Monday, February 23, 2015

Afternoon visitors

Another gorgeous day on the island; a cool 10°C start but my thermometer hit 35° - perfect weather for my solar cooker but I was at work. I did try yesterday but the Weather Gods were playing games - the sun was shining after lunch when I decided to make muesli bars but it clouded over as I finished mixing the ingredients and I resorted to using the electric oven. Thirty minutes later my muesli bars were cooked, and immediately the sun came out and it stayed clear and sunny for the rest of the afternoon!

I'm on shorter days this week at work so a good chance to get stuck in cutting up firewood; there sure is a lot of it and it will take me weeks to work my way through with my bow saw, loppers and secateurs. I was heading outside just after 4pm when I saw not one, but two bambi whitetail with spots eating the grass by the deck. I moved slowly toward my pack to grab my camera and then a third, older whitetail came into the picture. I snapped a few shots and watched the deer until the older one started chomping on my potato plants. As I opened the ranchslider a fourth spotty deer took off with the others - it's been a long time since I've seen bambi whitetail around and although I'm happy for them to keep the grass trimmed, I might have to think of a way to protect the potatoes.

Two spotted bambi by the deck with an older whitetail at top right

I wonder if this is a big sister/brother to the spotty ones?

Totally unconcerned about my presence - maybe they thought I was
at work. Potato plants at right.
Not quite as cute as bambi deer with big eyes are the spiders around the outside of the house at present. Their webs are engineering marvels and of quite different designs. Here's a few examples...

A mass of web silk on my compost bags

Love the archways and the attachment 'cables' that keep the web under tension

A more traditional web covered with dew on a foggy morning

Eiffel Tower replica

Close up of above

A tiny spider that appeared to be responsible for the Eiffel Tower

Underneath of spider - fuzzy, sorry - moving too fast for me!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Rakiura Rocks

Little rain, not getting home until 8pm and dragging firewood before work has resulted in an impressive pile of firewood but not much else. I've taken the weekend off and caught up on some chores and the rest will have to wait as I'm determined to get a blog up tonight!

We've had a wee mystery going on in the village starting with a few painted signs made of plywood appearing at various places including this one outside the shop...

Over the next few days more signs appeared and most people, locals and tourists alike, were commenting on them when they came into the shop. Of course we were all in the dark too and rumours were bandied about and spread like wildfire. Was it to do with the school? Who was moving the signs in the middle of the night? Who had neat letter-writing skills - and the patience to cut, paint and finish off these masterpieces?

A few days later new signs appeared - Rakiura Rocks, You Rock, We All Rock - and they all seemed to be moving closer to the shop...

The village was buzzing with rumours and positive vibes - I think it was the only topic of conversation in the shop last week and on Thursday a new sign appeared to say that all would be revealed on Friday at 3pm. On the way home that night I took some photos and put the camera down by the computer so didn't have it with me on Friday. I was serving in the shop at 3pm so missed the speeches but the handout explained the 'You Rock' Project which 'publicly recognises people for their inherent goodness' and 'links together and bonds a community by inspiring people to love and appreciate themselves and their neighbours'. The signs stayed outside the shop Friday afternoon and all of Saturday so I made a quick trip down yesterday morning to snap them. The signs were photographed with their namesakes and then they will be given away. The fantastic group of 10 or so residents who made this happen and kept the secret so well are to be applauded for their efforts - what a neat thing to do!

Check out the website that started it all off and appreciate the members of your community/family that make a positive difference.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Mission Physical

Every five years or so the bush growing under the power lines is trimmed back. It's a bit disheartening to see the bush hacked about and the birds seem to be a bit lost too - they sit on the stumps and gaze about, wondering what happened to the fruits and flowers that they had been feeding on. I realise why it's got to be done and at least there's the benefit of free firewood that will come in very handy as winter approaches.

Trimming the gum trees on my walk home
The contractor started on 28 January and is going around all the roads where there are power lines. In places he can do a nice clean cut which doesn't look quite as bad as the hacked areas - I guess it's not easy chopping through bush lawyer and trees with a lot of branches.

29 January - Back Road just down from my place

A foggy 29 January - intersection of Main Road and Back Road showing
the trimmed bush under the power lines

Tractor and cutting arm

The cutting blade - larger than it looks in the photo above
I've spent most of my spare time in February hauling branches and gathering wheelbarrow loads from around the area. My woodpile is looking extremely healthy and I'll be kept busy with the bow saw and loppers for a very long time!

