Archive for September, 2006


Friday, September 29th, 2006

In our quest to become more self reliant, we are always on the lookout for ways to make things for ourselves rather than buying them ready-made. Often the results are healthier for us and kinder to the planet — as well as costing less.

Recently, I decided we should start making our own toothpaste. I have seen various recipies for toothpastes and tooth powders in books and on the Internet. This one, which I found on Path to Freedom, appeals to us because it consists of just a few easily obtained ingredients.


6 teaspoons baking soda

1/3 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons vegetable glycerin

15 drops natural peppermint essence (optional)
Combine all ingredients, mix well, and store in an airtight container.

Note: Kevin and I like a thicker toothpaste, and don’t mind if it’s not very sweet tasting, so we halve the quantity of glycerin in each batch. Also, we like to make at least a double mixture, since the quantity this recipe makes is pretty small.

We get a lot of satisfaction from this toothpaste. It contains no saccharin, no artificial flavourings or colourings, no flouride, no sodium laurel sulphate, no sodium laureth sulphate. . . to name just a few of the less desirable ingredients that can lurk in commercial toothpastes. It’s easy to make, and our teeth feel shiny and clean after using it.

But what say we ran out of vegetable glycerin, or even baking soda? Or what if we wanted to buy even fewer ingredients? Then what? Well, we could always clean our teeth with salt and sage leaves. We bought a tiny sage plant at the market last Saturday, so perhaps we’ll be able to try this before too long.


Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

Ever since we planted the first bok choi seeds, I’ve been thinking about how good it would be to make some bok choi kimchi (kimchi is a Korean-style sauerkraut). Finally, our bok choi is ready to harvest, and we are engaged in our much-anticipated bok choi kimchi experiment.

Bok choi, ready to harvest

Kevin and I are very fond of lactic fermented vegetables, which have become a regular part of our diet since we moved here. Lactic fermented foods contain lots of health-giving enzymes and vitamins. Lactic fermentation is a simple traditional way to preserve food without losing nutritional value. Actually, the process adds nutritional value to the food — like making yoghurt out of milk. They also taste delicious — less acidic and more mellow/complex than vinegar pickles.

In case you are interested, the recipe book, Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon, has some good recipes and guidance for making lactic pickles. It really helped us get started. If I’d known it was that easy to make your own fermented vegetable pickles, I’d have started doing it much sooner. Wild Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz, might be another good book to look at. This book is on my wish list, as I think it might give us more interesting ideas and recipes to work with. Maybe we’ll get it next time we are putting in an order with Amazon.

We’ve made various different kinds of lactic pickles in our little kitchen here, but this is the first time we have produce from our own garden to ferment. It feels like a small milestone!

I’ve never tried to make kimchi out of bok choi before, so let’s hope it works ok. I’ll post the outcome in a few days!

Here’s the recipe:

Bok Choi Kimchi
7 heads of bok choi, cut into quarters lengthwise
1 1/2 tablespoons of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of chile flakes
2 tablespoons of fresh ginger, finely chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
4 tablespoons of whey (You can get whey by putting some live natural yoghurt in a cloth, and collecting the liquid that drains out of it.)

Method: Mix all ingredients together in a big bowl. Pound and crush the bok choi to release some of the juices — without completely pulverising it. Leave the mixture to sit for a few minutes to draw out a bit more moisture. Now put the mixture into a large preserving jar, pressing it down to pack it in, and so that the liquid comes up to cover the vegetables. Leave about 3cm of space at the top of the jar, since the kimchi will expand a bit as it ferments. Close the lid firmly, and keep at room temperature for 3 days. Now it should be ready to eat.


You can now store the kimchi in the fridge or root cellar, where it will keep for several months. The taste is good immediately, but improves as the kimchi matures.

