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Weekend reading


Gracie, our beautiful Scotch Terrier, will be one year old soon. It seems like only yesterday when we picked her up from the airport after she flew up from a farm in New South Wales. She's really keeping us on our toes because like all Scotties, she's devilish, independent and intelligent. She runs through the house, skidding on the floor and crashing  into doors and walls when she turns a corner. But late at night and early in the morning, when she's sleepy and quiet, she's like a tiny baby who just wants her bed and a cuddle.


Yesterday, the groomer came to wash, clip and fluff Gracie. She doesn't mind being washed, or the hair dryer, but she yelped when she had her nails clipped.  After the groomer left, Gracie didn't talk to us and she refused to come inside. A few hours later, when it was getting dark and cold, she relented and slowly walked in. We've returned to normal - for now. 


Thanks for your interesting comments this week and for the support and encouragement you give me and your fellow readers. I'll be back again early next week, I hope to see you again.  Have a lovely weekend.  

Understanding Cat Tail Talk

How to substitute potatoes

Potatoes are a very popular vegetable in Australia. Those of us of European descent who cook our traditional family food often use potatoes in the food we cook and there are many potato-based foods that are commonly known, not just here in Australia, but in many other countries too.  I'm thinking of mashed potatoes, potato salad, hot chips, baked potatoes, potato bake, colcannon, potato and leek soup, wedges, frittata, shepherd's pie, cottage pie, fish pie, potato pancakes and many others. Surprisingly, to me at least, China is the world's largest producer of potatoes. The top five producers are China, India, Russia, Ukraine, USA. We grow very good potatoes in Australia, and a lot of home gardeners plant them every year, but Australia isn't in the top 25 potato-producing countries.

There was a time not too long ago when we used to grow a lot of potatoes.  Like many home grown vegetables, they taste much better fresh and just out of the ground.

Potatoes are one of the "good carbs" so they're frequently featured in family meals as a side dish, as a ingredient in frittata, salad or soup, or they're the main feature in vegetarian and vegan food. But one of the problems with this popular vegetable is that it's subject to price fluctuations because they're susceptible to rot after prolonged rain and prone to quite a few diseases. I thought it might be helpful for all of us, especially younger and new cooks, to discuss how we can replace potatoes with other common foods. After all, our job as homemakers is to not only cook nourishing food when we have all the ingredients we want but also when times are tough or we need to substitute ingredients to stay on budget. Don't forget to have packs of rice, pasta, polenta or couscous in your pantry. They'll sit there on stand by for a few months and you'll know you have that backup should you need it.

A sweet potato putting on shoots before being cut into chunks ready for planting.

 Purple sweet potato above, orange sweet potato pie topping below.

Sweet potato is the easiest replacement vegetable when potatoes are too expensive. You can mash, bake, or fry them and I think that they could easily slip in to replace potatoes in almost every potato dish. I prefer sweet potato as a pie topping and as a baked vegetable. If you have some room in your backyard, sweet potatoes are fairly easy to grow and usually produce an abundant crop.

Rice and salmon salad

Rice and pasta are obvious potato replacements in stews, curries, soup and salads. Both can be served in a stew or soup or on the side of a curry or stew. Rice salad and pasta salad, made with a variety of vegetables, is a good substitute for potato salad.

Dumplings are also great in a stew or soup if you don't have potatoes or are saving them for the Sunday roast.  They're easy to make, being very much like scone dough. Make them up about ½ hour before your stew or soup will be served.

Beef stew and herb dumplings.
Ingredients:

  • 65g cold butter, cubed
  • 1 ½ cups self-raising flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chives or green onion tops, chopped
  • 150 mls milk or cold water
Rub the cold butter into the flour with your finger tips so they look like course breadcrumbs. Add the salt, pepper and herbs and mix to combine. Add the milk or water and make into a dough. Divide the dough into 6-8 small balls, remember, they'll puff up when cooked, and place the balls on top of the simmering stew or soup. Put the lid on the saucepan. They'll be cooked in about 20 - 30 minutes.

