Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Lots of raised beds

The last time I posted about my garden, it looked like this...

And like this...

Now it looks like this...
My vegetable beds.
And like this...
This garden will get planted with dwarf citrus interspersed with lavender.
My brother-in-law, Ben, has been busy the last few weekends preparing reclaimed wood for these gardens, assembling and delivering five standalone raised beds, and working with me to build the raised bed that wraps around two sides of the deck.
Ben building my wraparound deck garden.
I continue to be blown away by his kindness, but he just nods and says that's what family does.

He and my sister, Mel, came out on Saturday with a trailer full of tools and wood. While Ben and I worked in the garden, Mel watched the kids, cooked us dinner and folded my washing. My husband was away in Nashville at the time, so it was really good to have her taking care of all that.

Mel and Ben brought a wood chipper with them, so I was able to chip up all my hedge clippings. My great big pile was reduced to a wee little pile, which looks much tidier and will come in very handy around the place.
Ben came back again on Sunday to finish up the wraparound deck garden. We almost got it finished before the darkness and rain set it. We've just got a couple of boards at the back to fit, once we can build some sort of post behind to secure them to.

Wraparound deck.
I also need to fill in the soil we dug away for posts and the bottom boards. It will look a lot tidier once I've done that.

And because they are ridiculously kind, Mel and Ben also gave me three Feijoa Mammoth trees, so I've spent the past couple of days preparing a place in my garden for those.

Feijoa Mammoth trees.
Of course, nothing is ever easy.

I thought I would just be able to dig some holes for the trees and fill them with potting mix and compost, but as soon as I started digging, I discovered the ground was riddled with ivy roots. The previous owners had pulled all the ivy off the fence, but then just covered the roots with mulch so it looked like the ground was clear too. *Grumble, grumble. Fist shake.*

I've spent two full days pulling ivy roots out of the ground, and I'm not even done. I've got about a metre stretch left to go. Today was really rainy though, and I'm exhausted, so I gave myself a rest day. Hopefully the weather will clear up tomorrow so I can finish this up and get my Feijoa trees planted.

Nothing like having fruit trees sitting in small black pots to motivate me to get gardening.

The other thing that's been slowing me down in this patch of dirt is a large tree stump. Fortunately it is mostly rotten, so I've been able to hack it up with my spade. There's just a little bit left that is still solid, so I've sawed it down to ground level and am going to leave it. I've managed to get most of the stump and it's roots dug out, so it won't get in the way of the Feijoa trees I'm planting.

Back to the raised beds...
I've made a video about how I placed them in the yard and filled them for free with materials from around my yard and my neighbourhood. Unfortunately I'm having technical difficulties loading the video to YouTube, but as soon as I get that sorted, I'll let you know.

I had lots of fun making the video, and it's why I didn't do a blog post last week. I spent every evening figuring out how to edit in iMovie. I'm a bit addicted to making videos now though, and hope to make more for you.  

What would you like to see a video about? Let me know in the comments.

Friday, June 10, 2016

How to treat tonsillitis naturally

Me and my best friend, Wheatie.

This is how I spent my week. Lying in bed with a wheat pack on my neck thanks to a lovely bout of tonsillitis.

It struck about midnight Sunday.

I thought it was the beginning of a cold, since most colds start with a sore throat. I also thought it was going to be a monster of a cold, since it was a monster of a sore throat. Not to be dramatic or anything, but it felt like a thousand daggers piercing my throat every time I swallowed.

When the sore throat didn't change to a cough or a runny nose, and the glands in my neck puffed up, I realised I was dealing with tonsillitis. I've only had it once before, as a teenager, but it's not something you ever forget.

If you're here, reading this post because, like me, you Googled how to treat tonsillitis naturally, welcome, and my condolences. I feel your pain.

Since I did Google how to treat tonsillitis naturally, I tried a bunch of different natural remedies this week. In this post I want to share with you what I found to work. Also, I want to give you hope.

These things did help.

I'm much better now and I didn't even end up going to the doctor. I did intend to see one, but I was too nauseas and exhausted the first couple of days to make the trip, and then the day I started to see improvement, my husband went back to work and took the car, so I couldn't drive to the doctor anyway.

After that, I was feeling better enough that I figured I'd just keep doing what I was doing and let things heal naturally.

