Monday, December 29, 2014

Let us collect lettuce seeds

I really used to lament over our hot dry Perth summers. Last year we had no summer crops because we were away for seven weeks and as we gardeners know, a good food garden needs daily attention so we just didn't bother. But this summer, so far has been fantastic. We have had a bumper tomato crop, heaps if apples, bananas, boysenberries, lettuce and lots of other veggies.

Our new wicking bed is crankin' and will hopefully keep us in greens for a while to come. But of course, as seasons flow, some crops finish.

One patch of lettuce bolted a couple of months ago and now it's time to collect the seed. If you're new to seed collecting, lettuce is a great one to start with. I've been saving these seeds, which I originally got from our good friend Ben, for several years. They are red cos lettuces.

So first if all you need to do is resist picking from your best lettuce plants. Just let three or four go to seed. They look like this with fluffy seed heads when they are ready to collect.

Once they flower, seed and dry you just take the seeds. So simple. I just roll the seed head in my fingers to loosed the seeds and let them fall into a container.

And there they are, all ready for my next crop which will be in a few weeks time. I'm really trying to keep the greens rolling this summer. I have to remember how lucky we are in Perth - with care, we can grow most veggies most of the year round.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

How to cook and eat globe artichokes

November and December are a time of year we really look forward to. We have apples, boysenberries and my favourite vegetable, globe artichokes available from our garden. I rave about artichokes to people and so many say "But how do you cook and eat them?". Well, here's how my Dad showed me and it's delicious.

First, pick the artichoke when they're fairly big but before they start to flower. They flesh out lots as they grow but if you pick them too late they'll be too stringy and less tasty. Cut them just below the globe, leaving maybe 10mm of stork on.

Then boil them immersed in water for about an hour with the lid on. To test whether they're ready pick a petal from low down on the globe and taste it. This is done by putting the petal in between your top and bottom teeth and scraping off the flesh at the lower end of the petal. If it's still hard to chew it's not ready yet.

When it's nearly ready put some knobs of butter in small bowls and microwave until melted.

Remove the artichokes from the water when done and serve. Place a large bowl in the middle of the table for discarding eaten petals and the choke. Now dig in.

Simply pick petals and dip them in the butter. Most of the lower, bigger ones have some 'meat' on them, the smaller ones higher up have less. When you've eaten most of the petals, stop before removing them all. If you do this you'll get into the 'choke', the upper part above the heart. This part will choke you if you eat it, hence the name. 
This part should be removed, as should the stringy stork below the heart. Remove the stork with either a sharp knife or kitchen scissors.
Then remove the choke by cutting horizontally between the choke and heart with a sharp knife, as below.

Discard the choke and eat the heart, smothered in melted butter!

They work really well as a starter, but not a main as there's not that much to them.

Have a go, it's the ultimate umami taste...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Kale chips (this post is not about wellness)

I don't believe in wellness or health and well being. As a population, humans are pretty healthy. Especially us white ones. I don't think we need to deprive South American countries of  their staple foods so we can purchase them as over packaged, organic, fair trade super foods at our gourmet shops just for some over researched vitamin or anti oxidant I could get from an egg my girls lay me or a bit of kale. Based on food waste stats we'd just throw half I'd it away anyway. I think all we really need to  be well is to not eat junk, work less, spend more time with our loved ones, exercise incidentally by riding a bike, dancing or kid wrangling. And always garden. Okay I'm sound a bit like a cat poster but just think all this wellness stuff is a bit narcissistic. We are the most overpopulated species on the planet. We are well. The planet, sadly, is not.

So this post is about kale chips for the planet, and they also happen to be good for you.

Kale grows so well. Is doesn't need heaps of water and is pretty disease resistant.  Often you can keep them going over summer too. In Perth that's really saying something!

This is the link to the recipe I used. I found it worked well to use the sun oven too. It took much longer for them to crisp up but they did eventually.

They will be great for Quin's waste free lunchbox which his school is starting this term. However, I suspect the chips won't last long because they are soooo delish! I'll definately make them again!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Commuting: electric bike is best

I have a 20km journey to work. Over the years I've made this trip by car, bus, bike and electric bike and the latter is my mode of choice these days. It ticks all the boxes: low emissions, time, health, cost and pleasure. So, let's go into the reasons. The table below shows the ratings for the criteria I think are important and I'll go through them one by one.

