As most muesli bars contain nuts and I have an anaphylactic (a severe allergy to nuts) son, Master Rambles sometimes feels left out when other children have muesli bar ‘treats’ in their lunch boxes. Recently he saw an advert for a new range of ‘nut free’ muesli bars and asked if I could buy some for him. I saw them in the supermarket and, without really thinking it through, bought them. It was only when I got home that I read the ingredients and discovered that these ‘healthy’ bars were full of preservatives (which is another ingredient Master Rambles has to avoid). Junior Rambles and I tried them, and they were fairly tasteless anyway, and I wasn’t too impressed with the excessive amount of packaging.
To try to alleviate Master Rambles’ disappointment I decided to make some of our own and, slightly to my surprise, my first attempt was a success. While it would be fine to use supermarket ingredients, I bought organic and preservative-free ingredients from a local health shop – slightly more expensive than the supermarket but all the ingredients together still cost less than the packaged muesli bars!
So here is my, very simple, recipe for nut-free, preservative-free and packaging-free muesli slices.
- Melt 100g butter in a small pan with 75g of golden syrup and 50g of brown sugar.
- Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine 100g wholemeal self-raising flour, 80g of rolled oats, 50g of sulphite-free dried apricots (chopped), and 25g each of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and preservative-free shredded coconut.
- When the butter and sugar mixture has melted and dissolved, stir through the dry ingredients.
- Transfer the mixture into a baking pan (mine is 8″x8″) and cook at 170C for about 20 minutes.
- Once out of the oven let the mixture cool for about 10 mins before turning out onto a cooling rack.
- Allow to cool completely before cutting into desired shapes and sizes. It is difficult to cut when hot as it is very crumbly (I have tried, and failed).
Perfect in a lunch box, or enjoyed anytime with a cuppa!
Despite being happy in the dome (they don’t know how lucky they are to have so much room), the chickens love being allowed out to roam and forage in the garden. This is fine when we are around to keep an eye on them, but our garden isn’t completely fenced in, and they don’t understand the difference between our garden and the nature strip along the side of the road. They love wandering out alongside the road where they find all sorts of goodies to eat in the long grass and overgrown weeds.
There are always people walking up and down the road and they often comment on the chooks. However, some people walk past with their dogs, and sadly not all are on leads; we do have to be careful and keep an eye on the hens and generally keep them locked up and safe from predators. Keeping them safe and giving them space was the main reason for building the dome; we wanted them to be able to to flap their wings and explore. When they are shut in the dome, I sometimes tie up some ‘green treats’ hung from the upper struts, to provide some entertainment and make them work for their food. It’s also entertaining for us – watching them jump up for mouthfuls!
The local farmer’s market has a friendly fruit and vegetable seller who lets me take green leaves from the ‘bin’. It is usually full of imperfect vegetables and outer leaves of lettuce, cabbage, and cauliflower along with other ‘rubbish’, (takeaway coffee cups etc.) headed for landfill. I have occasionally been known to sneak some of my reclaimed chook food into our fridge once I get it home (does this make me a dumpster diver?) – one week I scored a bunch of beautiful beetroot leaves which were far too good for the chooks. But don’t worry – the girls do get plenty!
The hens are also partial to plain yoghurt; I guess that they find it refreshing on a hot day. I make yoghurt (kept warm next to the sourdough bread starter) and usually make extra batches during the summer so the chooks can have some as a regular treat. The calcium should help them with their egg production too.
At one edge of the dome there is a pile of loose earth, which I regularly top up with compost and sometimes grass clippings. This provides a good area for the girls to scratch around and to have dust baths. They get very excited when I add fresh compost, as it usually comes with a good snack of worms for them!
I found (saved) an old, slightly rotting, garden bench tossed out beside the road of a neighbour’s house (ready for a rubbish collection) and have put it in the dome for the chooks. It is a perfect spot for them to roost during the day as they like to be able to perch off the ground. I often look out of my window and see all three of them perching there in the late afternoon sunshine, surveying the scenery and looking very content. I haven’t managed to get a photo of them sitting there, as every time I approach the dome they jump down and rush to the door, expecting food or to be let out into the garden. – but, I’ll keep trying.
While chatting to some friends recently, over a post paddle boarding coffee and muffin, the conversation somehow turned to what we do/don’t put into our rubbish bins. I have read several articles lately on people who are managing to live almost or completely waste free. Although I can’t claim to have anything like that lifestyle, I have noticed that since my composting habits changed last year (Click here to read ‘The Art of Composting’) we are putting very little in our ‘general rubbish’ wheelie bin and, as any rubbish we do have is dry, we no longer need to use plastic bags. (The recycling bins, however, are always full – despite trying to re-use things first – but that’s another story.)
