Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Of late :: going slow

Goodbye Autumn

We have just had one of the nicest weekends in a while. It will probably sound rather dull to most with a weekend that on paper seemed full of chores & hanging out at home. But it was perfect for us right now. We caught up on some jobs that seemed to have loitered on our 'to do' list for weeks, things like clearing the kitchen benches, cleaning the bathroom and finally planting out the garlic (so much for an Easter tradition!)

This involved pulling out the tomatoes that just kept on giving
(long after we were willing to gather, roast & bottle)

We took the time to slow down, to write a list of what we each wanted to do and gave it our best shot at doing most of the things on the list. There was little socialising but lots of just hanging out as a family, doing domestic chores together and hanging out in the brief patches of sunshine. In the garden there was lots of digging for worms, mixing in lime and child-friendly planting of garlic bulbs and broad beans. The anticipation for broadies is growing as Adelaide keeps a close eye on her favourite winter crop.

Perfect for right now.

Especially for Max who's focus is shifting ever more away from me and onto his Dad. His 'to do' list is always the same at the moment :: play mobilo with Dad.

A large part of our slowing down has been the start of school holidays. The home rhythm has been so much easier without the "Kinder runs" and we have had the time to start up a few things that fell by the wayside during school term :: baking bread, afternoon walks, science experiments and visiting some of our favourite parks around town. Most welcome has been the return of the sleep-in!

Daily walks 'out the back' have been due in part to not wanting to drive anywhere and having our neighbours little dog for the month. I've never even thought of getting a little dog but Minnie is perfect for the smalls to walk on their own (plus she takes up minimal floor space in the lounge room at night)

Exploring our 'own' bush patch has meant finding :: lots of weeds to pull, rubbish to collect, birds to note, treasures to hoard and an ever growing interest in nature that makes me glad for the effort that getting out & about in winter can often involve.

Generally we all come back calmer (except on the days where one of us has a melt down....it's not all frolicking in the winter sun...I just don't have time for photos mid-meltdown) and with improved appetites for dinner, which has generally meant less fuss around eating :: hallelujah!

Leo has discovered the joy of books and is often badgering one of us to sit & read. Having an older book obsessed brother helps but if all else fails he'll just lay down underfoot to mutter & point while being a major trip hazard in our small kitchen.

Slowing down has also meant some in-house training on dressing oneself. Adelaide is on board and with the occasional reminder that it is now winter she is dressing herself each morning. I'm biting my tongue about her outfit selections as long as all limbs are covered. There is no doubt that since she started pre-school more and more pink & purple are being selected. I'm biting my tongue hard on that one (most of the time).

Max struggles with the concept of seeing a task through to completion & can often be found just sitting in his room lost in a book in various states of dress/undress with any idea of what he was doing long forgotten. I can only assume he has taken the idea of SLOW and applied it solely to the task of dressing himself.

Given how busy our lives can sometimes feel, this recent period of slowing down has been just what we've needed as we settle into winter.

A couple of people asked about recipes for drying/bottling apples. I'm not sure if I'm the one to ask but this is what has worked for us to date [caveat: A Google search will probably give more detailed instructions then my fly-by-night methods employed to date]

Dried apples

:: borrow dehydrator
:: forage for apples
:: fill a medium bowl with water & squeeze in juice of 2-3 lemons
:: peel, core & slice apples (a working apple peeler is kid-friendly &makes this much faster)
:: soak cut apple in lemon water for about 5 minutes
:: fill dehydrator trays (our soaking bowl holds about 1 trays worth)
:: run dehydrator at 55 degrees Celsius for about 8 hours or until they are as dry as you like.

We like ours still a bit bendy so if you want crispy ones you may need to go for longer. Unfortunatley this process can not be split over several days. Now I'm budgeting for a dehydrator. The one I planned on buying only has 9 trays which I was a bit initially worried about. Given my recent foray into dehydrating I now know that 9 trays is well & truly my limit when it comes to preparing the fruit! The fruit leather was made using the apple sauce (recipe below) mixed with other blended stuff & spread out rather thickly on the special plastic leather-making tray liner.

Apple sauce

:: peel core & chop apples (rough is fine if you plan to use a mill to sauce them)
:: add a little water & lemon juice to the largest stock pot you have
:: fill with apples, I start them cooking then use the soaking bowl as above to add batch after batch
:: add spices as you like (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc)
:: cook until all the apples are softened and cooked through
:: put through a mill or sieve if you want it sauced (or just blend & ignore the occasional bit of seed)
:: fill clean bottling jars (I use an old Fowlers kit)
:: Sterilize according to your preserving kit/method.

This sauce process takes me a few days, one day we peel & cook, the next (if we are lucky) we sauce it, the next day (if we are lucky) we bottle it. So I generally do LARGE batches that deal with lots of apples at a time to make it worth while. Having someone to wash all the dishes helps considerably (as always!)


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