Mode of transport Emissions Cost Time (minutes) Health Pleasure
Car High High 30 Poor Low
Public transport Low Medium 75 Poor Medium
Bike Very low Low 50 Good High
Ebike Low Very low 40 Very good Very high

Emissions from cars has impacts on both climate change and localised particulate pollution (eg smog). Most forms of public transport also emit these, however because they transport many people at a time the emissions are much lower. There are no emissions from a bike, except possibly methane escaping in the saddle area! The emissions from ebikes are minimal. My 40 km round trip uses about 1kWh of energy and since we have solar panels most of this is from renewable resources.

The costs of running a car are huge. It's estimated that the average Australian car costs about $12,000 a year to run. This includes registration, insurance, fuel, maintenance and depreciation in value. On fuel alone it is the most expensive way to commute by far. I'm amazed to read in the news that Australian's number one financial worry is the cost of power, when the cost of running a car is far higher. My 40km round trip costs $20 a day if you calculate it at 50 cents per km. If I did that every work day of the week it would cost around $5,000 a year. The cost of public transport is quite high too. My return journey costs $6.60 a day. Riding a bike is free and the ebike costs around 25 cents to charge. I've put the cost as very low due to the fact I don't go to the chiro any more (see health section). The exercise I get means I don't need to go to a gym to  stay fit. Three years ago we replaced our second car with an ebike and we've probably saved $8,000 a year since then. Here's the old bomb off to the scrap yard.

Time is the only area where the car wins and time is precious. The big loser here is the bus. I have to walk to the bus stop, wait a few minutes, get off the bus and change at Canning Bridge, then wait a few more minutes until the next bus arrives and then walk for a few minutes when I get off the second bus! The bike beats this easily and the ebike isn't far behind the car.

Health is a big deal, in fact it's one of the most important things in life. There is no exercise value in driving a car and since most of us sit behind a desk all day that's not good. I've also had two accidents on the way to work in the last eight years, with people rear ending me resulting in minor whiplash both times. Except for the walking bit public transport isn't much better. In fact, if you consider the fact that you have to be in close proximity to people who may be sick it could be worse. The health benefits of riding a bike are huge. Why did I put good for bike and very good for ebike I hear you say. This is what I've found: riding a bike is good exercise but it's also very tiring. This can cause wear and tear on the body and result in injuries. This doesn't apply with ebikes. I can set the level of assist on my ebike to suit how hard I want to push my body and this means if I'm a bit sore I take it easy and still get to work on time. I've also found that I ride my ebike much more than the normal bike. There's no exercise value in a bike collecting dust in the shed. These days I ride to work three times a week (I work 3 or 4 days a week). In the past I've had chronic back problems which need regular trips to the chiro (every 2-3 weeks), but since I've started riding so much I don't need the chiro any more. This probably saves me about $800 a year.

Pleasure is different for everybody, but I find I get the most out of riding my ebike. I love the feeling of gliding along without too much effort, of overtaking cars stuck in traffic along the freeway bike path and of arriving at work energised and ready for the day. The down side is the weather, but we're lucky in Perth. It's mostly sunny and rain rarely stops me riding. I quite like going by bus too because I can relax and day dream or read a book. The car I just find frustrating, you have to concentrate so much and the traffic and waiting at lights is just boring.

So there you go, that's my take on commuting. And here's the bike I use, a Workcycles Fr8 with an Ezee electric conversion. 10,700km on the clock and going strong. I can load it up with enough gear to go away for a 4 day work trip and can pick and drop Quin from school too.

Friday, October 24, 2014

New roof

Having just finished the reno the last thing on our minds was spending more money. Then one thing led to another and we ended up splashing a lot more cash.

Firstly, Quin was diagnosed with a mould allergy. This meant that our slightly leaky roof was a big problem and possible allergy trigger. Then our builder recommended a roofer to us and said you won't regret going to tin from terracotta tiles, it will make your house way cooler in summer and warmer in winter. This sold us of course! We love our old house but she ain't the best insulated and we suffer a bit in the more extreme months.

So, tin it is. It cost an arm and a leg ($15,000) for the new roof, including Anticon insulation underneath for the best thermal rating. We are very happy with the early results, no leaks and it looks mint. We'll give an update when the thermometer reaches 40C, which will hopefully happen later rather than sooner.

Now, no more spending for us after a crazy expensive year. Let's see if we can pay off the mortgage before it all goes belly up again!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

New PV system

We first got PV (photo voltaics or solar power) 6 years ago and the 1.1kW system has done us well. We recently had a new roof put on so we had to remove the solar panels and I thought it might be a good idea to upgrade our PV system at the same time. This is how the old system looked.

