Month: July 2009

Glorious Beets

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Yesterday I decided it was finally time to harvest the beets. They’ve been pushing their way out of the ground for a couple of weeks now, so we’ve been piling more dirt on them to keep them growing for longer.

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I’ll have to say, I reluctantly planted them to see how they might grow. They were free seeds included in our order, so we had nothing to lose. I’m certainly glad we did plant them. They were extremely easy to grow, needed no attention and gave us crop of healthy vegetables within a few months. When you compare them to broccoli (which take 90% of our work) beets become a no brainer to plant.

The greatest challenge came when we needed to decide how we were going to eat them. In Australia beetroot comes in cans and is added to salads and burgers. These roots I pulled out of the ground looked nothing like what I had become accustomed to. After trawling the internet I discovered that beets are delicious roasted, but in the end I decided to pickle them so they resemble something like food from home.

Beets Beets boiled and cut

Steps for Pickling Beets

  • Cleaning Beets. After pulling them from the ground, I gave them a good scrubbing in the sink to remove the dirt.
  • Boiling Beets. I cut them into roughly quarters, placed them in a large pot, covered with water and boiled them for 20 minutes (just like potatoes). Once cooked I removed them from the heat, saved 1 cup of beet water and then drained them and run them under cool water.
  • Skinning and Cutting the Beets. The beet skins came off easily when pressure was applied with the thumb and with the skin rubbed back and forth. I removed the stem and root ends, and cut them into bite-sized pieces.
  • Making the Beet Brine. I combined 2 1/2 cups of white vinegar, 1 cup of beet water, 1 cup of granulated (white) sugar, and some spices (I used mustard powder and cinnamon). I brought the mixture to a boil and let it boil gently for 15 minutes.
  • Cooking and Jarring the Beets. Once the brine was infused with the spices, I added the beets to the pot and returned it to a boil. Using a slotted spoon, I packed a couple of jars with cooked and peeled beets, and then added the pickling juice to the jars, leaving a 1/4 inch head space. The jars are then supposed to be processed for 30 minutes in a boiling water canner. I don’t yet have a canner so I just placed the jars in hot water for about 10 minutes. It probably not safe to keep these jars for too long, so I expect we’ll eat these beets in the next few weeks.

The resulting jars of pickled beets are a really beautiful colour. I hope they taste as good as they look.

pickled beets

After spending an hour canning the beets, I decided to use the beet greens (leaves) for dinner. I hate to see any part of the vegetable I grew go to waste! Here’s the recipe I used. Beet Greens and Feta Pasta It was delicious. I just added a little fried bacon and some pine nuts on a whim.

Beet greens taste just like spinach so we could use them in all types of recipes. I’ll definitely be planting beets in my fall garden.

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This is the world we live in

I thought this short video was rather appropriate after spending a day yesterday living on the equivalent of UN World Food Fund daily rations. To be honest I didn’t find myself too hungry throughout the day, but the worst part was the cravings. I wanted sweet stuff and I desperately wanted coffee. Brendan cooking and eating some delicious smelling dinner in front of me did not help much either. Surprisingly, in the end, I couldn’t even eat all the rice. It almost became a chore. Perhaps if I tried to live on these rations for longer I would get hungry enough to get more of an appetite for it. Anyway, it was an interesting experiment for the day.

Strangely enough I felt really great this morning. I think my food intolerance’s are still at work and a day of eating bland food obviously agrees with me. I might even start doing this every so often just to give my body a break.

Where in the World? South Dakota, USA

On Monday, following the Chris Martenson seminar, Brendan and I drove about six and a half hours through Colorado and Wyoming and into South Dakota. The sun is up much later up there, so we had plenty of sunlight left in the afternoon to visit Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore.

Crazy Horse

Although Crazy Horse isn’t yet finished (despite being started over 50 years ago) the size of the monument is truly impressive. The photo can’t depict the enormous size, but his completed face is about the same size as the faces at Mount Rushmore. You can see the horse’s head drawn on the side of the mountain to give you an idea of how huge this is going to be. What impressed us most, was that this has all been done through the efforts of one family with no government backing. The second generation are now working on it after their father passed way.

Mount Rushmore

To be honest, Mount Rushmore was so much better than we expected. The Black Hills where it’s located are just beautiful and the monument is tucked away in forest. We took a loop walk and listened as one of the rangers gave us some history on each of these famous presidents. I’m really enjoying learning about American History and Politics. It’s quite fascinating.

Mount Rushmore 2

Unfortunately we only had the afternoon and one night in South Dakota before heading back into Wyoming. I’ll post some of those photos on the blog soon.

Check out more photos from my travels

Living on rations for the day

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My friend George recently had an epiphany about food.

