Stinging Nettle Soup

Falling into stinging nettles was an occupational hazard of mine when I was 5 through to age 12. This was neither fun nor painless as I’m sure you can imagine but believe it or not every time I see stinging nettles now I am instantly transported to a happy place, a place where the tiny piece of wilderness that I used to play in at the top of my street was my own private universe!  I remember spying on the farmer as he tried to round-up his sheep,  collecting wool from the barbed wire fence to take home and spin, whittling twigs into arrows and spears and, of course, climbing up and jumping out of trees and into stinging nettles. Ouch!  But whatever happened, no amount of temporary stinging pain could take away the joy that I felt just being out there in the country, surrounded by trees. Oh how little has changed 🙂

Anyway, I saw these on the weekend and thought that one day soon I’d better cook up some nettle soup!

nettles large

 

I’ve never tried it as I assumed it would be either prickly (apparently not) or tasteless (maybe so according to this recipe from the River Cottage).  I think I’ll gather up the other ingredients and make some next time we are on the land, before the nettles retreat for another winter as no matter how it tastes it will be a free vitamin boost!  If the nutritional data on the interwebs is to be believed nettles are a rich source in vitamin A, calcium, magnesium and iron – I could always do with more iron!  I am just going to make sure I have some tasty stock cubes to put in there just in case it does just taste like boiled weeds.

On another note I should eat these to get rid of them as they are not even supposed to be here. I bet some English chap brought them over with the foxes, rabbits and feral cats back in the day.  By eating them I’d be doing the Australian bushland a favour probably although I’m not sure if eating the leaves kills the plans? Maybe I’d have to dig it up?  But then what if I like my soup?

Maybe I’ll wait and see how it tastes before I decide whether to exterminate my non-native green friend.

What do you think?

 

 

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Shower Improvements – Hot and Cold Water System!

One of the first things we did at Fox Hill Hollow was to purchase ourselves one of those weed killing backpacks and fill it with water before hanging it out under the sun for it to heat the water for our showers.  This system has served us well over the last two-and-a-bit years but now we are ready for something more!

During last years build-fest we erected a structure to capture water on top of the container and store it for a shower.  Under this new roof-let we placed an IBC and thanks to the copious rain we received on the land in July it was soon filled to the brim with water. However, thanks to the sun that water soon became murky and putrid looking (photosynthesis at its finest) making the water look somewhat less than shower-ready!  To add to our woes we (or rather I) kept forgetting to get a tap for said IBC so the shower never really did get much further until now….

Here is the blog post we wrote about the plans and showing the tanks that we are now using to store our water.

So here we go!

First up we had to cut down the replacement tank so it fits  under the roofline or snug against the down pipe – I can’t remember what we opted for to be honest as it isn’t quite finished. As you can see here it is clearly too tall as it is 🙂

pipes-on-the-roof

Re-fitting the top to the bottom!

cut-down-tank-trimmed-to-fit

Making sure the rubbish from the roof doesn’t fill the tank and block the pipes – this filter will come in handy!

filtering-out-the-gunk

Aligning it with the down pipes.

fitting-the-pipes

The shower will be gravity fed – 2.7 metre drop to the floor.  We will put a tiled board underneath and a privacy screen around so we don’t shock the friendly neighbourhood Kangaroos when we get our kit off!

gravity-fed-from-just-under-3-metres

And that’s all we could do here as next we needed a trip to the hardware store for some plumbing supplies!

trying-out-the-shower-plumbing-at-home

Back at home and the plumbing is done and been tested in our garden!   We are going to work out how long the hot pipe has to be to give a couple of good, warm showers – the pipe will be weaved around the container roof where it will heat up in the sun and thus heat the water.  As the sun can get very hot we also have a pipe coming straight from the tank to the ‘cold’ tap (although in the middle of summer cold will be more of a luke warm!).   So far so good and we are looking forward to completing this little job and making Fox Hill Hollow even more sophisticated and homely than it is already.

Update: April 2017  The working shower head – now all we need is a little gas heater as it is currently freezing 🙂

2016-05-12 06.23.20

 

 

 

Learning from Others – Michael Mobbs, Sydney, NSW

Living off-the-grid is still a bit of a part-time project for us.  Sure we’d LOVE to cut our power bills in our Blue Mountains home and would enjoy that accomplished feeling of collecting our own water and managing our own waste but so far it’s been too easy not too here as we can and do manage the bills (albeit reluctantly).  That’s where Fox Hill Hollow is a great motivator – we have no choice but to be off-the-grid and we are embracing that with both hands but slowly, because we don’t have to rush.  So it was with great interest that I found myself at the home of Michael Mobbs, a self-confessed lazy off-the-gridder (if there is such a term) and someone who is doing it all in the centre of Sydney in a terrace house!  Now if he can do it surely we all can!!!!