The 1.1kW system cost us $6,500 and in 2010 we qualified for the new WA Feed in Tariff (FIT). This pays us about 48 cents a kWh that we feed to the grid. The FIT runs for 10 years to 2020. A while ago our energy provider (Synergy) decided to reduce the amount they paid people who don't get the FIT for power fed to the grid from parity to what they charge their customers (28 cents) to about a third of parity (8 cents). That got me thinking, when the FIT ends what will our power bills cost us? The amount shocked me, about $600 a year for us measerly 5kWh a day users. I thought well I'll just upgrade my system in 6 years time and we'll be right. Then I thought wait a minute, why don't we upgrade now and the new, bigger system will pay itself off much more quickly with the FIT. I checked the rules which state that you can keep the FIT if you keep your original inverter. Luckily we got a larger inverter than our system required, a SBA 1700 which allowed for a bigger system.

So, now to choose new panels and sell the old. I thought it would be hard to sell the old Kaneka thin film panels considering new panels sell for under $1 a watt these days. However I was pleasantly surprised when an ad in Gumtree got many people interested. The first offer was $900 for the 1.1kW Kanekas, an offer I couldn't refuse. It turns out that the buyer wanted to upgrade his own system and needed that vintage Kanekas to be compatible with his other panels.

 We were told that we could overload the inverter by placing some panels facing west and some north, so we decided on around a 3kW system. The choice of panels was between Yingli, Daqo and REC. The first two are good quality chinese panels, the third very good quality European. We decided on the RECs which should give better performance over a longer period of time and have a world leading energy payback time of one year. The REC 260PE polycrystalline panels are now installed in two strings of 6 panels, giving us 3.12kW. This is the west facing, tilted array on the garage roof.

And here's the North facing array with the solar hot water system alongside.

This upgrade cost us around $4,600 including removal of the old panels. Subtract the $900 we got for the old panels and the total cost was $3,700. It should pay itself off in about three and half years and then we'll have another two and a half years of FIT before we go back to the stingy rate. Our power bills will be in the negative (ie a credit) for the foreseeable future so the money is a great investment as well as good for the environment. Despite being bigger in kW, this system is much smaller in physical footprint and this allowed us to move the solar hot water system further up the roof into a less shady spot.

Now, let the sun shine all day and the rain come at night...

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A preemptive strike against feral honey bees

We had an emergency situation here yesterday. Who did we call? Batman! The situation was a imminent swarm of feral honey bees about to move in to our nesting box. We noticed quite a few scouts hanging around and really did not want a swarm on our hands. Its happened once before and its quite frightening. Bees are loud and serious when they swarm and if they move in to a nesting box they will sting and kill baby 28s and make their hive. 

We called Joe from Natsync (aka Batman because he loves bats, possums and parrots - in fact all things Australian native). He was here in a flash to rid the box of curious bees armed with his bee suit and ready to unleash his secret weapon! Actually he didn't need the suit for just a few scouts so Quin quickly tried it on!

He took the box down and we found a dead fledgling in it. It was quite a mature one and Joe suspected that it was stung but probably the brothers and sisters had escaped. 

Luckily we had the secret magic bee repellent growing in the chook yard - wormwood! Joe packed it in a little mesh thing and placed it in the box. We put the box a little lower in the tree so in future we can stuff wormwood in the box ourselves next time it attracts the attention of some unwanted bee scouts.

So now our nesting box is all go for another clutch of 28 eggs. We're hopeful. Only a few hours later the box was being inspected by a lovely couple of 28s. I could just hear them chatting to each other. 'It looks lovely inside, Love'. 'Hmm, but its a little low on the tree, Dearest'. 'Yes, but you know, its all about location...'

We hope they move in!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Sustainable raw dog food

Since we got our Whippet puppy, Okey, we've looked into the best diet for him and concluded that raw food was the way to go. Wild dogs have evolved over millions of years to eat raw food and it makes sense that they still thrive on it. Most modern dog food is junk in comparison. Meat and other products that are cooked lose much of their goodness. Did you know that there's no requirement for dog food to have a good balance of nutrients and vitamins, etc. Instead it's full of the waste products from human food, like grains and other cheap fillers. Dogs aren't built to digest carbohydrates, they just pass straight through them with sometimes harmful effects (including hip and elbow dysplasia). Dry kibble or biscuits are also very low in moisture, mostly 11% compared to around 70% for raw food. This means that pets fed on this alone will often struggle to keep hydrated. The benefits of raw food include improvements in skin and arthritic problems. Anyway, I won't rant but I'll just say do some research yourself if you're interested. The book I've read is "Real food for dogs and cats" by Dr Clare Middle. Other useful links are BARF and a good Youtube video.

