Saturday, March 19, 2011

Making yoghurt

I like to eat yoghurt and love the full cream varity with lots of healthy bacteria. Also I don't like the additives that comercial yogurt usually contains, such as pectin and gelantin. My German friend Karin inspired to make my own yogurt and my Bulgarian friend Boje does hers too.
The yogurt culture is already in the milk and the glasses are waiting to be filled.
You need milk, water, milk powder and a good food thermometer. I am using a milk jug thermometer that can be clipped on to the pot rim for easy checking of the milk temperature without picking up the heat from the pot. I bought the thermometer at a kitchen supply store for under $10 and it has served me well.

The other things I use are screw top glas jars to store the joghurt and an esky to keep the mixture warm for the joghurt to set, plus hot water for sterilisating the glass jars and for filling the esky.

The procedure is simple: I make about 3.5 litres in one lot. I heat up two litres of cold water, add 1 litre of milk and four cups of skim milk powder. I stir it well and heat it to 80degrees Celsius, then take it off the stove to let it cool. I try to get the temperatures pretty accurate.

I then choose my glass jars and sterilise them in boiling water. I use about 10 jars of various sizes and pre-heat them in handwarm water in the sink before I leave them for about 30 seconds each in a big pot with boiling water. I do the same with the lids, to ensure they are clean and germ free. I reheat the boiling water after about three jars to make sure it is close to boiling and does the job. I cover my kitchen bench with a fresh tea towel and let the water drain off the glasses.

When then milk is cooled down to just below 50 degrees I mix in the joghurt culture. I use a joghurt high in beneficial bacteria, if possible organic joghurt. So far I have never used a started culture but will explore that avenue. I put the filled jars into the esky which I already filled with the hot water left over from preheating and sterilising the jars. I ensure the jars are nearly submerged and I add boiling water until the  inside water temperature is about 48 degrees.

The jars will be left in there for at least 4 hours. After that I take one out and turn it over to see whether the yoghurt has set enough. I let it cool down and put it in the fridge when room temperature, usually over night. This method has done me well and the product is delicious. I can't wait to eat it.

Great websites with information about making your own yogurt :
Pick me yard
How to make yogurt
Wiki - How to make yogurt

Water tank is empty

It has not rained for some time. Western Australia has not had any benefit of the increasing rainfall everywhere else in Australia. this is a typical La Nina, wetter all around, WA drier. The Lleuwin current is about three degrees warmer than usual and this affects out rainfall just as much.

201130.2 0.4 0                   30.6

No rainfall this month and only 9mm in February. Our suburb got a bit more than the official metropolitan rain gauge. Dams are at a record low and so is my water tank.

It has been in place for only two years and I don't think it was time to clean it, that's a task for the end of the next summer. It does not empty as such because the tap is about 50cm above the base line. When we put it up we were so excited to finally get it in place that we forgot to insolate the tap's neck. And soon the rain started filling it so there was not opportunity to change the tap without spilling all the precious water.
Small amounts of water have been leaking from the tap all around the year and allowed a blanket of green algae to grow on the outside of the tank.

Time to get rid of this stuff and making sure it does not affect the tank water. Who wants algae in their water tank? We really want to drink the water if possible and use it in the garden all through summer.

I got the tape out, wound it around the neck of the tap, got rid of the algae with a soft brush and screwed the tap back into place. It's looking good and now waiting for the rain! Last year we had the first storm on 22 March and it was a terrible hail storm that resulted in a lot of damage, loss of power and trees stripped of their leaves.

At the start of summer I was calculating how long the water would last. I think I though it would run out by the end of January, but with a ittle bit of December rainfall and tw showers in January is lasted until mid March. That makes me happy. Although I cheated and from December only watered half of the garden beds with the watering can and used mains water for the rest. I can't wait to see the water usage bill to calculate the total of water that I have been using in the garden.

