Kay brought along a selection of delicious home-dried fruits for us to try.
Here was one I had never seen, and have since tried at home with great success.
Tomato slices, dried to crispiness or chewiness depending on your preference.
Kay sprinkled hers with salt, pepper and basil. I used my home-grown dried oregano.
Yum. I am imagining these on a cheese platter. Yum again.
A couple of years ago I started reading Tanya's blog, Suburban Jubilee. I read about what she was doing in the garden and the kitchen, and was enchanted by all the things she made, like soap and candied lemon peel, things that 'normal' people buy at the supermarket. I wanted to be just like her when I grew up.. and then I discovered that she lived locally, and ran a group each month sharing everything she knew with lucky local folk..
Well, it took me a few months to pluck up the courage, but one night I turned up at the pub and discussed jam making and drying fruit and veg with a bunch like-minded people, and I was hooked! There are so many urban homesteading skills I want to learn, and here was a group of strong, creative, knowledgeable people who were doing it all. Some were expert gardeners, some fabulous cooks, some kept chickens, some had a passion for medicinal herbs, some are obsessed with finding ever more interesting ways of turning plants into alcohol..
And in the middle of us all, there was always Tanya, like a mother hen, or a good witch, keeping an eye on everyone, organising clever people to come and do workshops on how to do fermenting or keep bees or make our own kombucha or kefir or sunscreen, and sharing her considerable knowledge on how to live a really good life, the old way, with nana skills and a Garden of Eden out the back. We moved from the pub to the Workingman's Club, to a little studio space, kindly lent to us so that we could keep getting together around the big old farmhouse table and carry on learning.
At the end of last year, Tanya decided to step back from her role co-ordinating the Living Better Group - ever wise, she decided she needed to cull some of her busyness in order to Live Better. Members of our group called each other and bumped into each other at the shops and decided that we couldn't let the group go, so we decided to re-convene it, and have a go ourselves.
So Katherine, who is super organised, organised us all to get together in February to plan a course for the future. We had a lovely time, as usual, and discussed a whole lot of things, such as home made washing detergent recipes, recipes for garlic spray to deter cabbage moths from the broccoli, drying fruit and vegetables (yes, just like the first time I came to the group - some subjects never get old), and of course, ideas for what we would like to learn this year.
It is extraordinary the skills and knowledge that a group of ten enthusiastic amateurs have between us, or the network of people we know who can contribute. We have a plan, and I have volunteered to collate each month's recipes and information on my blog for the benefit of members and all you other readers as well.
So if you are in Launceston (that is, the Launceston in Tasmania, Australia, not the Launceston in Cornwall..) on the last Thursday of each month, do come and join us from 7-9pm.
Otherwise, think about starting your own group with a bunch of friends where you can share what you know about Living Better With Less. You never know what you might learn.
If you want to contact me about the Living Better With Less group (or anything else) I have now finally got around to popping up a 'Contact' page. That only took six years. Imagine what I can achieve by 2021!
Garlic Spray to Deter Cabbage Moths From Your Brassicas
Quart (1 litre) hot water
Bulb of garlic
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Crush garlic and chop onion and add to water with pepper. Seep for 10 minutes. Strain and pop in a spray bottle to use. Keep in the fridge as it will go off.
Apparently this will also send aphids to an early grave..