One friend said she had been inspired to start composting but she still had a full rubbish bin at the end of every week. Without (I hope) sounding too cheeky, I asked her what was going in her rubbish bin; when she started listing a few things, I said, “Oh, I put most of those in the compost”. There was a little gasp of surprise around the table and the conversation steered onto what you do and don’t or can and can’t put into a compost bin. There seems to be a debate on whether some items can be composted, but when I am asked what I compost, the answer is simple – everything that I think is biodegradable goes into my compost bin. I am no expert here, and if other people want to tell me I am doing something wrong then I am prepared to listen, but I appear to make great compost and have a lot less waste. I have read that, amongst other things, you shouldn’t put citrus, onion skins, cooked food or meat in the compost. It all goes in mine. I imagine that if you have an open compost ‘pile’ then cooked food and meat would attract rats but, I have a sealed bin placed on a tiled base so no rodents can get in. I have read that citrus is poisonous to worms; I have also read that this is a myth. I put citrus in my compost bin and the worms are still there and the citrus turns to compost.
With so much conflicting information out there I am happy to just continue with my methods and self-discover what does and doesn’t ‘work’ in my compost bin.
When the waste breaks down into compost I often find some things that need longer to decompose, e.g. bones and fruit stones; I simply toss them into the ‘new’ compost bin (ideally you should have three bins on the go in rotation). I also occasionally find things that are not biodegradable and have found their way into the compost by accident, such as some plastic packaging or other man-made materials, and I simply remove them before using the compost in the garden.
Inspired by reactions to my composting ways, I have decided to start tweeting a list of “things I put in my compost” (#thingsIputinmycompost). Follow me on Twitter (@rose_rambles) to see how many I come up with!
What do you/don’t you put in your compost? – Comments are welcome.
This is not actually my own original recipe, I ‘borrowed’ it from Mr Rambles. I have had several requests for the recipe recently, so here it is, reproduced by kind permission. Thank you Mr R.
When Master Rambles was on his strict elimination diet he couldn’t enjoy Mr Rambles’ lemon sponge cake, so I changed it to a vanilla sponge and filled it with cream and the only fruit he was allowed, pears. It was an instant hit, and has now become our family’s favourite cake. For a special occasion, for a not so special occasion, or for when it just feels like a cake sort of day!
- Cream together 125g softened butter and 220g castor sugar with a teaspoon of vanilla essence
- Add 2 eggs to the mixture and beat
- Add 75g of self-raising flour and mix until smooth
- Add another 150g of self-raising flour and a pinch of baking powder
- Mix until smooth
- Pour in 125mls of milk and mix until smooth
- Divide into two lined 8″ cake tins and cook at 150C for about 40 mins (until a knife comes out clean)
- Carefully remove from tins and place on a cooling rack
- When the cakes are cool enough, add some whipped fresh cream to one half, and top with sliced pears. I use very ripe or tinned ones.
- Place the other half on top
- Enjoy. Goes down exceptionally well with a cup of tea!
As well as a larger area of garden at the front (where the chickens live) we are lucky to have a small, north facing, patch of garden just outside the kitchen door. When we moved in this consisted of; a ‘sooty mould’ infested Lilly Pilly hedge, a scrappy patch of grass with a washing line, and a well worn deck. After several failed attempts at curing the hedge of its black leaves, I decided to pull the whole thing out. What a great decision, it made the garden much bigger, and lighter.
I had wanted to grow veggies and herbs here, but had tried in pots for the first two years, with not a great deal of success. Now we had more space I enlisted Mr Rambles’ help in building raised beds around the fence boundary where the hedge had been, and in the central grass area where we had moved the washing line from. The washing line is now attached to the side of the house, where it can be folded away, takes up much less space and gets more sun.
Since putting the veggie beds in I decided that the rest of the garden would be created from found and reused materials only. It is still changing and evolving and has now become one of my favourite outdoor spaces to spend time in. I have had various failures and sucesses with my edible plants, and I am still experimenting and learning what, when and where to grow. Last summer we enjoyed some of the best successes yet, including chillies, cherry tomatoes, beans, spinach, spring onions, beetroots, potatoes, pumpkins and various different herbs.
Junior Rambles enjoys checking and turning the compost. I am so glad that he seems as interested and fascinated as I am at how our ‘waste’ turns into new soil for the garden.
I love the idea of of reducing the waste I put in the rubbish bin by putting kitchen scaps into a compost bin instead, but I have tried and failed many times with compost over the years. Open piles or sealed bins just didn’t break down their contents, but they were successful in being smelly. I tried again about three years ago when I found a discarded compost bin in the hedge of our property. I read up on the internet and borrowed library books to search for advice. I tried a layering technique, mixing dry carbon (leaves, twigs etc.) with grass cuttings/kitchen scraps. It was my first success, but it was over a year before the contents had broken down enough to vaguely resemble ‘compost’. Even then I was finding bits that hadn’t broken down; corn cobs, avacado skins, etc.
Last year I noticed my council were offering a free composting course that I could go on, called The Art of Composting and Worms. I have to admit I was slightly skeptical, not sure how much I was likely to learn on a free council course, but thought I had nothing to lose so decided to sign up and go along.
I was wrong. I learnt a lot. Of course, I couldn’t see the ‘scraps’ breaking down into compost during the course, I only had their word for it that if I followed the techiniques I had been taught it would work. Less than a year later I have managed to produce several bins worth of kitchen scraps and garden waste into compost! It takes me a matter of weeks now, instead of months/years!
I will keep you in suspense for now, but I promise to write soon about what I learnt and how I do it!