The garden is quite barren at the moment, only the spring onions are looking good. I planted a few more zucchinis and tomatoes, as the plants were coming up from seeds. Also coriander is just coming up well and the basil is still doing fine. I grow two different varieties, one with straight leaves the other one with a more curly Italian variety. Some pumpkins have survived the mildew attack and are doing fine, capsicums and chillies are thrieving. Sweet potatoes love the weather. Still, if we only had rain soon!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Living the Good Life - Great Book by Linda Cockburn

ISBN / Catalogue Number: 9781740663120
Why does it always take years until good books get to me? The book Living the Good Life by Linda Cockburn was already released in 2006 but I only read it after my friend Gay passed it on to me with the words "You might like this book". And indeed I liked it.

ABC gives a good book review: Living the Good Life is the day-to-day account of an inspirational family experiment – to see whether it is possible to live by the principles of domestic sustainability to their utmost degree.

Already passionate about ways of minimising humanity's impact on the environment, author Linda Cockburn and her family decided to take a huge plunge. For a six-month period they grew, made or bartered for all their own food, generated all their power needs from the sun, collected their own rainwater, and aimed not to spend a single dollar. They put the car keys away and resorted to bikes, stopped eating all takeaway, and became utterly in tune with the seasons.

Living on just an average-sized house block in Queensland, the Cockburns have put true power in the saying that change begins in your own backyard. Along the way there were failings and successes, and together they learnt a tremendous amount about themselves. Linda's diary entries take you with her on the journey. Alongside are fascinating facts and anecdotes on the environment, recipes, tips for people interested in changing their own way of life, and information that you won't find anywhere else.

Phantastic experiment, but it would have been a lot more difficult in the sandy Perth soils. You need the right place of earth to do it. Still, I am inspired! I admire their inventiveness, determination and persistence. In the end, the book came to me and is another sign that the universe provides! This is possible and more and more people will follow the lead.

As Linda's website says: Their idea of living sustainably on a suburban block is simple and perfect. By drawing all their power from the sun, harvesting their water from the rain and growing enough produce to give them variety, they can do something positive for the environment and for themselvesYou can order it directly from Linda Cockburn and get a signed copy.

New compost tumbler - Osborne Metal Industries

Osborne Metal Industries, formerly from Osborne Park but now registered in NSW, have been producing compost tumblers for about 50 years. I am not sure whether they still make these barrels. Today Julian found one on the verge just around the corner, in perfect condition, a bit rusty, but with all components working well.

What a find! The universe provided again.This is the second composter that came our way and this time without any money involved. I checked e-bay and they are selling for about 80 dollars.

We did more work on the mulch pile and we have probably already shifted half of the pile and the block looks lovesly, especially the front yard. The earth will thank us, we are both sure about that.

I also picked up a Ryobi electric shredder for little bits and pieces to go into the compost. I found it on Gumtree and went to freo to pick it up for $50. The review of the machine were not great but I needed something to cut leaves and thin branches only and hope it will do the job.

Mulch, mulch, mulch

The pile of mulch that was delivered on Monday is 1.5m high and about 6 metres long by 3 m wide. I think it is at least 20m3! It's a big pile! We will shift it by wheelbarrow. How many wheel barrows are needed for the lot?

People busily walking past on their morning walk take pity on me and make respective comments, such as "Big job at hand!" or "Oh my god!" Nobody says the magic words: "Ah, what a big pile, let me help you!"

But I see that this as a task if spread over a few weeks will bring me in good physical shape. I think of it in lots of 10 wheelbarrows. So, whenever I take the shovel into my hand I move at least 10 wheel barrows and if I still feel like it a few more. If possible, I work wrice a day, mornings and evenings. The first days I did not see any difference to the pile, but now it is getting considerably smaller, especially since Julian lend a hand today before lunch.

We have got lots of room on the block. The mulch is composting too, with especially parts of the mulch that have a high green leave component developing considerable heat. Will do wonders for my garden. The slaters will probably like it too. The cat has already embraced the soft bedding for her daytime sleeps. I don't think I need to put the sign up "Free mulch". But that would be my last option if all fails.

I put up a post on the Great Gardens network regarding what treatment the sandy soil would need before the mulch is put down, but I have not received a response yet. They are probably busy preparing for more gardening workshops around WA. The workshops are great, not to be missed.