Slug Update

You might remember that we were having a problem with slugs devouring our bok choi plants. Somehow, with my nightly slug hunts and our beer traps, the slugs have been kept under control, and we will get to eat most of the bok choi. Farmlet reader, DR, has suggested using coffee as a slug and snail repellent. We are keen to try this trick. Also, BB suggested using khaki campbell ducks to eat the slugs. We like this idea too. Khaki campbell ducks are supposed to be wholly carniverous, so would not eat the seedlings. I’m still a bit worried that the ducks might kill seedlings by standing or sitting on them, though. Has anyone out there had experience with khaki campbell ducks in a vegetable patch?

The 100 Watt Hour Per Day Chest Fridge

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

Becky and I pay NZ22.3 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity, so reading about this “fridge” was nearly a religious experience for me.

After we get our desperately needed solar hot water system, this will be the next project:

Using vertical doors in refrigeration devices is an act against the Nature of Cold Air. Understanding and cooperating with Nature rather than acting against it leads to much better efficiency.

My chest fridge (Vestfrost freezer turned into a fridge) consumes about 0.1 kWh a day. It works only about 2 minutes per hour. At all other times it is perfectly quiet and consumes no power whatsoever. My wind/solar system batteries and power-sensing inverter simply love it.

Research Credit: DR

Sowing Seeds

Monday, September 25th, 2006

One of my favourite jobs here on the farmlet is starting seeds for our gardens. Now that spring is here, we want to grow all kinds of seedlings to fill the garden beds. Every morning, I rush out to see whether any more seedlings are pushing their heads out of the soil. We are hardly planting any seeds directly into our garden, because the mulch we are using is too coarse to be good for starting seeds in. Starting the seeds inside also prevents the loss of seeds and very young seedlings to birds, slugs and other hungry critters.

The sunny window in our living room has turned into a seed-raising area. It’s become so full that I decided to build a cold frame to start more seeds in. I constructed the cold frame out of an old window, some scraps of wood, and a bit of black polythene. All the materials were scavenged from our various debris piles, except for the nails, so this project was not too damaging for our wallets or for our earth! I’m not much of a builder. Any self-respecting carpenter would cringe at the bent nails and crooked corners that comprise the cold frame. . . but it’s functional enough, and the plants don’t seem to mind the odd bent nail here and there.

We have had a lot of fun in previous months choosing seed out of several different seed catalogues. We have selected heirloom seeds, and hope to save seed for future crops, as far as we are able. Since this is our first year, we’ll be watching carefully to see which varieties grow and produce well in our garden.

Today I planted three kinds of cherry tomato (yellow, red, and orange), greenfeast peas, essene flax, leeks, green onions, strawberry spinach, pepinos, sweet basil, zucchini, zinnias, borage, and radishes. I wonder who thought up such a delicious name as “greenfeast pea.” We are both hoping that they will taste as good as they sound.

What else have we been up to today?

Well, we chatted for quite a while with a kind neighbour who brought over some seed potatoes for us to plant. It was certainly nice to be able to give him a big bag of avocados to take home.

In town yesterday we had stocked up on meat. We bought a bulk pack from the butcher, so today I re-organised our little freezer, dividing the meat up into usable portions, labelling it, and adding it to our cache of frozen goodies. We are very happy with the fridge-freezer we inherited when my parents moved recently. As well as including a small freezer, this fridge has a “five star” energy rating, which means it’s much more energy-efficient than the fridge we had before.

We had run out of bread yesterday, so today it was time to bake again. We now have a nice big loaf of sourdough bread in the cupboard.

Will Work for Avocados

Saturday, September 23rd, 2006

Becky and I have been helping Becky’s Mom and Dad move house over the previous couple of days. (Check out their beachside paradise, Cable Bay Cottages.)
Becky and I graciously accepted payment for our efforts… in avocados picked from their trees!


Even though avocados are one of our favorite things to eat in the world, not even Becky and I will be able to gobble up all of these. We’re going to try to sell a few, here and there.

If you’re a local (Doubtless Bay area, New Zealand), we have a few of these delectable treats on sale at the glorious Bush Fairy Dairy. Eat tasty avocados and support Farmlet at the same time! How cool is that?

Update: We decided to try to sell some of the avocados at the Kaitaia Farmers’ Market. We might try the Keri Keri Market next weekend.

I wore my finest t-shirt for the market