There was much to be excited about in this house, from the lithium ion battery solar inverter system (6 x 2 KWH storage which is enough for three days for this chap although a typical house uses 25-30 KWH/ day – I think we are more like that at our BM home….),  the LED lights throughout the house (better lighting, lower power) the home-made camphor laurel table and the simple but effective fridge cooling system (passive ventilation really).

Probably my favourite tip aside from the ventilated fridge was investing in a solar system that can go straight from the inverter to the appliance, bypassing the batteries.  Michael mentioned that every time the power goes to the battery then comes out again it reduces the battery life a little and avoiding that as much as possible really does increase the battery life – battery storage is the one expense remaining in the off-the-grid plan although prices are reducing dramatically.

The other part that wowed me was the fact that this chap has a garden that is smaller than my patio at home and yet here he keeps chickens, grows some food, treats his entire sewage AND stores all of the houses water needs!  It just proved to me that having heaps of space is so not necessary and that necessity is indeed the mother of all invention, that and laziness 🙂

michael-mobbs-house

Michael has written a couple of books on the subject of going off the grid and is a delightful and helpful fellow.  I’d love for him to come and have a look at our block and plans when we are up to that stage (which will be soon) but for now we’ve still got much prepping to do.

You can tour Michaels house most months for $30 per head 🙂 Bookings on the website. 

 

Solar Power at Fox Hill Hollow

For Christmas we purchased a solar panel and solar powered refrigerator for Fox Hill Hollow as it can be very hard to prevent food from going off in the summer without a cool spot to keep it in.  After much measuring and re-adjusting the right angle was found for our solo solar panel and we set about welding up a frame to mount it on.  We were delighted to find that the panel/ regulator/ inverter/ battery kit would provide us with enough energy to power the fridge and to run several devices (such as a laptop, radio or kettle).  It’s quite exciting to think that we are soon going to be able to live with a variety of modern comforts while tucked away in our off-the-grid haven even though I feel an odd sense of nostalgia for how happy and contented we were just making-do.  It is true that you soon get used to having more and once you have more it is very, very hard to go back to appreciating less.

 

sunny solar

 

Oh no! We bogged the tractor :(

Yep, all that lovely snow filled the dam. YAY.

However it has also resulted in some really boggy patches of land which is great in one way as I now know where the best land for Manuka lies which is very nice.  However, what is good for Manuka is not so good for a hefty little tractor.

July 2 boggy land and dog play

We should have seen it coming!  Just look at all that mud, even the dogs are over-excited.

July 2 tractor is bogged discussion

Whoops!

July 2 Aub trying to unbog the tractor and getting more stuck

I’m not sure that is helping!  I’ll just stand here with the camera……

July 2 helping dad

Yes, dad definitely needs help!

Well after a good three hours of pushing, pulling and swearing the tractor was driven out of the bog by Meg.

There’s one way to spend a Sunday afternoon 🙂

Amanda x

Easter Show Fun!

I have never been to the Easter show but this year we had to as our youngest daughter was performing a dance routine with her dance troupe.  I have to say that I wasn’t much looking forward to it at first as it always looks so expensive and the crowds, show bags and rubbish food are a trio made in hell as far as I am concerned but Em’s dancing and the prospect of getting a bit of farming info got me over the line.

Here’s Em ready to go out and do her first Flash Mob performance:

April emily dancing

So once the first performance was done and dusted we had some time to spare so it was off to see the Alpacas and learn a bit more about them.

April Alpaca

So cute!  And much better for the land than sheep due to them being very light on their feet – like little ballerina’s.  I’ve been anti sheep on the land ever since reading ‘Feral’ by George Monbiot last year.  As we want to re-habilitate the land and hopefully increase the biodiversity on the property sheep would be a bad choice.  To be honest, at the moment animals are not something we can consider ‘housing’ on the land as I’d want to be there every day to make sure they were OK so maybe a pack of Alpaca’s (or whatever a group is called) will have to wait a few years.

April easter show wool

We had time to check out the display from the Central West farmers – very impressive!

April easter show western district produce

And there is always time for a tasty snack.

April easter show snack