This past Sunday Frederic and I were having lunch at Boston Market. I was having this new country fried steak with cream sauce. After the first bite I realized that the cream wasn’t very creamy at all! It was runny and bland, something more suitable for a hospital cafeteria than a Boston Market. As I scarf down the first bite, I quickly take my fork and prepare a second bite this time with a healthy dose of salt for good measure. Still bland but now salty! I put my fork down and get ready for my usual “this f&*king sucks” tirade when out of the clear blue it hits me: “We are very lucky to have this.” For those who know me, yes I was just as shocked as you are reading this!

“What?” Frederic replied, most likely wondering if this was the beginning of one of my jokes.

“We are lucky to have this.” I repeated.

“What makes you say that?” he said.

“I don’t know. It just hit me. We ARE lucky to be sitting here eating this meal. How many people in the world are starving or wish they could have what I am eating now?” I said, still processing in my mind what was going on. Wondering where this sudden wave of concern and guilt was coming from.

God bless me, but if it doesn’t happen in my little universe, it doesn’t exist! I’ve lived my whole life worrying about myself and my close friends. Not once has it occurred to me that people around the world might be suffering. Sad to say, I am one of the millions of people who simply turn the other cheek. I suppose giving the occasional handout to a street person or participating in fundraisers gave me a fools confidence that I was doing my part.

George has decided that tomorrow will be the day that he will see what it’s like to live on the rations provided by the United Nations World Food Program. Being the good friend that I am I have decided to lend my support and do the same. Here’s my ration for tomorrow:

  • One and half cups of rice or flour,
  • a tablespoon of beans or lentils,
  • a spoonful of oil, and
  • a pinch of salt.

I’ll be sure to provide an update to see how we both fared.

Chris Martenson rocks!

A couple of weekends ago, Brendan and I attended a seminar in Denver, Colorado which was held by Chris Martenson and his wife Becca. I’ve been devouring everything I can from Chris’ website since I first discovered it in February 09. I think his Crash Course is essential viewing and I encourage everyone to watch it and learn about some of the biggest challenges facing us in the coming decades:

  • Economic woes
  • Energy crises
  • Environmental devastation

These (the three E’s) are really important topics and until I saw the Crash Course for the first time, I had no idea how different the next 20 years will be from the last 20 years.

Chris_Headshot_72dpiChris is a former Vice President of an international Fortune 300 company and used to be living in a large waterfront house until he came to the same realisation that I have recently, that something isn’t quite right with society. About 5 years ago, Chris terminated his former high-paying, high-status position. His children are now homeschooled, and the big house was sold in July of 2003 in preference for a small rental in rural western Massachusetts. The family grows a garden every year; preserve food, know how to brew beer & wine, and raise chickens. Chris and Becca are making sure their family and community are becoming more self-sufficient and are sharing much of their wisdom with the online community on his website.

I am so thankful that I discovered Chris. He has changed the way I see things and I feel so much better educated about what our future might look like.

Why? Thoughts on becoming a good human.

2200550268_abaf939434Here’s what started me along this journey to now. In late 2007 I moved to the USA for three years to take up an awesome position I was offered. I’m an Aerospace Engineer and earn a tidy income. From a young age, I followed the prescribed path: Do well at school, go to University, get a good job, climb the ladder, save money along the way, buy a house, buy another, and another….. You get the picture. I was doing what we are all taught to do: work hard, make a million or so and then retire from the rat race, happy and free. At 30 I was well on the way and by all measures in our society I was successful.

However, within about 3 months of living in the USA, something in me shifted. Something wasn’t quite right and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Over time it occured to me what it was that I was feeling. America is the epitomy of capitalist culture, something the rest of the world is trying to emulate. But after living here just a short time I started to see where the system wasn’t working. We were all rushing around being busy all the time. We spend our life working to buy more stuff in order to keep up with the Jones’ and appear like we have all the trappings of success. It leaves us exhausted at the end of the day, so we grab some convenience food and shovel it down while numbing our minds with 100+ channels of cable TV (most of which is utter crap). There is no time to enjoy nature. There is no time to ponder where our food comes from. There is no time to consider how we are polluting the world, our bodies and our minds. There is no time to stop and ask whether this is how we want to live our lives.

So I stopped. I stopped being so busy and I spent more time under a tree, just thinking. And with that time I gained clarity. I decided that I wanted to live my life differently, a life filled with purpose, wisdom and joy. I started reading, and reading, and reading. I learnt more about history and our world, all the ills we are forcing upon it, on our animals, on ourselves.

Now I’m on the path to becoming a better human. I am moving towards a simpler life where I can do work which is personally rewarding and in doing so, spend less time as a wage slave. I am enjoying the real beauty of life without having to spend money to do so. I take the time to enjoy my relationships. I am slowing down, reducing stress and concentrating on having a healthy, strong body which will take me to amazing places for many years to come. I want to do more to help our sick Earth and I want to see and experience as much of our world as I can. I want to learn. This blog will cover many of my experiences and I hope to share much of what I learn along the way.

Photo by: Colin Purrington