Thursday, 25 April 2013

Make your own, cheap, but good, dog food!

A few weeks ago we got ourselves a new (to us) dog!

She is a 12 year old Kelpie happy. They called her a Kelpie cross in the ad but she wags her tail so much that she must really be a Kelpie happy!

Sue is a rescue dog and had spent 12 years tied up in some ones backyard before she went to some carers who helped her put on a bit of weight and learn a few manners before we came along and she chose to live with us.

For her first few days with us, she didn't want to eat much as she was pretty anxious. Everything was strange and exciting and she had so much to explore. Cupboards that needed examining, chickens that needed to be sniffed, drawers that needed looking into and mirrors that needed to very cautiously checked out.

She needed to learn to walk on a lead (she still needs to learn to walk on a lead mind you!) and be friendly to other dogs. She is getting there but its a slow process but fun to be part of.

The other thing that needs to be done is to find a way to feed the dog that is good for the dog as well as good for the pocket and mental health of the owners.

We played around with commercial food for a week before I decided that I would "make" some dog food for her and hope that she liked it.

Here's what I did...

I went to the butcher and bought a bag of frozen pet mince for $1, bought it home and defrosted it.
and popped it into a big pot with a couple of litres of water and set it to cook on the stovetop

I added what ever veges were handy, some garlic and a blob of vegemite as she seemed to like to lick it off my fingers... (she is an Australian dog after all!)

I had some herbs in the garden that I popped in as well - might as well make it flavorsome for her since I'm going to the trouble...

I also popped in a couple of handfuls of rice and one of pasta.
The rice soaked up a lot of the water, which was handy but unintentional once it had cooled.

Then I spooned it all into old takeaway containers, labeled them...

And put them in the freezer until they are needed.

Sue is a medium sized dog and eats about one of these containers a day on average (depending on how much rubbish she has managed to con out of people during the day) and I'm getting at least seven containers out of the kilo of meat I get from the butcher. She gets various dog biscuits with her dinner (and during the day if she is really lucky!)

I don't really know what the current thinking is on dog food is, but our last dog got table scraps (meat and veg) sandwich crusts, raw meat, cooked meat, bones, the odd bit of birthday cake, some commercial dog food, some homemade dog food, whatever he could find in the garden including, sadly, the odd blue tongue lizard. He lived to be sixteen and a half so we will be keeping the same regime for this pup (minus as many blue tongue lizards as possible)!

The butcher told me that the kilo bags of meat were the ends and scraps that they couldn't sell, just thrown through a coarse mincer. He reckoned the type of meat varies from day to day depending on what they are cutting up at the time so each bag is a bit different. I'm guessing there's a fair bit of fat in it but I didn't see much while I was cooking and I haven't got any gel or congealed fat in the cold pot of food - so maybe I'm wrong...

At any rate - Miss Sue eats it and seems to be thriving!

Score card: 
Green-ness: 3/5 I don't think its very green to own a dog but this one is desexed (as was our last one)
Frugal-ness: $1 a week for dog food...! That's gotta be a frugal way to go!
Time cost: About an hour from defrost to pack in the freezer.
Skill level:  Just making a stew! The husband thought it was for us one night and it has been taken out of the freezer, mistaken for "human food" a few times already!
Fun-ness: Good fun to watch her eat it and knowing EXACTLY what she is eating!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Wordless Wednesday - Mini Mushroom Magic!

With all the rain we have been having at the moment, mini mushrooms are popping up in very picturesque ways!

Joining in again with Project Alicia's Wordless Wednesday - pop on over and lots of wonderful things.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Wordless Wednesday - Fresh today!

I love all the different eggs I get everyday from my chookies!

Linking in with Wordless Wednesday over at Project Alicia again - pop on over to see lots of amazing photography! - K xx

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Reusable ice for iced water!

I had a lettuce in the fridge last week that was probably getting to its use by date but I really wanted to use it in a salad. I know that you can refresh salad greens in water that you have put ice cubes in to make them swell up and become crispy again but upon looking in the freezer I found that no one had refilled the ice tray.

