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July 2011

Two roosters and an urban backyard don’t mix

Backyard roosters 1

Remember those three cute little chickens I bought on a whim a few months ago? Two of them ended up being roosters.

I suspected as such soon after I got them home. Two of the three had larger combs and liked to perform cute little miniature cock fight dances with each other.

I knew buying five week-old chickens at the markets was not a smart thing to do. The seller claimed that they were too young to be sexed, but I think he was just trying to make a buck out of his roosters before he had to deal with them. He offered to take back any roosters, but could only accept them on the first Saturday of the month (the day before market day).

I’ve watched numerous ‘first Saturdays of the month’ pass without taking action. I was in denial. I was hoping that I had three hens or at the very least was giving them a few more weeks to enjoy life.

Backyard roosters 2

Then 6.30am in the morning a few days ago we were woken with a ‘Cock-a-doodle-do’. I lay there hoping I was dreaming. Then another ‘Cock-a-doodle-do’ and another and another. Each louder and prouder than the previous.

Backyard roosters 3

One of our neighbours isn’t a fan of us treating our backyard ‘like a farm’. I didn’t enjoy his reaction when he discovered we had bees, so we weren’t prepared to give him time to respond to a couple of roosters waking him up.

Backyard roosters 4

Duffa Dilly Bong and Flappy had to go. And quickly.

The ‘eco’ thing to do would be to kill them ourselves and cook them up into a healthy nourishing roast, or at the very least some chicken stock. But we just couldn’t.

Waiting a few weeks until the ‘first Saturday of the month’ also wasn’t an option. So we phoned the seller and asked if he’d take them a few weeks early. No luck.

We’ve taken other much loved hens to the vets, and paid $25 each to have them put down when needed, because killing chooks is not something I could do, and is a task Daddy Eco would prefer to avoid. But we both realised paying $50 to have two young roosters put down is just silly.

So Daddy Eco decided he was going to do the deed. He wasn’t thrilled about the idea – but was willing to give it a go. We were planning a Friday night of online chook killing research when I received an email from Kate and Mark from Purple Pear offering to mind them until the next ‘first Saturday of the month’. (Earlier that day Daddy Eco had called them looking for some chook killing advice, thinking that being farmers, they’d be experienced in such tasks. But we’d momentarily forgotten that they are vegetarian).

Backyard roosters 5

With a huge sense of relief we accepted Kate and Mark's offer and dropped the roosters off at their holiday coop.

I’ve been surprisingly sad and bothered by the whole experience. They are both the sweetest little chooks and their sister Emu has since been wandering around our yard in distress looking for her brothers.

From now on I think I’ll stick to buying our chooks at point-of-lay. Chickens are fun, but deciding the fate of roosters is not something I enjoy.

{Moral of the story: If you sneakily buy a few chickens when your husband is away (because you know he would say no) and then he’s the one that has to ‘deal’ with them, you will never ever ever ever hear the end of it}

Would you be able to ‘deal’ with a few roosters? Part of me feels guilty about moving them onto someone else to deal with. They’ll likely spend their last day or so in crowded transport. First to the markets. And then to the abattoirs where they’ll probably be processed into pet food. Killing them in our backyard seems far more humane. Am I being a ‘chicken’ passing their fate onto someone else? Am I causing them unnecessary suffering? Or am I simply making too big a deal over a few roosters?

Our crazy kids' crafternoon

I was delighted when Kathreen from Whip up asked me to be part of her crafternoon blog party. It meant that I got to have a sneak peak at two new and delightful craft books for kids: Kids' Crafternoon Sewing and Kids' Crafternoon Papercraft.

Each book is filled with practical and creative projects, contributed by specialist crafters from across the globe, that can be easily completed in an afternoon. Little Eco and I excitedly decided to host our very own 'crafternoon'. I had visions of a neat table scattered with a few crafty things (perhaps even decorated with a vase of flowers and some cup cakes), surrounded by a couple of girls quietly concentrating on their crafty creations (clearly I was delusional).

Little Eco is only four years old and the books are targeted at ages seven and up, so we invited her two oldest friends (aged five and six) to our crafternoon. With fifty cool projects to choose from, we struggled to pick just one. Little Eco literally pointed at each and every one of the full-page photographs and said "I want to make that", "and that", "and that"...

Kids crafternoon 1

We settled on Kids' Crafternoon Sewing cover star Limby the Button-eye Dude, contributed by Lizette Greco and grecolaborativo.

Kids crafternoon 2

Kids crafternoon 3

The crafternoon started very civilised, with each of our crafters quietly planning their Limby on paper.

Kids crafternoon 4

The helpful lists of materials needed and equipment required meant it was easy for me to have everything we needed gathered and ready before we started. Fabrics were chosen from the scrap box and patterns were carefully cut out.

Kids crafternoon 7

Heads were completed using buttons reclaimed from an old shirt.