We started off by buying BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or Bones and Raw Food) patties. These are easy because it's all prepacked and frozen. The big downside to them is the cost. 12 patties of 227g cost $25 here. That works out to $9.20 a kilo. The other factor which concerned us was the sustainability aspect (all the packaging, transport, issues over how the meat is farmed, etc). So, I decided that I'd look into making my own raw food. After a few tries I found the youtube video linked above. I liked that  it was an easy recipe and it was really raw (unlike others with cooked ingredients!). I've amended it a bit and here's my own version. Your dog will need between 20-30% of their body weight per week of raw food and raw bones.


3kg muscle meat, usually 2kg lamb and 1kg kangaroo for Okey
300g offal (a local pet store sells offal including tongue, liver, heart, kidney and brains, yum!)
2 whole raw eggs (shells included)
6 tablespoons yoghurt
300g vegies
2 cloves of garlic
6 whole sardines

Here's how I make it. First I pick most of the vegies from the garden and I add lots of variety. This brew has silverbeet, celery, parsley, brocolli, kale and carrot. They're mostly organic and local produce.

These are then blended along with the eggs, garlic and yoghurt.

It looks like this afterwards.

I used to blend the local sardines too but we found that Okey loves them straight from the freezer (doggy icey poles!). If you want you can just pop fish oil tablets in when you serve the food, we just prefer this method because we know the fish source is local and sustainable.

It was interesting finding out why some of these ingredients are used. The vegies and yoghurt contain most of the vitamins dogs need and replace what wild dogs get in the stomach of their prey (partially digested vegetables, fermented mother's milk).

Then I add the meat and offal, it's all from WA and preservative free.

I'd like to use all roo (free range and the most sustainable local meat) but Whippets are quite lean dogs and need fattier meats on the whole, so lamb's a good local choice. Here's what it looks like. It's not much fun for a vegetarian but it goes with the territory when you own a carnivore...

Then I simply put it in containers and freeze them.

When I serve it I add a pinch of Kelp powder and alfalfa or coconut oil. This brew costs us about $17.50 for 4kg, which works out to less than half the cost of BARF. Sure, it's probably cheaper to buy other dog food, but we figure that we should save money in the long run with lower vet bills.

Okey loves it. We also alternate feeding him a high quality grain free dry food which we add water to when we serve it. It's also important to feed raw meaty bones, so we give Okey lots of these (chicken necks and roo tail mostly). Soon we're going to fast Okey once a week, according to Clare Middle this is a great way to detoxify the liver and keep your dog even healthier.

Downshifting: it ain't that hard

So, what is downshifting? Well firstly it has nothing to do with changing gears in a car. Downshifting is when someone voluntarily decides to either work less or work in a lower stress job. Amy and I have been attempting to downshift for years now and I think we've got a good balance now. Amy has gone from full time to 0.6 and then 0.5 and I've gone from full time to 0.9 and just this week started to work 0.7. This means I work 3 days one week and then 4 days the next. Sure, we get paid less but we'd rather be time rich and ok money wise than time poor and rich. It makes a lot of sense for us since we have secure jobs and we live in the richest city in one of the richest countries in the world. At work people have been saying how lucky I am and how I'm living the dream and it made me think why don't more people do it?

I think one of the reasons is that bosses are too inflexible and employees are afraid to ask or are afraid they'll slip down the career ladder or won't earn enough to afford the nice things in life. There's a great book called Affluenza: When too much is never enough, by Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss. They define Affluenza as "1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the Australian dream. 3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth". Sound familiar? It's a great book and I recommend you read it. The thrust of the book is that people are working longer hours, with more stress and that is impacting on their health, relationships and general quality of life.

A 2009 survey of 450,000 Americans found that the optimum income for happiness was $75,000 a year. "As people earn more money, their day-to-day happiness rises. Until you hit $75,000. After that, it is just more stuff, with no gain in happiness" (see this blog post for more info). Earning more could even make you less happy. To get that promotion do you need to work longer hours or miss out on some leave? Do you need to deal with more stress and take work home with you? Is it really worth it if it doesn't increase your well being?

