Archive for the ‘Content from the magazine’ Category

Wheelie bins

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

While around a quarter of all the energy we use in New Zealand is for transport, two thirds of the trips we actually make are less than six kilometres. If you calculate the embedded energy used to get your food on your table (how much energy is used for the farmer to fertilise the field, to run the tractor, package it, transport it to market, etc.), you are likely to double that amount by driving to the supermarket to do the shopping. It’s relatively easy to make big energy savings here and you’ll be better off health- and wallet-wise in the process.

I got into making bike trailers a few years ago after I realised that most of my car use around town was for carrying stuff. I had attempted load-carrying with a bike by tediously stuffing and unloading too much shopping into panniers that were too small, putting my neck out carrying heavy loads in a backpack, falling off my bike when bags over the handlebars caught in my front spokes, and dropping cardboard boxes and contents all over the road that were precariously bungied onto a carrier. It was my bass guitar and amp that finally got me into constructing a trailer, and suddenly everything got much easier for load-carrying by bike. In this article I’ll describe how to make a wooden bike trailer using an aluminium hitch that I’m producing.

Obtaining your materials

Bins: Two bins are very convenient for shopping as they fit in the shopping trolley for direct loading at the checkout. Making a trailer with a deck is ok, but the load sits higher and makes the trailer less stable, and things have to be bungied on. Avoid cheap and nasty bins as they crack easily – Bunnings, Mitre 10 and Stowers have good selections of strong bins for $10-$25 each. A free option is a couple of banana boxes with a strip of wood glued and screwed to the side. These will last a surprisingly long time if kept dry.
Second-hand bike wheels: 20” wheels are very good stability wise. 26” wheels on a narrow trailer are more prone to rolling with higher centre of gravity, but give good clearance for deep bins, although don’t use wheels any larger than this. 24” wheels are a good compromise between clearance and stability. Garage sales or dump shops are good places to find an old bike to pinch wheels off – using a set of wheels from the same bike (one front and one rear wheel) is quite acceptable. Check the bearings and re-grease if they are sticky. I’d also recommend you remove gear clusters, although this is not absolutely necessary.
Wood for the frame: 6 or 7 lengths of wood, around 800-1000mm long and between 75mm and 100mm wide and 25mm thick. Such wood can be easily obtained for free from old packing crates.
Hitch, tow bar and dropouts: Available by emailing steve@cycletrailers.co.nz, for $50 (+$10 to courier).

Create the H-frame FIG 1

1. The rectangular wooden frame is built to suit your chosen bins, which should be of equal size. Measure the longer width of your bin, just below the lip. Cut your centre strut to this length.
2. Calculate the lengths of the two side struts by measuring the shorter width of the bins (again, below the lip), multiply by two and then add the thickness of the centre strut. The outer struts of the completed frame are as long as the H-frame’s side struts, so cut four struts of this length.
3. Screw your ‘H’ together using two 50mm screws in each joint to make it strong.

Finish the frame FIG 2

4. To calculate the length of the front and rear struts, take the width of the H-frame, add the lengths of both wheel axles, and then add the widths of the two outer struts. It may help to measure the wheel axle by attaching the dropouts to the axle first and to then measure the distance from dropout to dropout.
5. The wheels’ axle lengths will be different, so when attaching the front and rear struts to the H-frame, make sure to leave the appropriate room on each side. Use two 50mm screws in each joint.
6. Finish the frame by attaching the outer struts so they sit flush with the ends of the
front and rear struts.

Attach the wheels FIG 3

7. Drill at least four wholes through each dropout, and use 40-50mm screws to attach them to the underside of the frame, making sure the dropouts don’t hinder the bins going in and out. Hacksaw the
dropouts if required for bin clearance.

Attach the tow bar FIG 4

8. Attach the aluminium tow bar using the bolts provided. Drill the hole that’s closer to the end of the tube at least 25mm in from the end so it doesn’t collapse. The Nylocks provided don’t vibrate loose, so don’t over-tighten them, which could also result in collapsing the tube.

Attach the hitch FIG 5

9. Attach the hitch base to your bike underneath the rear wheel nut or quick release lever (on the left hand side). The
hitch base stays on your bike all the time. It is important to horizontally level the hitch with the tow bar and quick-disconnect ball joint coupling to allow up/down movement over bumps. If there is a permanent angle on the tow ball there may not be enough play and the ball joint may bend or break.
It is also important to make sure the quick-disconnect ball joint coupling can rotate at least 90 degrees on the bolt thread in both horizontal directions. It would pay to get in the habit of checking this every time you connect the trailer on as it can tighten up over time and will damage the ball joint if it cannot rotate freely.