So the tonsillitis struck midnight Sunday. It's now late Friday and the pain has been gone since last night, although I'm still a bit puffy. So what's that? Four days? Gosh, it felt longer while I was enduring it. But it was really only four days of the crazy pain.

What follows are my tips for getting through tonsillitis naturally. These are all things I tried, and I'm giving you my notes on how I found them to work.

Please note that I am not a medical professional of any sort, so take that into account when reading this post and seek medical attention if you are at all concerned about how your tonsillitis is tracking.

1. Take pain medication, specifically ibuprofen
OK, so it's a bit ridiculous that the first point on my How to treat tonsillitis naturally post is to take ibuprofen, but I highly recommend this.

If you don't take pain relief, you're going to avoid swallowing at all costs (because of the pain of a thousand daggers thing). This means you are not going to drink enough, you will get dehydrated and your body won't be able to flush out toxins as fast as you need it to. It also means you won't be able to do many of the natural steps I've listed below.

So I think it's worth it to take the drugs. Not paracetamol because there are some dangers associated with it and tonsillitis. Also, paracetamol reduces temperatures, and I wanted my temperature nice and hot to kill those bugs faster.

I took ibuprofen because that's what I had in the house and it said it helped reduce inflammation. I know that the ibuprofen helped dull the pain, because I could always feel when it wore off. Bang! Like a shotgun.

2. Rest
Just rest. You might not sleep much, but that's OK. Rest anyway, if you can. Your body needs you to rest so it can fight.

I watched a lot of gardening videos on YouTube this week, while lying in bed. That was restful.

3. Lay a hot wheat pack on your neck while you're resting
Heat helps with the pain immensely. It also helps kills the bugs in your throat faster, so this is a win/win scenario.

4. Gargle
The sooner you can start expelling crud from your throat, the better. And the best way I found to stimulate that process was to gargle.

Now I'm not going to lie, it's going to hurt a little when you start to gargle, because, well, you have to tilt your neck back. Since your neck is the centre of all the pain in the universe right now, it's going to hurt. But not as much as you think it will. And as soon as you start to gargle, your neck will loosen up a bit and then it will hurt even less. I loved it.

Warm salt water is a good thing to gargle because it helps kill the bugs. But I recommend you only gargle it once or twice a day or you might do what I did and sandpaper your throat raw. Not a good thing to add to the mix of pain centred in that region. I think I gargled warm salt water four times in one day, and that was too many times. Didn't help that I followed the last of those gargles with a clove of raw garlic, but I'll save that for a later point.

I think you mix 1 teaspoon of salt in half a cup of warm water. Let me quickly check that.


It's meant to be 1 teaspoon of salt mixed in 1 cup of warm water. Maybe that's where I went wrong. Too much salt in my water.

An excellent thing to gargle, I discovered, was extra virgin coconut oil. It is soothing, antimicrobial and it draws out infection. To gargle it you need to chew about a tablespoon of the coconut oil in your mouth to soften it, then swirl it around in your mouth to warm it up before you tilt back for the gargle. You can alternate gargling and swirling for a few minutes. The longer you can handle it in there, the better, because it's going to keep drawing impurities out of your mouth and throat.

After gargling, you're going to want to spit. That's good. Go with that urge. And if you feel the urge to hack and cough and clear gunk from your throat, even better. Ever bit of gunk you clear is going to ease some of the pain and pressure in your throat, so celebrate each bit as the victory it is. I know I did.

If you've got nothing else to gargle, just use water. The action of gargling helps clear the throat gunk.

5. Drink hot drinks
After gargling, the back of your throat will feel dry. This is a good time to drink a hot cup of herbal tea or even just hot water. Again, heat is going to kill those bugs faster, so I think it's a better choice than cold drinks while you're fighting tonsillitis.

6. Eat/drink nourishing foods
This is a tricky tip to recommend because, when you're in the midst of tonsillitis, you're physically incapable of standing in the kitchen and making a meal. This step either depends on the love and care of another person, or a stockpile of good food in your freezer.

Real chicken soup is a good thing to eat because it's soft and easy to swallow. What am I saying? Nothing is easy to swallow. It's easier than say, dry crackers. Plus it's hot, so that helps kill the bugs. Broth made from chicken bones is a wonderful healer and health reviver, so it's going to get you up and about faster. The sooner that happens, the sooner you can make more nourishing food to eat - this is compounding interest my friend.

On the first day I didn't eat much at all because I was too sore and nauseas.