Keen to use my lettuce, my eye wandered around the freezer and rested on the ice blocks that go into lunch boxes...

Here's what I did...

I filled a container with some tap water, popped in the mini freezer blocks,

Added some lettuce...

And left it all for 5 minutes or so before taking out the lettuce and drying it with a tea towel and adding it to the salad!

Easy as!

I'm never keen to use ice for anything other than drinks (and ant bites) as I only have one ice cube tray that holds maybe twelve cubes at a time - so this was a great way of getting ice cold water with out sacrificing a tray of cubes to the cause!

After the lettuce was done, it was the work of a few seconds to wipe the block and pop 'em back in the freezer which is funny as it would only take a few seconds longer to refill the ice tray with water and put it back in the freezer, but it NEVER happens!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for using the lettuce and not wasting any more water than nessersary
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for not having to buy another lettuce and throwing out one you have already paid for.
Time cost: Possibly slightly less than if I had used real ice cubes!
Skill level: There isn't one!
Fun-ness: really good to have crispy lettuce in my salad!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Cheap or free bases for card making!

Every so often I like to make cards for those I love! I'm not a big card maker so I don't have huge supplies of things to make cards with. But last week I needed to make a few cards and instead of using plain card - cause I'm not very good at cutting straight lines... I had a good idea for a base for my hand made cards...

Here's what I did...

I used a few of those old and yuck Christmas cards that came in $2 packets that I didn't like the picture on or ones that I wouldn't be sending back like I do most years - cards from businesses or old bosses that where not your favorite person anyway...

The old cards become the card bases that will be covered up with the papers and decorations of my choosing. You could stock up on cards just after Christmas when the packs of 20 cards that were $2 are now 50c. They come with envelopes as well - what a bargain!

The outside gets covered with...

What ever you need to do - this one is a card for one of our international students.

and the inside can be dealt with in two ways...

Either just covered completely with an appropriate paper if there is lots of writing on it,

or with just a strip of paper/embellishment if there is not much writing or just the sentiment that was printed in it by the manufacturers!

It doesn't matter what is on the cover as you can just cover it completely...
(another student card)

And even if the recipient figures out that you have used an old card, hopefully they will be so mind blown with your creative talents that they will not mind or will think even more highly as you have not squandered huge amounts of money but have used your time and talents to show how much you love them! 

That's my theory anyway!

Happy recycled card making!

Score card: 
Green-ness: 5/5 for reusing and recycling!
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for not spending any money except postage!
Time cost: Much longer than going to the shops and getting one at the news agents but much more sociable if you make cards with a coffee and a neighbour!
Skill level: Who cares!!! Anything hand made is automatically wonderful!
Fun -ness: A great sense of satisfaction to find a use for something that was just sitting uselessly around!

Friday, 5 April 2013

Stopping chickens from scratching up your garden!

We have chickens. Quite a number of chickens in fact. Possibly a few more then the local bylaws might even suggest is prudent but then I've never counted them properly so I wouldn't really know!

I like to free range mine - its the good and right and proper thing to do. But I also like my gardens and as any one with chickens will tell you - Gardens and Chickens don't mix... There's a really good reason my husband  thinks ours should be called, Destroyer, Devastator, D9, Dozer, Destructer and so on!

Generally I let ours out each afternoon about 4 or 5pm to range around the garden and do their chookie thing. Its much easier to let them out at the end of the day and have them put themselves to bed (and just shut the gate) than it is to chase them all over the garden for half and hour as since they have their freedom, they are not about to give it up easily at 10am!

Every so often they decide that a particular patch of the garden is the PERFECT place to dig up entirely and they shovel most of the garden on to the path or onto the lawn and simply dig up a patch of my garden, plants and all.

There is actually a garden/path edge under all that mulch... somewhere...

Cute little chookie digging a hole to China in my garden....