Weight test

Weight test the trailer by standing on it with your weight over the wheels. I recommend carrying loads less than 50kg routinely, with maybe an occasional load up to 70kg if it’s well balanced. Most people can pull 20kg up hills just by changing down a gear and going a bit slower, and you hardly notice it on the flat.
Loads of 30-40kg slow you down a bit more, but most people can still easily cruise at 15-20km/h, even with a heavy load.

Other resources

carryfreedom.com: I’m not the first to try a wooden bike trailer. Carry freedom have very good instructions for making a bamboo trailer (carryfreedom.com/bamboo.html), but bamboo can be difficult to source, whereas old pallets are very readily available. The site also describes how to make your own hitch, which is a bit more technically challenging.
cycletrailers.co.nz: My website has details on building various trailers, from one using an old bed frame, to a full aluminium model. You can get the hitch used in this project there, or learn how to make one using an old trampoline spring. For an overview of my trailer options, see ‘Product List’ on the site.

The Pulley Rack: Your Rainy Day or Gardenless Clothes Drying Solution

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

I dream of being able to string up a clothes line from my bedroom window to the ones on the other side; our busy city street transformed into a lazy village lane, our washing waving in the wind like bunting. Sadly, it is not to be – the windows opposite belong to a huge office block and undies flapping about outside is simply not the corporate way.

We have had to come up with a less obtrusive way to dry our clothes; the Pulley Drying Rack, not so picturesque but just as old skool. Known in another gender stereotyped life as a Lazy Betty or a Pulley Maid, the Pulley Drying Rack is friend to all who dwell in abodes without gardens and friendly neighbours across the street.

GETTING STARTED

  1. Work out where you would like your indoor clothesline. Think about roof height, usual temperature of the room, sunshine, and proximity to the washing machine. We chose the
    laundry. You’ll be screwing it to the ceiling, so you’ll need to note where the studs are. A stud-finder can help with this, and they’re pretty inexpensive from the hardware store.
  2. Dig around at the dump shop or building recyclers for a frame. Think framing in old cupboards or cupboard doors, or even louvred doors (you’d have to cut the louvres out). Look for a sturdy frame that doesn’t weigh too much. Alternatively, if all else fails, grab four lengths of wood and make the frame yourself, using a screw for each corner.
  3. Evenly space the screw eyes horizontally on the inside along the frame. Pre-drilling with a tiny drill bit makes screwing in the eyes a whole lot easier. Do this on two sides of the frame, making sure the screw eyes are directly opposite each other FIG 1.
  4. Cut your plastic-coated curtain wire into lengths, about 7cm shorter than the inside width of the frame. Screw a screw hook into each end of each curtain wire (the wire is a bit like a tightly-wound spring, so they’ll screw in, but it’ll be a tight fit). Each curtain wire has to stretch a bit now when you hook it up FIG 2.
  5. Drill four vertical holes, one on each corner of the frame FIG 3.
  6. Cut two lengths of rope as long as the width of the frame, add 50% again. These need to be
    exactly the same lengths (I’ll call these now the support ropes). In the middle of each of these
    support ropes tie in a loop.
  7. Feed each of the ends through a corner hole that you have just drilled, then tie a gnarly knot on the end so they can’t fit back through. These should form an ‘A’ shape on each end of the frame FIG 4. You now have your main structure sorted, the next is to attach it to the roof!
  8. In the ceiling you need to find where the cross beams in your roof are located. You need to drill two holes through the ceiling into these crossbeams in order to attach the big hooks. The hooks, and therefore the holes, need to be above the middle of the two ‘A’ frame support ropes. Accurate
    positioning is crucial.
  9. Screw in the big hooks, then hang the pulleys onto them.
  10. In the same way you found a strong bit to screw in the hooks, now place and attach another hook at waist height on a wall (where the clothesline will eventually be anchored) and the eyelet, or a double pulley, in the junction of the ceiling and wall above this last hook.
  11. A length of the wax coated rope now needs to be tied to each of the loops in the middle of the support ropes. These lengths of rope will both individually go up, through the appropriate
    pulley, then together pass through the big eyelet, then be tied off together in two positions FIG 5. Firstly, the longest part, where the lowered clothesline will sit when you are hanging up the washing, and secondly, a knot further up the rope, where the clothesline will be anchored when it is pulled up close to the ceiling.