On day two I was lucky to remember a container of leftover chicken soup in the freezer, so I got my husband to heat that up for me. If we didn't have that, I would have just got him to heat up some of the homemade chicken stock we always have in the freezer.

I also drank smoothies. In the first couple of days, when my husband was making them for me, they were just a simple mixture of yoghurt and blueberries - AKA probiotics and antioxidants. Once I was up and about more, I added extra things to my smoothies like this Matakana Supershake mixture, which is packed full of vitamins and minerals. The smoothies were somewhat soothing on my throat.

The rest of the time I just ate whatever everyone else was eating.

7. Take vitamin C
Vitamin C is so important when you're fighting an infection. Your body calls on it in high doses, so it's very difficult to get enough of it while you're sick.

Acidic foods didn't feel great on my throat this week, so, although I did eat a few mandarins and kiwifruit for their vitamin C content, I couldn't eat a lot. Especially after the sandpaper throat incident.

To boost my vitamin C intake without aggravating my throat, I whizzed up several chewable vitamin C tablets into my smoothies.

8. Drink a cup of warm milk with a teaspoon of turmeric
Turmeric is a well known anti-inflammatory food, so it's perfect to consume when your throat is inflamed. The warm milk helps it go down smoother.

I only drank this mixture once, not because I didn't like it, but because I was concerned about drinking too much milk, since it can stimulate mucus production. It might have been better to mix the turmeric into my smoothie concoctions.

This did feel really good on my throat though, and the turmeric didn't taste that bad.

9. Eat raw garlic
Eating raw garlic stops bugs in their tracks, so, even though it's not the most pleasant thing to do, it should help you get rid of your tonsillitis faster.

I chopped a clove of garlic up small and mixed it with some fresh basil pesto, to disguise the taste. (There's no disguising that taste.) I ate it all on a cracker with some cream cheese to help soften the experience.

My timing for this experiment was bad, because I ate it in the evening after doing four salt-water gargles, so my throat was raw. The garlic burned. If my throat had been in a normal state, I don't think that would have happened. As it was, my raw throat is what lead me to discover the soothing effect of gargling coconut oil later that night, so there is a happy outcome.

Also, I noticed a significant improvement in my energy the day after eating the garlic, and really started to feel like I was kicking my tonsillitis to the curb. You might just want to eat the basil pesto though, since it contains a bit of raw garlic anyway, and tastes really nice.

10. Keep drinking
Even when swallowing is the last thing you want to do, just keep drinking. Have a water bottle beside your bed and keep sipping away at it. You want to flush out those toxins, and you need to stay hydrated.

I put liquid magnesium into my water towards the end of the week, to help boost my immune system. I felt like it gave me a purpose to drinking my water, so that helped me do it more than I might have otherwise.

~ ~ ~

So those are my tips for treating tonsillitis naturally. I really hope you find something in there to help you, and that those daggers stop stabbing you soon.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Raised garden beds are on their way

Yesterday was a public holiday here in New Zealand, and it was a beauty of a day. I wanted to be out in my garden, but instead was stuck in bed with tonsillitis. 

Luckily for me, my brother-in-law across town wasn't holed up in bed. Nope, he was busy being amazing. 

Remember a wee while back I mentioned that he had some spare lumber he could give me to build raised garden beds. Well, yesterday, he cut up all that wood into the sizes I needed, and then took it one step further by building all the beds that will be free-standing in the lawn. 

Oh my!

This is the photo he sent me at the end of the day with this message, "5 beds made up and components for the rest are cut up..."

I am completely blown away. That someone would use their precious day off to cut up wood and build gardens for me, it's staggering. So out-of-this-world kind. I don't really know how to reciprocate it either. I guess I'm going to have to grow some mighty fine produce in these gardens, so I can share it with Ben and my sister, Mel.

The free-standing garden beds are going to go in this space:
Raised garden beds will go here.
And we are also going to build garden beds to frame this deck, so those are the components Ben was talking about in his message:
Garden beds will frame the deck.
I used my trusty garden journal to plan my garden out a few weeks ago.

My friend, Jodie, gave me this journal many years ago, and I dearly love it. I measured up all my spaces and figured out how many gardens I could fit in and how much wood I'd need to build them. I sent those measurements to Ben, and now, because of him, I'm one step closer to my dream of growing an edible oasis. 
Garden plans. 
Ben is planning to load all the raised beds and parts onto a trailer and bring them across in a couple of weekends time.