But then my visioned calm crafternoon slowly deteriorated.....

Kids crafternoon 5

(can you spot the third child?)

Kids crafternoon 6 ...into one very crazy crafternoon. 

Kids crafternoon 8

Thankfully, each project comes with clear step-by-step instructions and illustrations, which meant that despite the chaos, progress was made and within an hour or so we had all our Limby pieces ready to be stuffed.

I then naively sent three excited and enthusiastic girls off to get the chop sticks they needed to stuff their Limby. Next thing I hear a scream. I race out to find Little Eco sobbing with one hand covering her eye and the other holding a chop stick. My heart stopped. Thankfully the chop stick left her with nothing more than her first trip to the optometrist, a blood shot eye, and a story for show-and-tell.

Kids crafternoon 9

Determined not to let an injured eye stop her from completing the Limbys, that night Little Eco helped me hand sew the Limbys together.

Kids crafternoon 10

We were left with three very cute and individual Limby Dudes.

Kids crafternoon 11

Despite being younger than the target audience, our three crafters enjoyed creating their Limbys and only needed a little guidance and assistance. The six year old was a little more able and focused than the younger two and I can imagine how thrilled slightly older children would be to create the projects by themselves.

Both books would be particularly good for those of you who would like to craft with your kids but don't feel you are the 'crafty' type, as each project comes with clear and detailed instructions.

Despite the chaos, we're keen to host another crafternoon. Both books are filled with many more projects we'd like to try. I love that many of the projects are practical and would be enjoyed long after the crafting is finished. There's toys to play with (paper aeroplanes, spinning pinwheels, puppets, and kites) and treasures to wear (paper beads, mushroom brooch, jellyfish pendant, softy badges, a belt, and a bag).

Kids crafternoon papercraft

We've since recycled some scrap paper into a few of the Stitch-bound books from Kids' Crafternoon Papercraft.

Want to find out more about these books? Both books are available from Booktopia and you can join in the blog book tour by visiting the following blogs. The party has already happened over at  Poppytalk and Picklebums and is headed to the following:

{25 July Beaspoke quilts} {26 July Maya Made} {27 July Checkout girl} {28 July The red thread} {29 July We Wilsons} {30 July Maggie Makes} {31 July Mmm Crafts} {1 August Domesticali} {2 August Floating Ink} {3 August Elizabeth Abernathy } {4 August Mommy Coddle } {5 August The Long Thread } {6 August Hannah Fletcher } {7 August Between the lines } {8 August Go Make Me}

Want to know an easy way to know what produce is in season?

Purple pear csa box july

Eating seasonal produce is good for your health, your hip pocket, the environment, and local business. Unfortunately, given that supermarkets, greengrocers and even some farmer's markets stock most fruits and vegetables all-year-round, it’s often challenging to work out what's in season.

Seasonal produce lists are helpful, but you have to either memorise them or carry them around with you when shopping.

I realised the other day, that due to where and how we shop, I don’t have to think about what’s in season at all. Thankfully, everything I buy is automatically in season. The secret is to avoid shopping at places that sell non-seasonal food.

Here's a few alternatives to buying from the supermarket or greengrocer that make buying seasonal food easy:

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) schemes: We’re a member of the Purple Pear Organics CSA. We pay for a years worth of vegetables at the start of the year and in return Kate and Mark grow food for us (and around 20 other local families). We pick up a box of super fresh (picked that day!) produce from the farm each week (the contents of last week's box are shown above). We share in the gluts (I’m LOVING citrus season) and know when the chickens are off-the-lay or when rain or heat has affected a particular crop. I feel connected to where and how my food grows.

Local and organic food cooperatives: Similar to CSA’s are local and organic food cooperatives like the various Food Connects (Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney) and other schemes such as the Beanstalk Organic food co-op here in Newcastle. Perhaps your local community has a co-op?

Farmer's markets: Farmer's markets are a great place to buy seasonal produce, but don’t assume that all food sold at a farmer's market is local or seasonal. You'll often find ‘typical’ greengrocers there selling produce from all over the country (and even overseas). Instead, look for signage that identifies that stall as a farmer, or even better chat to the stallholder. I love chatting to farmers at our local farmer's markets. I ask where the produce was grown. Has it been a good season? I love becoming a familiar face. Check out this Australian directory for a Farmer's Market near you.

Direct from the farm: You are guaranteed to get seasonal food when you buy direct from a farm, either at a farm gate stall, or from a pick your own farm. Find a farm near you using this global directory of pick your own farms (head straight to the Australian page here).

For me, skipping the supermarket and shopping through a CSA and the farmer's markets has benefits far beyond the environmental, financial and health benefits. I can't help but smile each time I open our weekly CSA box and our weekly trip to the farmer's market is one of our weekly highlights. Shopping connects me to my community, my food, and is a whole lot more fun than a visit to the supermarket.