MAINTENANCE

Every so often make sure the anchor hooks and eyelets are all still secure and safe. When it comes to drying clothes this rack is a life saver but it would knock you for six if it dropped on your head. Eek.

EXTRA TIP

An extra benefit of this drying rack is that we have all become arm wrestling champions since having to heave it up and down on a regular basis. Seriously though, if we were to do this again we’d tee up some sort of counter weight system so it’s less of a strain to pull up when laden with wet clothes. If you’re not up to that task, just make a smaller rack.

Cheap As Chipped China – redesigned

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

As a school project, Natcoll design student Marie Holdaway recently re-illustrated ‘Cheap As Chipped China’, Issue #8 of World Sweet World Magazine, by Kura Rutherford. Great to see how people reuse material, put their talent to work and create something new. Marie illustrated the article with the frankie magazine in mind, and found her inspiration at Lovely Sweet William.

Cheap as chipped china

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

When keen crafter Rosa May Rutherford bought her first car and found herself with both time on her hands and a growing sense of adventure, she hatched a plan to drive from one end of the country to the other, stopping at every small-town op shop along the way.

Inspired by Ann Packer’s book Crafty Girls’ Road Trip, twenty-four-year old Rosa decided to put her own spin on the fun concept. With a tight budget and little ‘all weather’ driving experience, Rosa was determined nonetheless. She had a plan: to put on loud music, fill her car with petrol and drive from the far north of New Zealand to the deep south, not returning home until her wee Mazda 323 was jam-packed full of second-hand stuff she could fill her house with, or repurpose for craft projects.

Having fun, catching up with friends along the way, and seeing new bits of New Zealand were high priority, but Rosa’s trip was also strongly informed by her staunch belief that craft-making is made all the better by reusing resources. ‘There is so much out there to be reused’ she says, ‘and I was determined to go out and find lots of it.’

While, she says, it’s great how the majority of crafty New Zealanders will now purchase 100 per cent natural fibres, she is inspired most by the people who have gone the next step and are buying their craft materials second-hand. ‘I think I would cry if I saw that my friends had bought brand new knitting and crochet needles. The world is overpopulated already with size 3 1/4 knitting needles!’

‘I’d never been on a solo road trip before so having a focus really gave the trip an extra momentum and I found that having a style or era in mind really helped me to hone in on the perfect scores! When I arrived in some small towns, it was a bit of a downer being by myself, but knowing there were op shops just waiting to be explored made it ok.’

Rosa developed a method to finding op shops in every new town she visited. ‘I’d always do a lap of town, and check out the back streets just to make sure the shops weren’t hiding behind the library.’ She admits though that there would definitely be quicker ways of finding them. ‘If I had been more on to it, I might have actually gone in to the library and checked out their yellow pages! But there’s something satisfying about finding the shop yourself.’

Along the way Rosa became as passionate about the op shops themselves as the potential scores. ‘Op shops rule. I know they’re nothing new, but maybe we take op shops for granted. I love the sense of community and the locals all doing their weekly shop there and catching up on the grandkids. It also adds to the sense of community if you know that every dollar you spend is helping in some small way to keep a good thing going.’ She noticed the places that really took pride in their shops. ‘Some people really make an effort to make their shops interesting and appealing, and that’s inspiring. The best shops were often in the small towns. Some of the big city shops were really lacking in that care – and I just walked in and walked out. You can tell if the shop has their heart in the right place! One small op shop even offered a free piece of home baking with each purchase.’

Refuse centres were another regular pit stop, and great places to ferret around. ‘It’s pretty funny arriving in town with the first question running through my mind – “wonder where the dump is around here!” But it definitely paid off when she would finally spot a Recycle Centre sign, and come out an hour later with two shopping bags full to the brim with kitchen goods, aprons, reusable fabric and have only spent $5, after giving a $2 tip!

Having returned from her trip, and now settling down to start on a myriad of new craft projects, Rosa has good news for fellow crafters and op shop scavengers; ‘having driven from north to south, I can tell you there is heaps of cool stuff around that needs to be found, and used.’ Rosa May totally recommends a second-hand crafty road trip to anyone wanting an adventure. She was overwhelmed by the beauty of the homeland, and the kindness of people along the way, but most of all she is still in awe of her stack of op shop scores.