Surprisingly, this does not enchant me. But over time I have found a way to have your garden and not want to eat your chickens too!

Here's what I did...

First I have to clean up all the devastation without resorting to using a recently constructed chicken feather broom....

Then I go to my fan palms (sorry about the bad photo - taken with my mobile in very low light) and I give it a prune. What I'm after is a supply of sticks that wont poison my garden or cost me any money!

So I cut the leaves off and throw 'em back under the tree and keep the stalks. Mine are spiky so I wear gloves to handle them.

These are the stick I get from the palms - but any sticks will do as long as they take a while to rot. I find Poinciana branches (that we have a lot of) rots to quickly and the chookies can move them as its quite light as well.

Then I place them on the recently devastated patch...

Careful to make layers of interlocking random sticks - if you put them in rows the chooks just dig in the gaps. If you leave a big gap, they will just get back in there. It needs to be quite dense with the stick layers.

I didn't take a picture of the finished patch but it had about 15 sticks covering this patch.
I leave them uncovered for a while so I can check what the chookies are going to do and where I might have left a chicken sized gap... 

The chookies used to get under the Frangipani tree and pull all the mulch over the path and destroy anything that might grow as a ground cover. Once I put the sticks in here (this is about three layers thick) and covered it in sugar cane mulch - they haven't been back into it!

I also did it down the side of the path and have planted some ferns in the gaps which protects them while they grow so they can eventually become a ground cover in the longer term.

Gardens and chickens can work but you have to be vigilant. As we live in Queensland and you simply cant have uncovered dirt in your garden as it will dry out in the sun and kill all the plants - mulch is a natural part of most people gardens in tropical Australia. By putting a pretty thick layer of sticks down and then covering it in mulch you are giving the garden a chance to grow undisturbed from the activities of the chickens.

I was just covering up the holes they dug with mulch but found they were really keen on coming back to the same place over and over. I tried small fences, but they just hop over it. I tried (aptly named) chicken wire over the surface of the dirt in garden but found it hard to weed and not so pretty to look at. They seem to be quite random about where they are going to dig - but then I'm not a chicken so it wouldn't make sense to me and so I find I am better off finding the patch that they have chosen to dig up this week, put them to bed without too many death threats (I think it affects their egg laying!) and not let them back out until I have "chicken sticked" that patch.

This works for me but creates a more "rustic" look than one of law and order!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for not using new or manufactured products
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for it being a free project!
Time cost: About an hour to settle down after discovering the newly created hole to China and your new never-seen-this-colour-before geranium bush dead and dying... 10 minutes to cut some sticks, 2 mins to put on the garden and a week to see if the chookies are going to go back to that patch!
Skill level: Pruning skills... and I found meditation helps settle down too!!! No not meditation on a book of roast chicken ideas either!
Fun-ness: Once the plants are back growing happily, its great fun!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Slowing Down the Slow Living Essentials way - March 2013

I have been following Christine at Slow Living Essentials for over a year now! And in 2012 she started a monthly round up to record on our blog, how we have "slowed down" under nine categories - I have been doing this since she started it in 2012 and really get a lot out of it. This is my March 2013 reflection on Slowing Down - the Slow Living Essentials way! 

NOURISH: Make and bake as much as possible from scratch. Ditch over packaged, over processed convenience foods and opt for 'real' food instead. 

We host International students for a local language school and its heaps of fun! Whats even more fun is having students interested in what you are cooking and how. Even basic bangers and mash are greeted with praise and wonderment! In return we get all sorts of yummy meals cooked in return - the latest being French chocolate cake and Belgian waffles - all being cooked from scratch - yummy!

We went over to Stradbroke Island over Easter just for a day trip and I took plenty of food with us. I made bacon and egg pie, savory muffins, nibbles plate with home made roast potato dip, fruit and hot cross buns and plenty of water and cordial. I threw in a bit of junk food as it was a special occasion but as it came from the supermarket and was on special - it wasn't so expensive! It saved us a fortune, as feeding five people at takeaway shops all day would certainly have cost more than the $40 I reckon I spent!