Where did the 40 hour work week even come from? I read an article by David Cain recently which said it originates in the mid 1900's as a way to stop exploitation of workers doing 14-16 hour days. So why hasn't it changed in the last 150 years? Cain's theory is that it's because it's good for the capitalist economy. People who are tired, time poor, cash rich and unfulfilled need to have a release and the way they do that is by buying stuff they don't really need but that fills a whole in their lives. It may be a jet ski, a new 4WD or a quick trip to Bali and it keeps the wheels of industry turning. But we're not hamsters so you can jump off the wheel if you want!

So here's my to call out to employers and bosses. The next time someone asks you if they can work part time please say yes instead of the default no. Yes Jill, why don't we give it a try and see how it goes? Jill will be over the moon and work harder for you. You might even find that she does the same amount of work in less time (the average office worker does 3 hours productive work in 8 hours). Jill will be happier because she has more time for reading, yoga, etc. Husband Jack will be happier because the kids are happier (more attention), the dog's happier (more walkies) and because his wife's happier. Jack's thinking "She's less stressed, more relaxed, she's lost weight. In fact she looks pretty fit at the moment!" Now that can't be bad for a relationship can it? It's a win win situation, Jill's happier and her boss is saving the business money. She might even stay with the business longer and save them heaps more by avoiding recruitment and training of new people.

There's a chance that things slip at work and the boss says you need to go back to full time, but it was worth a try. How about this radical solution though, the boss says to Jill how about we hire a new part timer? Bob is an environmental scientist who's been unemployed for a year and gets the job. He's been depressed and stressed working 40 hours a week applying for non existent jobs for heaven's sake.He's over the moon to get a new job and realises he never liked full time work that much.  His partner Jim's happy too, but enough of that...

Now isn't that cool, making many people happy for the price of one!

Here's my call to employees. Ask your boss if you can go part time if you want to. If he says no, just nag him until he says yes. Tell him to read this post, tell him about Jack and Jill for Pete's sake, he'll get it. Don't be afraid about money, you'll probably be ok and you won't regret it.

But wait a minute say the naysayers. There's a catch, it's bad for the economy.  The economy is the most important thing in the world ever as our politicians like to preach. Well I'm not an economist but it seems we're always going on about productivity. How is it good for productivity for someone to get paid for 8 hours work and do 3? Isn't it more efficient to work less but better? Sure, there may be a drop off in jet ski sales, but big deal. Maybe we'll get the next GFC a bit sooner this way but I kinda think we need it for the planet's sake. Most consumerism drives climate change, creates waste and pollution and we or following generations will be hit with the bill sooner or later. Why not give Mother Earth a break and bring it on. So I say nay to the naysayers!

I plan to do more of the stuff I enjoy, like gardening, walking the dog, blogging (I wrote this post on my first day off!) and spending time with my son and heir (his inheritance may be smaller but he'll be happier). Have you ever had a weekend and on Monday thought, gee i need a weekend to get over the weekend? Well I don't get that feeling anymore. 

Haven't we lost sight of what's important in life? Isn't it more important to be there for a child's first steps rather than earning another dollar? Happiness is not measured by the amount of superannuation you have. Don't defer happiness until it's too late, live it now.Time is more precious than money I say. Go on, whether you're a boss or a worker give it a go. Work less, live more. Enrich your life not your bank account.

Happiness is contagious, go make some ripples...

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Home made hand cream for a beautiful midwife

My sister is a beautiful soul and has been a role model for me throughout my life. She was with me when Quincey was born and was such a source of strength and comfort for me - then and at when ever I've needed her. I don't know what I would have done without her at times. Now though, its my turn to help her as she is returning to work after several years off with her own young kids. My sister is a midwife and to be sure, the best sort of midwife you could hope for - calm, non-judgmental, reassuring, honest and skilled.

She is also very good on general hygiene, ie washing her hands at work and has really dry skin now, so I made her some home made hand cream. My friend made some for me recently and I just love it! Its Creme Galen Cold Cream and according to the recipe was created by the Roman doctor Aurelius Galenus (AD 129 - 217).

5 oz rose water
1 oz unbleached beeswax
6 oz extra virgin olive oil
8 drops rose essential oil

Grate the bees wax. Gently heat the rose water in a glass bowl in a hot water bath. In a separate bowl combine the beeswax and oil and then gently heat until liquid. Remove both bowls from heat and slowly pour the rose water into the oil and wax blend. Mix with a stick blender until combined. Add the essential oil and stir. Before the liquid cools and sets, pour into clean small jars or tins.

It was particularly satisfying making this because I used bees wax from a friends backyard hive and olive oil from our last Great Hilton Harvest Olive Pressing. Okay, the rose water was from Syria and I'm not sure about the rose oil.