Rosa May, like many others, has a mini craft business selling her crafts on felt.co.nz. ‘I want to look after our planet, so I make sure I use as many recycled and organic threads as possible.’ Now she has such an assortment of craft materials (and a house that almost looks like a second-hand store, with so many tea cups and enamel coated dishes) she figures she and her wee business will be set for life – ‘or at least until the travel bug next gets me’.

Curtain call: part one

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Homemade blanket curtains

This project by Christine Reitze was published last autumn in issue 5 of World Sweet World. Stay tuned for more curtain-related goodies next week – I’ve been sewing up a storm in preparation for the chilly months ahead. ~ Hannah

It’s always good to be prepared, so here’s an autumn project that will get you ready for winter. In the grand scheme of things, winters in New Zealand aren’t really that cold, but because of practically nonexistent insulation in many of our houses (especially flats), we tend to feel it more than chillier countries.

If you’re flatting in a cold house, chances are your landlord isn’t going to fork out to get the entire place re-insulated (although it’s worth speaking with them about the EECA energywise funding scheme), but there are things as tenants we can do to keep a bit warmer as winter approaches.

These warm woolly winter curtains are sewn with old blankets you can find easily in op-shops for cheap, or if you’re brave enough, you could pinch them from your granny or your dog. For even more warmth you can add thermal lining (you can use your old curtains for this), which is then hooked onto the main wool curtain.

  1. Measure the length of your curtain track and double it, adding an extra 12cm. This is how much of wide curtain tape you’ll need.
  2. If you decide to have the extra thermal insulation you will need to buy the same length of narrow curtain tape for it. Make sure that the wide tape of your woolly curtain can be used to hook the lining onto (they can tell you this in the shop).
  3. Decide how long you want your curtain to be, and add 5cm. I reckon down to the floor looks best, plus it provides far more insulation that way. If you want to hem your curtain you will need to add extra length, but wool blankets are usually nicely hemmed anyway.
  4. Make each of your two curtains the width of the curtain track. Depending on the size of your wool blankets, you might need to cut off or sew more blanket material on to get the right dimension for your window. You can get creative here and sew stripes, have a different coloured border or make a woollen patchwork. If you sew two different blankets together, make sure you pin them first (even if pinning isn’t usually your style). Different weights of blanket will stretch differently, and you’ll end up with one piece that looks flabby like the knees in a cheap pair of trackies. Not cool. How to sew the tape on
  5. Cut the curtain tape in half. Before you start sewing, unthread the three cords 3cm from one end of the tape. Tie the cords together, then smooth out the tape  FIG 1.
  6. Place the tape right side up on the panel, 2cm below the edge of the curtain. Fold in the excess tape 3cm from each end and pin the tape in place.
    Sew the top edge of the tape about ½ a cm from its edge onto the curtain and repeat the process with the bottom edge  FIG 2. Be careful not to sew over the string!
  7. Pull all strings at the unknotted end at the same time, gathering your curtain to the desired width  FIG 3. It should end up half the curtain track plus about 40cm. Knot the three strings together and cut the excess off.
  8. Insert hooks into the middle of every second or third loop of the tape.
  9. Repeat the same process with your second curtain panel, hang them up and feel the instant warmth! For extra thermal insulation
  10. To add extra warmth to your woolly drapes, you can make an ungathered thermal backing. For the width, measure the gathered width of your wool curtain and add an extra 20cm. The length will be the same as the wool curtains, minus 20cm.
  11. Fold the side edge of your lining over 5cm and iron, then fold it over another 5cm, iron and sew in place. Repeat the process with the other side.
    Pin the lining tape on, folding 3cm under at the edges, and sew in place, as you did in step 7.
  12. Insert hooks into every fourth loop and hook the lining onto the bottom row of loops on the curtain tape.

If you’ve taken old curtains down from your windows, these will work just as well for lining. All you have to do is move the hooks from the middle of the tape to the top, hook them onto your curtain, and you’re sorted!

Frankenstein’s drawers

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

I have often thought about the aesthetic of reused and recycled rather than store-bought materials. What I’ve noticed is that things made from old stuff always seems to come out on top when it comes to character and uniqueness. This little chest of drawers is a case in point.