Sweet potato, pumpkin or any root vegetable can be added to frittata.

Polenta can be fried, grilled, baked or creamy. Creamy polenta is an excellent replacement for mashed potatoes so it can also be used as a pie topper. Simply make it up according to the instructions on the packet. When making creamy polenta you'd add butter and cheese to the final product, if you want to fry or grill the polenta, make it up according to the instructions, pour it into a flat tray with sides and refrigerate overnight.  The following day it will be set and can be cut into chips or squares for frying or grilling.

Couscous can be used to add texture to a thick soup.

Couscous can be used in salads, with curries or stews, with roast meats, as thickeners in soups and stews, as part of a stuffing for poultry or vegetables or as the starch component in fish cakes or meatloaf.  Homemade breadcrumbs can also be used to bind fish cakes and meatloaf so never throw out your stale bread.

So now it's over to you. I'd love to know what you replace potatoes with when you don't have any or want to save them for something else. 🥔

Ecoyarns sale a success


The weekend 10 percent discount sale at Ecoyarns for Down to Earth readers was very successful. Salihan at Ecoyarns asked me to pass on her thanks to you all. She said there were many first time customers and plenty of hemp and cotton was sold.  

I'm sure your dishcloths will be fabulous. If you post photos of your dishcloths on your own blogs, let me know so we can all have a look.  

Checking our electricity usage

We've been busy here the past week or so. We had plumbers in looking at an ongoing problem, which they finally fixed. A few visitors dropped by and Hanno and I had lunch with the lovely Nannachel  and her son last Thursday. I took advantage of the Down to Earth get-together at Caloundra on Saturday to declutter and sent some of my knitting, crochet and simple living books on to people who would use them. On Friday we found a worker on Airtasker to help us in the garden and clean up the mess after Hanno pulled down the wisteria arbour. The garden is looking good now and in a couple of months time, I'll take a photo of what they did.  At the moment it's very small tube stock, pine bark mulch and little else.

 This was my favourite little knitting book which is now in someone else's library.

Yesterday we met some of our family for lunch at the Cooroy Hotel, about an hour north of here, to  celebrate Shane and Alex's birthdays. Jens and Cathy have just returned from two months in Europe so I enjoyed seeing everyone and catching up with the news. Jamie had a wonderful time with his cousins and I was reminded, again, of how fast they're all growing up.

I gave Gracie a bone to chew on while we were away. She loves bones and protects them like a baby, even when all the meat has been eaten.  She sometimes buries them or hides them in her little outdoor house. But when we came home yesterday after our lunch, the picture below will tell the story.

And the culprit was ...

Now we have a few weeks ahead with no appointments or visitors so the gate will remain shut for a while. Hanno and I will be actively relaxing, gardening and wandering slowly around our yard, while we carry on with getting the garden how we want it, before the hot weather starts again.  I have a few plants to pot up and some to repot, as well as mulching and tidying the bush house. There is still a bit of not so heavy work in the vegetable garden and I'm looking forward to that.  I'm pleased to tell you I picked the first of our large tomatoes on Saturday.  They're still green but starting to turn pink and they'll continue to ripen in the kitchen.


Last week in the comments, Dollie White asked if our electricity usage had increased since we bought our dishwasher two years ago.  I didn't know and had to look it up. Generally our electricity usage is below average. In the year before we installed the dishwasher, and since, we registered:
  • June 2014 - 6.2 kW
  • Sept 2014 - 8.8 kW
  • March 2015 - 8.2 kW
  • June 2015 - 7.7 kW
New dishwasher in July 2015
  • Sept 2015 - 10.21 kW
  • Nov 2015  - 8.81 kW
  • Feb 2016 - 8.22 kW
  • June 2016 - 6.77 kW
  • Nov 2016 - 7.89 kW
  • Feb 2017 - 10.72 kW
  • June 2017 - 8.08 kW
Dollie, as you can see, we had a slight spike when we changed service providers and again at the beginning of this year when we had a long hot summer, but otherwise our usage remained the same.