Before then I want to level the areas where the gardens are going to go, and collect as much filler material as I can for the raised beds. I'll be asking cafes for their spent coffee grounds, visiting beaches for seaweed, picking up Autumn leaves and grass clippings, trying to source animal manure, mulch and pea straw from somewhere, and collecting saw dust from next to the tree we had cut down.

Exciting times for Craving Fresh. We might get some fresh back in our diet.

What's happening in your garden? 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Menu plan - 2 to 8 June 2016

I've changed the way we do dinners around here.

Instead of dishing up dinner onto the kids' plates, I now serve everything in the middle of the table and the kids get to dish it up themselves - whatever and however much they want.

I reached breaking point a couple of weeks back when I served up a delicious lamb tagine and everybody cried. Not happy tears. Bitter, complaining tears.

Now if the kids only want to eat rice, they dish themselves rice. And I try not to worry about whether they're getting the full range of nutrients they need. So far it has made for much more harmonious dinner times, and the kids have eaten suprisingly well.

You may see lamb coming up a lot in my menu plans over the coming weeks. We just bought half a lamb from my sister's parents-in-law, so our freezer is stocked full of it. (It's delicious.)

Here's this week's menu plan, running from Thursday to Wednesday, since I do my grocery shopping on a Thursday.

Baking - Chocolate chip cookies for Emma (from the Trim Healthy Mama cookbook) and Thermomix chocolate chip cookies for the kids

Dinner - Honey soy chicken drumsticks, Broccoli and Cheese Mini Egg Omelettes, tomato and apple slices.

Baking - Dana's Chocolate Cake (from Destitute Gourmet cookbook)

Dinner - Herb Roasted (mid-loin) Lamb Chops, pasta spirals and butter peas

Dinner - Mini lasagnes (freeze leftovers for lunchboxes)

Baking - Cry No More Brownies for Emma (from the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook)

Dinner - Chicken barley soup and dinner rolls

Baking - Banana chocolate chip muffins for the kids (everybody is digging these at the moment)

Dinner - Roast lamb studded with rosemary and garlic, broccoli and buttered almonds with rice cooked in chicken stock

Baking - Strawberry jelly (for lunchbox fillers)

Dinner - Teryaki Chicken Sushi (homemade)

Dinner - Leftovers. (Empty out the fridge and serve all the leftovers to use them up before tomorrow's shopping day.)

What's on your menu plan this week?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A typical school lunchbox

This is what a fairly standard school lunchbox looks like in our house. We use these Nude Food Movers because they fit everything we want in them, have separate compartments so we don't need plastic wrap, and are easy for the kids to open and find their food. Each child has a different coloured lunchbox, so they don't get mixed up.

This is L's school lunchbox from today:

In the end compartment, she had a small container of home-made jelly and peaches, plus a large mandarin. The small jelly containers come with the Nude Food Movers, so they fit perfectly.

In the middle compartment, which is sandwich size, L had a homemade chocolate smoothie in a small Kai Carrier. (Her smoothie contained banana, greek yoghurt, kefir, cocoa powder, maca powder and whey protein isolate. I pop the smoothie in frozen, and it defrosts ready for lunchtime.)

In the end compartment, which is split into two, she had a boiled egg white (she doesn't like the yolk) and a homemade banana chocolate chip muffin (yes one of the muffins I baked on Sunday). I tend to put something savoury in one of these end compartments, and something sweet in the other.

So that's a very typical lunch around here. Smoothies are staples in the centre, and then some kind of fruit goes in at one end, and some baking and savoury food goes in at the other. L used to have ham and cucumber sandwiches, which I would fit on top of her smoothie pouch, but she has gone off sandwiches and I'm struggling to find a good replacement.

Any ideas? Let me know in the comments.

Note: I have not been paid to mention any of the products in this post, they just happen to be the products we use and love. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

How I dry laundry to save money on my power bill

Washing clothes is a chore I actually quite enjoy. It's not really a chore to me at all.

I always get lulled in by how easy it is to chuck dirty clothes into my washing machine and how nice my laundry powder smells when I scoop it in.

I especially enjoy hanging my washing on the line. It gets me outdoors for a few minutes of fresh air and I'm addicted to the smell of sun-dried washing.

Where my washing routine usually falls down is in the folding and putting away. It's mostly just a timing thing. My washing tends to finish drying at the end of the day, which is when I'm busy doing dinner prep and dishes, and getting kids bathed and into bed. Sometimes I have the energy after that to put my washing away, sometimes I don't.