Our Frankenstein's Drawers made out of tea-boxes

The starting point for this project was a few wooden tea boxes we found under our house, and while they’re great boxes, they are a bit too high for a bedside table, not sturdy enough for a TV stand, and too chunky for desk legs. In all their prettiness, we always felt that they had to serve a higher purpose. We started thinking laterally about the box. Often you have an idea or a concept to begin with, but it this case it was the material that was the starting point for the creative process. Lying on its side with the box’s top opening pointing forward, the idea for a chest of drawers evolved.

Because of the project depending so much on the material you can get hold of, this is not a strict step-by-step project to copy, but rather ideas and tips for the design process behind a project similar to this.

SOURCING THE MATERIAL

The ‘box’: This is where you have absolute creative freedom – a variety of wooden boxes work; if you don’t have awesome tea boxes like us, you could use old gutted chests, wooden packaging or crates, or even sturdy suitcases (wow, that’ll be my next project!).
Drawers: Being on the lookout for drawers that might fit (so I didn’t have to build new ones), I was lucky enough to find a cheap desk at the op shop with drawers which fell into my range of “could fit” dimensions.

Legs: We had four legs from an old bed-base lying around that we wanted to put to use, so the decision about composition was made for us. With these slender, long legs, I envisaged something like a love child of a Cheetah and “A Grand Day Out with Wallace and Gromit”’s slightly deranged vending machine “the Cooker”. Of course, you could use any type of legs you want, even pimp it out with swivel top casters, which would make assembly quite easy but can be quite pricy.
Interior material: I used scrap material from my workshop for the interior of the box, otherwise I would have used pieces from the second hand desk I bought for this project.

FIT THE DRAWERS

1. I measured the drawers and trimmed the opening in the box appropriately, so the drawers would sit snugly without gaps.

Illustrating the construction Figs 1, 2a and 2b

BOX INTERIOR

2. The construction I built inside the box had to be sturdy and smooth enough for the drawers to sit and run on easily.
Basically, you need two rails running front to back for each drawer, and two sturdy crossbars per drawer that the rails sit on FIG 1. To figure out how to construct this, you need to have a closer look at your drawers (yes, indeed). Usually, drawers’ bases
are set slightly up from the bottom, so that the drawer actually runs on its sides, not the bottom. In this case though, I figured
the easiest thing to do was to have the drawer’s base run on two rails, sitting just inside the sides FIG 2a.

Make sure that the rails are a bit taller than the distance between the drawer’s base and the bottom of its sides,
otherwise the drawer will catch on the crossbars when closing.

If the bottom of your drawers are not sturdy or straight enough, your drawers’ sides have to run on the rails. If this is
the case, attach a strip to the rails on either side of the drawer to keep it in place as it slides along FIG 2b.

3. The rail method you choose will inform the height the crossbars are attached at. If you have the drawers sitting on
top of the rails, you need to lower the crossbars appropriately, by the height of the rails.

4. To attach the crossbars, hold them in place on the inside and at the same time drill from the outside through the box’s wall
into the end grain of the crossbars, then screw in place FIG 3.

5. Attach the rails onto the crossbars. Make sure they fit the drawers’ widths, and stop the drawers from sliding in too far. TIP: All elements need to come together correctly to have the drawers sit perfectly in the opening and to prevent the drawers from jarring, so make little sketches first, then measure and then sketch some more – it’s all part of the fun design process.

Illustrating the construction Figs 3, 4 and 5

GIVING IT LEGS

6. The legs I used have a thread at the top FIG 4, which I figured would be quite sturdy to attach them with. As counterparts for the threads, I attached two lengths of wood to the inside bottom of the box – one counterpart to hold the front legs and the other for the back ones. With a hole saw, I cut two holes from the outside through the box bottom into the lengths of wood tomatch the intended position of the legs. By cutting the holes slightly smaller in diameter than the thread, I then just had to twist the legs through the bottom of the box into the holes. They cut a slight thread into the counterparts and by doing so automatically tightened up nicely. No further screws or glue needed FIG 5!

FINISHING TOUCHES

7. The tea box has nice print on it – “It pays to buy good tea”, so I didn’t give it another finish. The drawers were white, so that worked as a nice contrast to the overall wood look. A bit of candlewax on the rails and drawer bottoms makes a hell of a difference in making the drawers run smoothly. “Alive! It’s alive!”