We have a solar hot water unit and solar panels which earn us between $70 and $80 per quarter. We use our washing machine and dishwasher at night when the rate is cheaper and we always turn off lights and appliances we're not using.

I think we spent wisely buying an energy efficient Miele dishwasher.  I'm glad we invested our money that way because even though electricity costs have risen quite a lot in the past couple of years, the two of us (and many visitors) are still consuming less that the average for one person, which is 10 kW in this area.

What is your power bill like?  


Open weave cotton dish cloths

I used to be known as a bit of a dish cloth obsessive.  If the real truth is known, I still am. 🙂 How can you not love something you can make yourself in a few hours, that can be used over and over again, is easy to wash and dry and can help you with your daily household tasks.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we are talking about our friend, the knitted cotton dish cloth.


When I started knitting these many years ago, I used whatever needles where suitable for the cotton I was using. Now I use oversize needles because it produces an open weave instead of a tight weave. I believe open weave cloths are better because they often dry out between use, if I hang them on the tap, and that means it's harder for bacteria to build up in the cloth. Bacteria need moisture to multiply and if you've got a constantly moist dish cloth, the bacteria are probably multiplying.  This happens on all dish cloths, sponges and scrubbers. The combination of water and food is an open invitation to bacteria. 

Dishcloths need to be washed regularly. Sometimes I do mine daily, sometimes every second day and every so often, I soak all of them in oxy bleach. I hang them over the side of the laundry basket until I'm ready to wash them in cold water and homemade laundry liquid, then they hang in the sun to dry. The open weave allows the sun to hit more of the yarn as it dries. Line drying cloths in the sun helps disinfect, bleach and deodorise them. When they are placed back in the kitchen drawer, they're germ-free and ready to rock and roll. I don't use dish cloths to clean up any floor mess. When I have floor spills, grease or burnt food, I clean up with my recycled cotton rags.

Below: A closeup of the cloth above made using 15mm needles.

I don't use microfibre cloths anymore because it's been discovered they are the biggest pollutant in our oceans.  Read the report here.  Every time microfibre is washed, thousands of microscopic threads go down the drain and often end up in the ocean. It's killing marine life.

I like to knit in garter stitch - just plain knitting, repeated every row until I reach the size I want the cloth to be. It's the easiest stitch, it gives a good texture for cleaning and I can motor away, knitting these cloths while I'm talking to people or watching TV.  How to knit garter stitch.    If you'd prefer to knit a more complicated pattern look at these: Dish cloth knitting patterns. I hope you feel encouraged to try knitting these. It doesn't matter if you make a couple of mistakes, I know that with each dishcloth you knit, you'll improve.


The only difference in the knitting now is that I use larger needles and that creates the open weave.  For example, all the photos here today are cloths knitted on needles larger than those recommended for the yarn. The red cloth that I cast on in the car the other day is 8ply organic cotton from Eco Yarns on 5.5mm needles. You can't see it in the photo but when you hold it up, you can see through the cloth.  The brown and pink cloths are 8ply from Spotlight on size 10mm needles. The green and white cloth is a 5ply organic Japanese cotton from Eco Yarns which is not stocked now. I used size 15mm needles for that cloth and knit using one strand of green and one of white. 

Knitted dish cloths are the fibre equivalent of our homemade laundry liquid.  Both only take a short amount of time to make up, you do it every few months to top up your supplies, they save a lot of money, are environmentally friendly and a pleasure to use. If you haven't tried making your own dish cloths yet, take the plunge now and see how you go with it.  I think you'll like them.

ADDED LATER:  I just received an email from Salihan at EcoYarns.  When she read I was doing a post about dishcloths she organised a special sale for us.  

The discount code to use is DISHCLOTH and it will give D2E readers 10% off the following dishcloth (and facecloth) friendly yarns. The discount code will expire on Sunday night (16 July):

Eco-Organic Cotton Virtues:
https://ecoyarns.com.au/products/hemp-for-knitting-allhemp6-8-ply
(highly recommended as it very durable, naturally antibacterial and anti-fungal)



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