PREPARE: Stockpile and preserve. 

Not big in this category so far this year...

REDUCE: Cut down on household waste by re-using, re-purposing and repairing. 
Done a bit more repairing of washing baskets this month! I'm loathe to throw them out when its just the handle - fixing them is very satisfying!

GREEN: up our lives. Start (or continue!) using homemade products. 
Its a bit of a challenge to find areas to green these days. Got the basics down pat. Got all the easy and cheap ones going well. Its the big stuff like ditching a car or going solar that are left to do these days...

GROW: plant/harvest. What's growing this month?

I have bitten the bullet and joined Food Connect here in Brisbane and I'm really enjoying it. It takes a few weeks to get your head around what you get (just seasonal produce) after so many years of "having what ever I fancy whenever I want". Food Connect has about 70 farmers that they buy direct from and each week deliver a box of veges (from a selection of sizes and types) to your local city cousin and then I go around and pick it up. Its a great way to meet people and a fresh, seasonal and sustainable way to eat. I did a whole post on it if you want to hear the whole story - here!

CREATE: to fill a need or feed the soul. Create for ourselves or for others. 
I'm STILL working on the big quilt! If this was back in the days before sewing machines, I'd be 100 before I ever got to sleep under it!!! Each time I do a bit more (especially with the machine) I have even more admiration for the women who used to make these by hand and by lamplight!!!

DISCOVER: Feed the mind by reading texts relevant to current interests.
Finally got a copy of "Sweet Poison" that another blogger recommended a while ago and I'm still going on Kitchen Literacy, which is very enlightening! Got a stack of books on Globalisation for my next Uni unit (People and Globalisation) and we get to make up our own question for our next essay and I'm hoping to do something on Food Systems and Globalisation... will defiantly be interesting!

ENHANCE: Community: The rewards for your time are often returned tenfold.
Really enjoying my communities at the moment. I'm out and about meeting new people and doing lots of new things recently!
Still working on making the host family community website for the language school we host students for, a lot broader and more useful for us all as well as a few face to face meetings with other host families!

ENJOY: Life! Embrace moments with family and friends!
Ah - what a wonderful month! We hosted another afternoon tea party, had dinner with some old friends, helped out at my in-laws church working bee and went out for lunch with one of my dearest friends whom I though was overseas for three months but she hadn't gone - confusing... but great to see her!

Also had morning tea with a neighbour that we have had for 10 years but barely know, farewelled one student (Missing you so much already Elodie) and welcomed another (Hi Janika!).
Oh and my brother took his new baby and wife to NZ to meet the rest of the relatives which I got to participate in by email! (Thanks Mom!)

IMPROVE: Change or create a habit, work on an aspect of mind, body or soul that needs a wee tweak.
For January I wanted to get involved in three exercise activities each week - I have finally managed it after two months of trying. I do aqua on Mondays, play basketball badly on Tuesdays and have joined the social swimming group at the local school pool on a Wednesday - I was hoping social swimming involved li-lo's and champagne but so far it has involved swimming a few kilometres each time I turn up - the coach assures me I can have my Li-lo and champange  on the last night of the year!

March was all about not eating at the place I get my petrol from - I found this quite easy. Except for one time I was driving away with a full tank of petrol and a bit of beef jerky when I realised what I had done. I think it was because its a petrol station I have never used before in the late afternoon when I am most vulnerable to eating things I shouldn't or don't want to - at least that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

March is going to be all about having breakfast! I am so bad at it and I pay for it in the late afternoon (see above!) Lets see how I go with that one!

As always I enjoy popping over to see what other slow livers are up to. Some times I cant get past the security things (You know, put in the letters or numbers thingos)  but even if you cant see my comment, know I have been and enjoyed!

Thanks for the opportunity to share again Christine!!! Have a great month everyone! - Kxx xx
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