I use the cream at night as it is quite heavy and makes my skin shiny. In the morning I just slash my face with water and away I go. I use it on my hands, legs and face. I don't understand why people need a hand cream, a face cream and a body cream. Last time I checked my face and hands were a part of my body!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Mulberry season!

Perth is a tough place to grow food. However, there are a few exceptions - sweet potato, olives and most fun of all, mulberries. Here in our suburb, there are several cracker mulberry trees right on the verge. Great big trees, great for climbing and getting mulberry stains on your school uniform. 

Luckily we often ride to school and we have been watching the fruit on our favorite tree getting plumper and darker over the last week or so. And now they are ready to pick!

We picked enough to take some home and put in a pie. Funny thing was we collected them in an unused doggy poo bag. That freaked me out a bit because from the outside of the bag it looked like we were the very responsible owner of some kind of massive great dane. 

Anyway, once home we whipped up this yummy pie: 
  • Short crust pastry: half a cup plain spelt flour/half a cup wholemeal flour or what every flour you prefer, a few tablespoonish scoops of butter. Rubbed in to the flour, add a tablespoon of sugar and a pinch of salt, add a little dash of water and a little dash of milk and combine with a butter knife. Not sure why we always use a butter knife to mix it, but my Granny said this was essential. Who am I to question her wisdom?
  • Mulberry mix: chuck in a good few handfuls of mulberries (no need to destalk), a peeled and grated granny (fruit, not the Grandparent), and a tablespoon of brown sugar - no water as the berries are full of juice. Let it reduce a bit. 
  • Roll out the pastry, put it in a greased pie dish and pour in the mulberry mix and bake, 180 degrees for 20 mins or so.
Vola! Great with whipped cream!

I just love making use of food that would otherwise go to waste. Mulberries are so sweet and fragile, they only last on the tree a day or two before they drop and are ruined. So while they are in season its great to take advantage of them. You can munch them straight from the tree or you can juice them. We also freeze them in containers to keep us going between seasons. People often ask how they can get berries plastic free - well this is the answer for Perth peeps! They are great on ice cream or in smoothies after they have been frozen. You can also make mulberry jam - but be warned they are very low in pectin so you will need to add heaps of lemon juice (which can effect the flavour) or add commercial jamsetta. 

Go forth with your doggy poo bag and enjoy the bonanza!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Homemade yoghurt

We've been making our own yoghurt for a few years now and we're pretty happy with our method now. It's quick and easy once you get the hang of it. Here's how.

You'll need some starter (a few tablespoons of quality plain yoghurt) and milk. Don't buy expensive powdered starters, all you need is some yoghurt. Just don't use flavoured ones, use plain. We do ours in one litre batches but you can do less if you want. You'll also need a container to put the yoghurt in and an insulated container to fit that inside of. We use a 1L glass jar and an Easiyo maker or similar which the jar sits inside.

A 'pot watcher' also comes in handy. This is a glass disc which rattles when the milk is coming to a boil and avoids overflowing milk.

Firstly, bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan with pot watcher in. Turn it down and let in simmer boil for 5-10 minutes. This step is to reduce the milk a bit so you'll get nice thick greek style yoghurt without the need to add powdered milk. Turn off the heat and leave to cool. When the milk is cool enough to put your finger in and leave it in without burning (5-10 minutes) the milk is ready. Some people use thermometers for this but we've found the finger test works well and is simpler.

Boil the kettle while you're adding the milk to the yoghurt. To mix the two I use a licky spoon (a soft spatula). With the yoghurt in the bottom of the jar I add a little bit of milk at first (say 100ml) and stir it in well, then add another 400ml and stir again. Try to scrape around the jar to get all of the last brew mixed in. Then top up with the rest of the milk and stir well again. As soon as this is done put the lid on the jar and fill your container with the right amount of boiling water (enough to put the jar in without overflowing) and place your jar inside and put the lid on. There should be water up to the level of the yoghurt.

The photo above shows the 'false floor' of the container. This is what the jar sits on.

We usually leave this overnight, 8 hours plus is needed. If you open it up and it's still runny don't worry, just leave it another 4-8 hours and it should come good.

That's it, it's not too hard. Sure, you'll have failures but keep at it and you should be able to get it right every time. It's cheap and it's yum. If you want thicker yoghurt still (or a sour cream replacement) strain it through muslin for a few hours. And if you want sweeter yoghurt just add jam, honey, maple syrup, fruit, etc. This yoghurt costs the same as your milk, so for us it's about $1.30 a litre.

And it's thick!