Getting ready for the Crunchy Betty Honey Challenge


I've mentioned before that I wash my face with honey.

I love that i'm washing my face with something that's simple, natural, package-free, renewable, frugal and I can totally see the benefits to my skin. In contrast to many of the toxic chemical ingredients typically found in commercial skin care products, honey is a natural renewable resource. I’m sticking to honey!

Crunchy Betty, is challenging people to wash their face with nothing but honey (and water) for two whole weeks.

I really wanted to join in, but given that I already wash my face with honey I felt like I was cheating. To make it a real challenge I managed to convince Daddy Eco to give it a go. So the whole Little Eco family are in. Starting today we are washing our face with nothing but honey for two weeks. Want to join us? Head on over to Crunch Betty's to find out more


A frugal vegetarian meal fit for sharing {big batch lentil loaf recipe}

On any given night, I imagine there are dozens of families in my immediate neighbourhood frantically trying to cook and serve a wholesome home cooked meal. There must be an easier way!

I love the idea of meal sharing. Every now and then we'll share a mid-week meal with another full-time working family and on occasion I'll cook a double batch of something and drop half off at a friend's house. This week I was even lucky enough to have a friend drop off a delicious casserole as part of a barter. I took photos of her gorgeous baby and in exchange she dropped off a hot healthy home-cooked meal ready to serve. Win win!

Meal sharing schemes

I've noticed a few formal meal sharing schemes lately.

One of my readers told me about Mama Bake. MamaBake is group, big batch cookery where local Mums get together once a week and cook one big batch recipe each.  The batch then gets divvied up amongst all the Mums at the end of the session and everyone goes home with a few nights worth of homecooked dinners, ready to go for their families. I LOVE this idea! Anyone tried it? It would be a great way to have a few freezer meals ready for busy nights.

I also recently discovered mealTrain when I signed up to cook a meal for a friend who's daughter is in and out of hospital at the moment. mealTrain allows us to select a night we'd like to cook for the family and we can see what others are cooking so we don't all cook the same thing.

Do you know of any other meal sharing schemes?

Big Batch Red Lentil Loaf

For my mealTrain meal I cooked a bulk batch of red lentil loaf. This is a regular meal in our household and is one of my favourite meals for entertaining or sharing because it's easy to cook in bulk, delicious, economical, can be served in a range of ways, kids love it, and meat-eaters love it as much as vegetarians.

The recipe is modified from my all-time-favourite vegetarian cookbook: Alison Holst's Meals Without Meat. It's good served as a meat loaf would be served, with mashed potatoes or baked vegetables, seasonal greens and a fresh tomato sauce or gravy.

Big batch lentil loaf 1

Ingredients for a bulk batch*:

Makes the equivalent of four loaves and serves 24-32. I often dish it out as three loaves and around 8-10 muffin-sized mini-loaves (perfect for lunch boxes). You can also cook it in a casserole dish and serve from this, without unmoulding.

1 kg red lentils
10 cups water
3 bay leaves
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
6 onions, sliced
75 g butter
6 eggs
6 cups grated cheese
810 g tinned chopped tomatoes or 3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
9 slices wholemeal bread, crumbled (I save crusts in the freezer and crumb them in a food processor).
4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/2 cups chopped parsley (i often leave this out if there's no parsley in the garden and it's still delicious).

*To un-bulk and make one loaf only, serving only 6 - 8, reduce the lentils to two cups, water to three cups, and all other ingredients to 1 /3.

Simmer the lentils gently with the water, bay leaves and garlic until they are tender and the water is absorbed. You will need a LARGE saucepan. Boil away any excess water.

Meanwhile, saute the onions in the butter until transparent.

Once the lentils are thoroughly cooked remove the bay leaves and add the cooked onions and the remaining ingredients. Stir thoroughly then spoon into well-greased or baking paper-lined loaf tins or muffin moulds. You can also pour into a casserole dish and serve from this, without unmoulding.

Bake at 180 degrees celsius for about 45 minutes (slightly less for muffin sized mini loaves), or until firm in the middle. 

We ate this meal three nights in a row this week without tiring of it.

Big batch lentol loaf 3

I even managed to serve it as left-overs for lunch on two days....

Big batch lentil loaf 2

... and on a sandwich for Little Eco.

Why not make a bulk batch and drop a loaf off to a family or two, gifting them a cooking-free night.

I'm not yet sure how the loaf freezes, but I've got one in the freezer at the moment as a tester so will update this space once I know.  The loaf freezes really well. I've almost always got a lentil loaf in the freezer waiting for a night when I don't have time to cook. 

Coincidentally Kate of Purple Pear Organics shared her similar (yet different) Lentil Roast recipe this week (along with some great tips on cooking vegetarian meals).

Do you cook big batch meals? Anyone else eat the same meal multiple times a week? Or do you meal share?