Tyres moved and neatly stacked so I can make a big woodpile

One woodpile near the woodshed
There's a mixture of different timbers; a lot of manuka and kamahi which burns very well, also wineberry and putaputaweta and a few pine and gum branches that I've hauled from Main Road. Native fuchsia is also available but it doesn't burn that well so will get the other branches first.

I enjoy being a 'gatherer' and it's a great physical workout too; my bed looks very welcome at the end of each day! It has put me behind with blogging though so waiting for some wet weather so I have a good excuse to sit inside!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Fridge saga

Choosing a new fridge wasn't easy from afar but I thought the hard part was over when I chose the Fisher & Paykel E372BRT4 fridge/freezer. After waiting for almost two weeks the fridge that was delivered and installed was the earlier T3 model. Another 5 days of emails, checking specifications and power usage ensued before I was passed on to the Invercargill appliance store that supplied the unit and, with great customer service, they agreed that the T4 model needed to be sent over. It arrived last Thursday and I'm now the owner of a Energy Star fridge/freezer and know a lot more about refrigeration than I did a month ago!

I also discovered that specifications can be very misleading and it was impossible to find out the actual (ie useable) size of the freezer compartment despite trawling through websites and manuals! The external spec is 123L but the serial number plate on the fridge says that the internal size is only 65L with the compressor unit taking up the rest. The space is better organised than the old freezer but it's not that much bigger. If I have to buy another fridge/freezer before I die then I'll definitely be taking a trip to town to check them out in the flesh!

This weekend I've rearranged some furniture and found homes for the displaced articles that used to live in the corner where I've put the new fridge. I had thought of buying another matching pantry from Mitre 10 but then have the hassle of freight and trying to match one bought 4½ years ago. Jed thought that food would go mouldy if I used my old fridge as a storage cabinet so I was pondering how I could get make some holes without wrecking it too much. On closer inspection I saw that the door seals just pulled out of their grooves and now there's adequate ventilation - how easy is that!! The old fridge has now been repurposed to hold bulk sugar, flour and all my herbs and spices.

Beats taking it to landfill
The freezer size of my new fridge/freezer wasn't the only thing to catch me out. A new Fresh-Up drink in 500ml cans appeared in-store a month or so ago and the thought of a sparkling feijoa drink appealed during the hot weather so I bought one.

It certainly was thirst-quenching and had a lovely feijoa smell and taste. It wasn't until I washed the can that I saw how much sugar there was in the can - a whopping 51.8g (over 10tsp)! And one of the other brands has 69g (almost 14tsp) sugar in their 500ml can. Back to tap water for me!!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Solar success

Great! A hot, calm and sunny weekend in late January and I had two days off work so what better time than to give my Sunflair solar oven a good workout. I had blackcurrants to pick and lots of grass to cut so didn't want to spend too much time preparing food. I decided to do sundried tomatoes and apple rings on the Saturday - dead simple to prepare and in no time I had them in the unzipped, upside-down oven so that the moisture could evaporate easily. The apple rings were about 3mm thick and brushed with lemon juice but I made the tomato slices thinner and sprinkled liberally with herbs and pepper.

The Sunflair is used upside-down when drying

Versatile pegs to keep the flap open for the moisture to escape
The booklet says that the optimal drying temperature is between 55-60°C - if it gets over 77°C then the food 'cooks' instead of dries. Any condensation on the plastic needs to be wiped away as it makes the temperature drop and I found that I had to tilt the oven upwards to keep the racks toward the rear of the oven. The peg arrangement above didn't work once the plastic softened in the sun but they still came in handy to hold the aluminium rod in place.

Rat traps come in handy to tilt the oven at an angle!

Drying nicely at 70°C
The oven was put out about 9.30am and the fruit looked dry around 3pm. The apple slices were a nice leathery texture and too yummy to store so were eaten for afternoon tea. The tomato slices were put in a jar with olive oil and are now stored in the fridge waiting for the taste test.

Apple rings and tomato slices after a day in the Sunflair oven

The finished product
Next time I'll cut the tomatoes thicker; ideally a meaty tomato with fewer pips would probably give better results. I'm keen to try more drying - the booklet suggests apricots, bananas, berries and herbs.

The following day was a scorcher and perfect for trying a venison curry. I'd been given a large chunk of venison which was too large to fit in the slow-cooker so diced half of it and followed the recipe on the back of Wattie's Indian Creations korma curry sauce. It went into the oven at 10.30am and every hour or so I moved the oven to follow the sun's path and I stirred it once around lunchtime. At 3.30pm I went out with friends so had to move the oven in anticipation of where the sun would be and came home at 6pm to a yummy piping hot curry courtesy of Mr Sunshine and Sunflair!

About 115°C and cooking well

Solar-cooked venison curry with brown rice