Materials and tools, skills, cost and speed

Folding stuff

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

This wallet is super easy to make. You’ll need some paper and cellotape. Yep, that’s it. Grab a vivid and twink if you want to customise it, or use the latest pages from the ace review of the new “Die Die Die” album, if that’s more your thing. Heavier card is slightly more durable and using the front of a manilla folder makes the wallet feel like a freakin’ hummer.
Paper wallet

  1. Start with a piece of A4 or similar – slightly bigger is best (about the size of Real Groove Magazine pages is excellent). FIG 1
  2. Crease by folding in half and half again, and then again so your page is divided into eight. FIG 2
  3. Cut as shown. You’ll need slits in the side and the cut out diamond becomes the card holder part. FIG 3
  4. Make some flaps out of the bottom and top sections. These will eventually fold into the wallet and seal it up so your cards don’t drop out the side. FIG 4
  5. Tape the bottom bits back together so both sides are flush. It will seem kind of wonky now but it all will be revealed soon. FIG 5
  6. Fold the top and the bottom quarters in, FIG 6 then fold in half and you should have something like FIG 7 with the flaps poking out the side.
  7. Tuck the flaps into the hole you’ve just created and this will effectively lock the wallet together. You can use tape if you want to be extra sure nothing’s going to fall out.
  8. You should have something that looks a bit like FIG 8. Your cash goes in the back and your cards go in the 2 easy access pockets at front. Sorted.

Illustrations for 'Folding stuff'

Greens for all seasons

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

This article is written by Johanna Knox (starcooked.blogspot.com)

While some useful and nutritious weeds wither or die back during autumn, others just keep on flourishing. Two that you’re likely to find growing all year round are chickweed and puha.

Puha: what’s all the hoo-ha?
Botanical name: Sonchus species. AKA: Puwha, Sow thistle

puhaPuha grows all over. There are several species in New Zealand, and even within species, individual plants can look quite different from each other.
Their appearance depends on age, growing conditions, and probably natural genetic variation. In moist, rich soil and some shade, puha can grow huge and lush. Puha plants forced to lead harder lives often have smaller, sparser leaves and a more purplish tinge to their stalks. The flowers of Puha look a bit like dandilions.

Puha as food
Puha is rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants. Young puha leaves and stems are quite bitter. In bigger, older puha, the leaves seem to lose some of their bitterness and even become slightly sour and salty. However, the stems of older plants fill with a gooey white sap that’s extremely bitter.
Young leaves and stems and older leaves can all be used raw as salad greens. Every above-ground part of puha (even the buds and flowers) can be cooked.
If you’re using the stems of older plants in cooking, bruise or crush them when you rinse
them to let the bitter sap wash away. You can substitute puha for spinach in any recipe. Just as
with spinach, allow for it to lose volume when cooked.

Puha as medicine
Bitter-tasting plants like puha have long been known to have medicinal value, and I suspect
many of us 21st century urbanites would benefit from eating bitter greens more frequently.
It’s the actual bitter taste that is important. Bitter tastes trigger a set of responses in your body that stimulate and enhance digestive function, and help your body absorb nutrients. For the best effect you should probably eat your bitters about 15 minutes before the rest of your meal. (So have a puha salad as a starter!)
Avoid bitters if you have ulcers or a reflux condition though, or at least check with a medical
professional first.

Chickweed: star of the wild
Botanical name: Stellaria media. AKA: Starweed

chickweedFinding and harvesting
Chickweed likes to grow wild in gardens (often on a bed of soil you’ve just cleared), as well as in the unmowed areas of parks and reserves. It starts life as a mat of tangly, sprawling stems with small teardrop-shaped leaves. The leaves get bigger and the stems more upright as it grows.
Its tiny, white flowers look like they have ten petals, but if you peer closely you’ll see they’re five petals with splits down their middles.
It’s hard to pull a handful of chickweed up without bringing other bits of unwanted weed with it. The easiest way to harvest it is to find the tips, pull them upwards, and snip off the bestlooking bits.

Chickweed as food
Chickweed contains B vitamins, as well as vitamins C and D. It’s also a respectable source of iron, copper, calcium and sodium.
Raw chickweed snipped up into little pieces (1 or 2 cm long) is a healthy and yummy salad ingredient. It reminds me a bit of alfalfa sprouts. You can also cook it in a stirfry, a soup, a casserole or a sauce. Add it at the last minute, and preferably cut it up quite small so it doesn’t feel stringy when you eat it.
Cuisine-wise, chickweed really comes into its own in pesto. It’s one of a number of plants that contain saponins – compounds that lather up like soap. (Some plants that contain especially high levels of saponins are used as natural soap substitutes, but that’s another story.) The saponins in chickweed give your pesto an especially creamy quality.
You can also throw chickweed into a smoothie – it adds nutritional value and makes the smoothie extra frothy!

