plaits) cover and set aside to rise for 1-2 hours, or until its doubled in size. The day I made this load, it took around 3, but it was a relatively cold day and I dont think I let my fed starter sit for long enough before using.

Before baking, brush with an eggwash or milkwash if desired (and it does make it look awesome)

Dont preheat the oven. Place in a cold oven and turn to 190 bake.

Bake for 30-45 mins or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped and look golden brown.

Let cool for 1 hour before slicing.


We are still newbies to the whole idea of sourdough, so any advice would be warmly welcome.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

New starts

So we've finally moved house. Been here for just over a week now and it's been great!
So here are a few things we have done or thought about during the break:

While we were packing up our stuff for moving, we utilised Freecycle and got rid of furniture and other bits and pieces. Also discovered a new website in the same ilk called FreeStuff though we haven't used it yet. We do highly recommend signing up and using it to get rid of unwanted stuff- everyone has stuff they need to get rid of- why not give it away?

The house we are living in (we are housesharing- we have the downstairs and they have the upstairs) is getting chickens. Very exciting and we are looking forward to not only getting fresh eggs but learning more about how to raise them, care for them and whatnot. Apparently chicken poop is also great on the garden.

While our last attempt at a veggie garden at the old house wasn't all that successful (for the most part) we are looking forward to be able to try again at this place. So far Em has learned not to over plant (a rookie mistake) and also to read up on when to harvest said vegetables (a silly mistake).

Meal planning:
We were really great at this... until we started packing up our stuff to move. We will definitely be meal planning in the very near future- not only for costs sake but also convenience. It wasn't hard to do in the first place and made life way less stressful around dinner time- especially with a destructa-toddler running around eating us out of house and home.

Less computer time:
It is far too easy for both of us to get addicted to the computer- spending hours doing pretty much nothing and achieving just as much. The way this house is organised is a lot less open plan so this time around the computer, while still in the living space, is not so much the focus of the house any more.

Toothpaste, sunscreen and other such things:
Em has been brushing her teeth with baking soda/salt (a mixture that one of you kindly directed us to) but K is on the look out for an alternative to the toothpaste that's on the market right now- full of all sorts of stuff- a lot of it really unnecessary.
Same with sunscreen. K will do a big post about sunscreens soon after more research

TMI for the guys, but for the women, please do have a think about alternatives to your normal menstrual products. While we have been trying to research this, and have been finding it hard getting statistics and other information about pads and tampons and how they are produced, we will continue to look into it and do a proper post in the fullness of time. In the meantime, please check out EnvironMenstruals which is a company based in Christchurch and their website has a lot of information about alternatives. Mooncups might look scary but they are reusable, easy to use and will save you money long term.

So here's to a new year, a new place to live for us and some new changes afoot.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Resolving conflicts

We have tried to keep this blog's topics pretty wide, but at it's most simple we focus on three things: the environment, health, and social impacts. These are by no means isolated areas however - some issues can easily been seen as covering all three. For example, a dangerous chemical used in a product is a concern for our health but it may also be a concern for the people manufacturing the product (making it a social concern) and it also might cause pollution when waste products are discharged from the factory (making it an environmental concern).

Often it is not that simple however. Some products might but better than alternatives in one area and worse in others. For example, Palm oil is better for our health than both butter and trans fat containing margarine; but both these alternatives are are more environmentally friendly than palm oil. So we are forced to decide between these competing issues.

I suggest that these three issues can be ranked so that, all else being equal, one trumps the concerns of another.

1. Social
2. Environmental
3. Health

A lot of people will disagree with me ranking Social above Environmental, but I am shamelessly anthropomorphic and think that the extreme suffering of humans is of a more urgent concern than environmental ones. Don't get me wrong, the environment is important in it's own right and in the sense it is where humans live, but social concerns are more important to me (you can rank differently if you want). Health, I think is pretty non-controversial to put third as it is a 'selfish' concern - it mainly only effects ourselves and those we buy for. We can always eat small amounts of butter over palm oil to use the above example.

In light of this we will be writing more about social concerns in the future to balance all the posts about the environment so far.

any comments?