Monday, 30 July 2012

Chickens coming and going

It’s a sad day around the coop today, my little black frizzle chicken Elvis passed away; she had been sick for a couple of weeks and nothing seemed to be working. My hubby & I actually had a conversation last night about how we thought she actually seemed to be on the mend. I can happily say she had a good life with us though, as chickens are very well looked after, some might even say spoiled.
While I am on the chicken band wagon I got another couple of chickens on the weekend, a couple of 18 month old Isa Brown ex working girls. They have very bare backsides and their beaks have been trimmed but they could be in a lot worse shape than they are. I have already had eggs from them and they are settling in nicely.
I did manage to get to the library to borrow the Save PowerKit, trying to source exactly where & how the cold weather is getting in is harder than I thought.

I spent the afternoon after work in the garden with my entourage (dog, cockatoo and chickens) and then had to put extra layers on when I came into the house. I resisted turning the gas heater on straight away but it is certainly on now, we are looking at -4 lows tomorrow and I am sure I will cop this when I leave for work at 5am, brrrrrr.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Electricity bill, oh no!

Last night hubby and I got a serious shock, we received our first winter electricity bill, and it was a harsh reality that we need to be doing more to save on our electricity costs. This has been our first winter in Cootamundra and there has been days where it the temperature has been under 5 degrees and then there are the even more delightful days when the temperature goes below zero.  

I have been delusional, it turns out that wearing slippers, singlets and layers of clothes has not really been enough.  We are thankful that we spent the money to have gas installed to the house and upgraded our hot water system to a
Rinnai Infinity26 Continuous Flow Hot Water System and we have a small gas heater in the lounge room from our old house. Without these the bill would have been much higher.

Now it’s time to get real – where is all the electricity been used? I think we have probably found one of the main culprits and it’s me to blame. I have been using an oil column heater in the bedroom and even in the kitchen at times. They were cheap heaters to buy but this has now come back to bite up. We do have ducted reverse cycle air-conditioning in the house but we thought it would be better not to use this, now I am not so sure, this will be something else I need to research.

Apart from sitting in my bed which is already warm and comfy (the oil column heater firmly unplugged from the bedroom wall) and researching on the internet I plan to get down to the local library prior to work if possible and grab one of the Save Power Kits. I have to be honest, I borrowed one earlier but then we never really used it, this time we need to.  What I really want to use the kit for is measuring the power used by our electrical appliances and find out where our home is letting in the cold in winter.
Things done or doing;
·         wear warm clothes
·         seal gaps and draughts
·         close doors to seal heat in rooms

Short term to do list;
·         buy and install insulation in roof
·         install curtain rod in lounge room so curtains can go up
Long term to do list;
·         get prices for ducted gas heating
·         get prices for flu gas heater
·         look into secondary glazing
I know there is even more to add but I need to get up and moving and out of my warm bed

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Mixing things up

I have to share my delight with my Kitchenaid Mixer; I got this as a Christmas present a few years ago from my husband. The mixer along with my Kitchenaid Food Processor are two of my favourite kitchen gadgets. Having spent time in a tiny kitchen in our duplex in Sydney it is a real treat to now have a normal sized kitchen, I really do feel like I am back to making more things from scratch. I have found my love of cooking and baking (not always successfully) again. The only downfall is that I am used to cooking with a gas stovetop & oven, alas I am stuck with an old electric one at this stage. On the positive side one of this first upgrades we did to the house was get gas installed and get a new more energy efficient instantaneous gas hot water system.
Now back to my Kitchenaid Mixer fun yesterday. Despite the very cold weather at the moment most of my hens have decided it is a good time to lay eggs, so what to do with the influx of eggs – I made chocolate meringues.
Chocolate Meringues Recipe
  • 4 egg whites, at room temperature
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch of cream tartar
  • 220g (1 cup) caster sugar
  • 2 table spoons of coco powder

    1. Preheat oven to 120°C.
  • 2. Add egg whites and start whisking
    3. Add pinch of salt and pinch of cream tartar
    4. Still whisking add caster sugar one table spoon at a time
    5. Add coco powder
    6. Spoon mixture onto trays lined with baking paper. I am not too fussy about the shapes being prefect as you can see from my photo of them
    7. Place into the oven; reduce the temperature to 90°C
    8. Leave the oven on for 1 1/2 hours or until the meringues are crisp
    9. Turn the oven off and allow the meringues to cool in the oven - this will take 3-4 hours.

    Things didn’t end here; I try to make my own pizza dough for homemade pizzas (we had a wood fire pizza oven at our old house and plan to build one at this place) but had never made my own bread.

    I picked up this Laucke Multigrain Soy and Linseed bread mix and finally made my own bread. It certainly didn’t turn out perfect in shape but the smell was amazing, it tasted and felt so fresh and it really wasn’t that hard at all. I will definitely be dipping my toes into the world of bread making more often.

    Wednesday, 25 July 2012

    Just Another Lemon Tree

    I read this earlier today and think this will be very handy as I have a lemon tree ready to burst with fruit. Processing the lemon harvest ~ Down to Earth it will help move more away from buying processed cleaning products. I have been flooded with ideas from friends with recipes using lemons also.

    in the begining....

    It has been just over 6 months since my husband Kyle and I made the move from living in a city suburban duplex with small yard to our ¼ of an acre block in the country town of Cootamundra. We are slowly (money and time permitting) renovating our 1930s house and getting stuck into the ground work of making our yard work for us. We have the chickens pottering around, we have had them do the work of clearing out designated yards which will be used for vegetable patches and we will continue to rotate them around through the seasons as new seeds are planted. We recently planted a plum, apricot, peach and apple tree, there has to be some benefits to having the temperatures go below zero.

    I am writing this so I can document what changes work for us and what don’t. I have recently read the book Down To Earth by Rhonda Hetzel and am currently reading Living The Good Life by Linda Cockburn, I highly recommend both. Both books have got me thinking more and more about how I can try to live more simply and save money at the same time. I may not be able to change my life as drastic as Linda Cockburn but it is certainly a start.

    Apart from the hens producing eggs and planting as much fruit and veggie as we can its little things I have been trying to change. We have always tried to recycle but now I seem more aware and are trying to reuse paper and containers etc before they even hit the recycling bin, a simple concept I know but I think most of us have been guilty or just thinking we have done our bit by making the effort of putting things in the recycling bin, when in reality though helpful really isn’t enough. I have a couple of buckets kept in the shower to catch any clean water so it can be re-used in the yard. We are lucky enough to have a few water tanks already on site but the more water saved the better. I have learnt through my husband’s persistence that I really do not need to flush the toilet every time, we are now adopting the old motto “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down”.

    Our electricity provider recently sent us a letter informing us that due to the carbon tax our electricity prices are going to increase. The increase is really enough to make us take notice. We already try to turn things off at the power point but we are really going to try and make that extra bit of effort now. Must make a note to look into the price of getting solar panels installed.

    Things to do;
    ·         Get quotes of solar panels
    ·         Look into composting doo poo
    ·         Find recipe for  laundry powder and other homemade cleaning products