Anyhoo, today I want to share with you how I dry my washing with the minimum dryer use possible to save on our power bill.

Obviously, on a sunny day, I hang the washing out on our main washing line, which is handily located just outside the laundry door.

Main washing line. 
Lately it has poured buckets from the sky every day, so I haven't been able to use the outdoor washing line at all. Instead, I've been hanging things under cover on our deck to dry. My friend, James, helped me string a washing line there just before the weather turned feral, and it has helped so much. Now I want to string more washing line up, because I think this is going to be my go-to drying space over winter.
Whites drying under cover on the deck. 
Towels drying under cover on the deck. 
Even on rainy days, the washing gets mostly dry out here, so I always hang it up for a while to blow the moisture out of it. Then to finish drying it, if it's not quite there, I either put it in the dryer or, if there are only a few pieces to finish off, I hang them in my hot water cupboard.
Drying lines in hot water cupboard.
I drape as much as possible directly over the hot water cylinder where it's hottest, but I've also strung a couple of lines of wire across the front of the hot water cylindar to maximise drying space in the cupboard.

It always amazes me how fast things get dry in here.  If I'm doing several loads of washing a day, the first load is always ready to pull out of the hot water cupboard by the time the next load needs to go in.

So that's how I save money on our power bill by making use of passive solar energy and the heat that's already being generated in my hot water cupboard. When I do use the dryer, it is for a very short time as most of the drying has already happened on the line.

I'm also now experimenting with washing in cold water to make further savings on our power bill.

I've always done warm washes, with the occasional hot wash to clear out the washing machine and sterilise bed sheets, but after reading this post over at Frugal Girl, I realise there are big savings to be made if I utilise my cold wash more. And since I'm drying out in the sunshine, my washing is getting sterilised anyway.

I think to be successful with cold washes, I will need to soak really dirty items first, but that's tricky since I don't have anywhere to do that in our small laundry. I could do it in the laundry sink, but the washing machine drains directly into that and I don't want anything blocking the drain hole. I'm sure I'll figure something out.

How do you save money on your power bill? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A morning in my tiny kitchen

This morning I woke up feeling like I wanted to go shopping. Sometimes I get this itch to go and buy something because I think it will magically bring me joy and improve my life.

But since I spent last night reading The Simple Year, where Kerry documents going a whole year without buying anything new (other than groceries), I decided that for today I could find a different way to improve my life.

So I baked and cooked. And I took some photos while I was baking and cooking so you can see how I make it work in my tiny kitchen.

The first thing I did was get my bun dough cranking in the breadmaker, since it takes a couple of hours in there.

In the next photo you can see that I set the breadmaker up on the stovetop, since that's where the only electrical socket is on this side of the kitchen. Also the stovetop is flat so I use it like a bench top when I'm not cooking on it (and even sometimes when I am).
Bun dough in the breadmaker and fresh banana chocolate chip muffins. 
While the bun dough was doing its thing in the breadmaker, I put the oven to use baking banana chocolate chip muffins. Some of these got eaten for morning tea today and I froze some to pull out for lunchbox fillers this week. I freeze them because it means the kids won't find them and eat them early, and it keeps them fresh until I'm ready to use them. Note my silicion muffin liners. I love these and have used them over and over for a couple of years now. #zerowaste

While the muffins were baking, I chopped up pumpkin, onion and apple to make pumpkin soup. It went into the oven after the muffins came out.

Roasting pumpkin, onion and apple for soup. 
Once it was done roasting, the whole lot got whizzed up with homemade chicken stock on the stovetop next to the breadmaker.
Pumpkin soup.
My soup only required half a pumpkin, so I peeled and diced the other half and double bagged it to freeze for another day. I used an empty bread bag for one of the bag layers. #zerowaste 
Bagged pumpkin pieces ready to freeze.
I do a lot of food prep on my dining table. As you can see, that's where I chopped up the pumpkin above, and in the next photo I'm cutting up the bun dough ready to shape buns. 
Slicing dough to make buns.
This might have something to do with that...
Dishes having a party.
My entire bench gets taken up with dishes, since we don't have a dishwasher to tuck things away into.

Once everything finished baking and cooking, I did the dishes, so now my kitchen is back to normal. Of course, while my back was turned, this happened.