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Time well spent, making stuff

This is a blog about making things, trying new things, growing things, forest gardens (food forests) and living in a less commodified way.
I have been interested in free food, growing food and making things for a while now. My interest in foraging for food has recently driven me to give walk and talk courses in food foraging, while growing food has lead to an active interest in permaculture that in turn inspired me to develop a forest garden at Sonairte, an ecology centre where I volunteer. (The forest garden is in its gestation stage, as it grows and develops, I will write more about it. With respect to making things, this started with me making a bad batch of peach wine when I was 17, while the wine was bad, the idea was good, I CAN MAKE STUFF! My phobia of mom’s sewing machine left me when I was 19 and enrolled in a one year fashion design course that taught me how to sew, design and draft patterns. My skills have improved with use and I make some of my own clothes and in the past have made things to sell. Having the confidence to make things inspires me to make other things, it is empowering, so over the years I tried my hand at making better wines, sparkling strawberry cider, cordials, preserves, medicines etc.
Two years ago, my life research partner and I got married, we had a local, hand-made wedding. He made the rings, I made my dress, my mom and myself did all of the flowers (using sweetpea donated by other allotmenteers) and my sister baked the most beautiful wedding cake in the world. We made our own invites, confetti and wedding jewelry. It was tiring, but in all, great fun. We were able to do this because we had more time than money. For the last while, when we had a bit more money and a bit less time, our focus changed away from making things, and onto getting things done, things like studying and going to work and making plans for the future. We started buying the things that we can easily make and stopped thinking about our purchasing decisions. This change was subtle, I certainly did not realise it was happening at the time, though I remember putting off finishing a skirt I had started until my studies were finished. A fix that only took me 2 hours to do. Looking back on my time spent studying, it was not lack of time that was the problem, it was my own sense that I did not have the time, that and my penchant for procrastination.
Now that I have gotten my thinking time back, I have started sewing and reading again. THE GOOD LIFE LAB by Wendy Jehanara Tremayne really crystalised a lot of ideas for me. The idea of living a decommodified life (not buying what you can make, using waste to create stuff that is useful, sharing/gifting surplus) really appealed to me, I felt re-empowered to take steps towards our own decommodified life. Inspired by my husband’s jam making last weekend (using raspberries from the freezer), this week, I started gathering my ingredients together and over the course of the weekend, I made:
  1. Dandelion coffee- dandelion roots gathered while weeding, washed, blitzed in food processor and roasted in oven till coffee like
  2. Rhubarb cordial- rhubarb stalks boiled up with water and sugar and the liquid drained off and bottled- to be used when bottling the kefir, pulp will be turned into a cake or something
  3. Yoghurt- 4 litres of milk, slow cooker, live yoghurt, heat milk in slow cooker on low for 1 hour, cool down to blood temp (1/2-1 hour) add live yoghurt, insulate slow cooker overnight, yoghurt can be used as is or filtered to make 2 litres of thicker, greek style yoghurt and whey for use in bread etc.
  4. Water Kefir- I bought some grains at a farmer’s market, this is my first time tying this one, will keep you posted about it.
  5. Chilli jam- chillies were on special offer, can’t wait to use my own chillies (Bolivian hairy is the variety that I am growing on the windowsill).
    – 250g chillies, 2 slices ginger, blitzed up together, 250g sugar, 100ml vinegar, cook till thick, bottle into sterile jars
  6. Soda bread using the whey from the yoghurt filtering process, there are plenty of recipes out there for this, besides, I used too much soda, so mine is not quite right. Instead of brown flour I added 3 cups of a South African porridge meal to 4 cups of flour.
  7. Dried herbs/flowers for use as medicine:
    i) Mullein leaves- dried, infusion, expectorant
    ii) Clover flowers – dried, useful in an infusion to ease period cramps
    iii) Chamomile flowers – dried, infusion, calming
    iv) Elderflowers – dried, infusion, expectorant
After flurry of activity this weekend, I decided that it was about time I bottled one of the wines that I made last year 11 months ago. Peapod wine, not too bad, I got 5 bottles and a bit left over to turn into vinegar for salad dressings etc.
So this coming week’s projects include: (time anticipated)
  1. Elderflower cordial (3 hours including foraging for flowers)
  2. Vanilla extract (20 mins, including buying vodka)
  3. Search for a found alternative to my favourite herbal tea (ongoing project)
  4. Bottle the ginger wine (1/2 hour)
  5. Search for a herb to be used against sinus infections (ongoing project)
  6. Bottle kefir and start another batch (1/2 hour)