Chickweed as medicine
It’s partly the saponins that make chickweed valuable as a soothing and healing skin treatment. Chickweed poultices or compresses can be good for eczema, insect bites, and other itchy skin conditions.
To make a chickweed poultice pound a big handful of chickweed in a mortar and pestle, spread it over the area you want to treat, and bind it on with a strip of cotton or gladwrap, or a layer of each (cotton then gladwrap.)
To make a chickweed compress first make juice from a few handfuls of chickweed. You can do this in a juicer if you have one. Alternatively, whiz up the chickweed in a blender or food processor with a little water, then strain the mix through muslin.
If you prefer to take the unplugged route, pound the chickweed very well in a mortar and pestle, add a bit of water, and strain through muslin to obtain the juice.
Finally, lay a piece of clean cotton on a clean towel, and pour the chickweed juice over it. Place the juice-soaked cotton on the affected area of skin, or wrap it around it.

TIPS & TRICKS:

Scavenging for your supper
Wild foods can be fresh, yummy, healthy, and free. And foraging is an addictive pastime.

Tools of the foraging trade
What you need when foraging depends on what you’re planning to gather. But to be very well prepared, take scissors, gloves, several bags of different sizes, and even a small trowel, if you think you might dig anything up. Reusable shopping bags and vege bags are good. (Onya do a good line: www.onyabags.co.nz)

Just how safe is this foraging business?

  • RULE #1: If you don’t know what it is, don’t eat it
  • RULE #2: Get to know your local toxic plants. Try this Landcare Research resource: landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/infosheets/poisonplants/
  • RULE #3: avoid areas that get showered in car exhaust, could be polluted or may have been recently sprayed with herbicide (although harvesting new growth from areas that have been sprayed in the past should be okay)
  • RULE #4: Be sure to get permission before foraging on someone else’s property, including farmland.

Check out this lovely Chickweed recipe!

Creamy Chickweed Pesto

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

This recipe is written by Johanna Knox (starcooked.blogspot.com)

Find out all about Chickweed (and Puha, aka Sow Thistle) here!

Ingredients

1 clove garlic
2 big pinches salt
2 cups chickweed snipped up and loosely packed
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup cashew nuts, soaked for 24 hours (Soaking the nuts adds to the
creaminess and also makes them easier to digest.)
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

The pesto is pretty easy to make:

  1. Pound garlic and salt in a mortar.
  2. Gradually add chickweed, continuing to pound.
  3. Gradually add oil and nuts, until you have a smooth, thick paste. Alternatively, use a blender for all ingredients except the parmesan, and then stir in the parmesan at the end.

Makes over 1 cup of pesto. For a variation, substitute other greens or herbs for some of the chickweed. Yum!

Chocolate spice and orange Biscotti

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

This is from Emma Cowan’s article on Christmas, “‘Tis the season”, in the latest issue #8 of World Sweet World. We forgot to put the amount of flour in the ingredients list, sorry about that, so here’s the whole recipe.

BiscottiThese snappy biscuits are easy to make; they just take a little time. You bake the dough first, in little log shapes, then slice it thinly and bake it again. This recipe makes around 60.
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C
2. Beat the eggs with the sugar until pale and thick. Add the flour and baking powder, mix together, then divide the dough into two bowls.
3. Add the grated zest of an orange and the almonds to one bowl, and knead until the ingredients are combined and the dough is smooth. Add the cocoa and spices to the other bowl, mix through and then add the chocolate, kneading until combined.
4. Form each bowl of dough into two log shapes, then place on a baking tray with plenty of space between them. Bake them for 25 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely (at least an hour).
5. Preheat the oven to 140°C
6. With a sharp knife, cut the logs into 1/2cm slices, then lay them out on a baking tray. Slice on an angle to make long thin shapes.
7. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the biscotti are dry and just starting to brown. Remove and leave to cool on a rack. They will continue to harden as they cool.

Ingredients

2 cups raw sugar
4 eggs
Rind of one orange
4 cups of plain flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 cup raw almonds (with skin)
1/2 cup chopped chocolate
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 t cinnamon and a pinch of ground cardamom