Chokos are an old-time Aussie favourite, native to South America where it is known as chayote. It remains a feature of many backyards, growing over the chook pen or along a fence. A green, slightly spiky fruit with mild, white flesh. It was used as a pie or jam filler during the Depression years -where its vine grew over the backyard dunny– in Australia and still graces dinner tables of its fans, in vegetable form -barbequed, fried or in white or cheese sauce.
In this household I’m the single fan of choko as a vegetable. The G.O. however, has a fondness for choko pickles: the speciality of many a nanna, mum, aunt or generous neighbour; omnipresent as a condiment; ubiquitous at fetes & market stalls; and useful as a bartering commodity.
Use a long pole with a bent nail in the end to reach a baker’s dozen of the highest & biggest chokos on your neighbour’s vine because everyone else got there before you.
Peel, deseed & neatly dice chokos.
Wash your hands half a dozen times to get the choko sap off them… unsuccessfully.
Peel and neatly dice 16 medium brown onions.
Soak choko & onions in salted water overnight.
Hunt out jars from where they’ve been stashed in the shed.
Prepare jars by boiling for 30 minutes to sterilise.
Open all the kitchen windows. Turn on ceiling fan.
Heft tub of soaking chokos & onion onto the sink, drain & rinse.
Transfer chokos & onion to large stockpot.
Add equal quantities white sugar & white vinegar, i.e. 12 cups each.
Update shopping list to replenish white sugar & vinegar.
Add 6 teaspoons each of tumeric, ginger powder, white pepper, mustard powder & curry powder.
Stir to combine then bring to boil.
Reduce heat and simmer with lid on for approximately 1 hour.
Panic that you haven’t sterilised enough jars.
Scour cupboards for more, wash, then microwave extra jars for 2 minutes.
Put all jar lids in saucepan to sterilise… again, and boil for 10 minutes.
Put all jars on trays in oven on 120 Celsius for at least 30 minutes to sterilise… again.
Remove lid from stockpot, remembering not to stick face into spicy vinegar fumes.
Reserve half cup of liquid in small bowl.
Firmly break up softened chokos & onions using potato masher.
Turn up heat, bring back to boil & reduce by half.
Mix 2 tablespoons of cornflour into cooled reserved liquid.
When contents of stockpot have reduced by half, lower heat & blend in cornflour mixture until contents thicken slightly.
If, like me, you prefer thick, caramelised pickles rather than liquidy-floury, use as little flour as possible, make smaller batches… and share judiciously.
Spoon mixture into hot jars leaving headspace at top.
Sort through lids trying to figure out which belongs to what.
Screw lids on tight.
Wipe spillage off jars with damp cloth.
Lick sticky residue off fingers… mmm… spicy… sweet.
Place jars on heat-proof surface to cool.
Label jars with contents & date unless you plan, later, to play guess the mystery contents.
Add to the label, in the spirit of optimism, a note asking for jar to be returned.
Listen for popping noises that indicate jars have achieved airtight seals.
Happy dance each time you hear a pop.
Pickles are best left to mature for at least a week, better a month.
Store jars in cool cupboard. Refrigerate once opened.
If a not quite full jar remains, store in fridge and enjoy immediately.
Eat choko pickles with cheese & bread, as a side to eggs & meat dishes, as a condiment to curries and casseroles, add to rissole/meatball mix…
Many variations of choko pickle recipes can be found in old cookbooks and via Google.
A basic, classic recipe is http://www.foodtolove.com.au/recipes/choko-pickle-306
If you want to learn more about chokos including how to grow your own, Jackie French: A Choko Needs to know its Place is a good start.
“Alexandra often said that if her mother were cast upon a desert island, she would thank God for her deliverance, make a garden, and find something to preserve. Preserving was almost a mania with Mrs. Bergson. Stout as she was, she roamed the scrubby banks of Norway Creek looking for fox grapes and goose plums, like a wild creature in search of prey. She made a yellow jam of the insipid ground cherries that grew on the prairie, flavoring it with lemon peel; and she made a sticky dark conserve of garden tomatoes. She had experimented even with the rank buffalo-pea, and she could not see a fine bronze cluster of them without shaking her head and murmuring, ‘What a pity!’ When there was nothing to preserve, she began to pickle.” Willa Cather, ‘O Pioneers
An ordinary life… but a good life. Albeit -after 2 and a half years- still sans the routine and spare time I anticipated went hand-in-hand with tree-seachange lifestyle.
Our ordinary encompasses variously the housekeeping of life: mundane – the G.O. continues to wrangle osteoarthritis; necessary – assisting my MiL to live independently; and inevitable – ongoing concern around my Dad’s ill-health.
Too much time away from the blogosphere brings with it overthinking and inevitable crisis of confidence… is this ordinary life too simple to translate into a blog post, of little interest to those who already do what I do & know what I am only just learning, of no interest to others who never will, too irregular in its missives to appeal?
And yet my fingers yearn to tap a keyboard and my mind constructs narratives, some of which find themselves accompanying my ad hoc day-to-day offerings via the convenience of Instagram.
There, perhaps, lies a possibility of sorts, laid out in snapshots which although intersowed with continuing horticultural studies evidence a focus on food. Allowed the opportunity, kitchen witchery has become an avocation… fulfilment of an urge to apply the fascination of alchemy to the everyday, augmenting our philosophy of live simple home made grown local creative better.
A philosophy which has crafted an extraordinary everyday that bears little resemblance to the retirement for which it is all too often misconstrued. It is, in fact, a full-time endeavour but wondrously rewarding.
“And while it takes courage to achieve greatness, it takes more courage to find fulfillment in being ordinary. For the joys that last have little relationship to achievement, to standing one step higher on the victory platform. What is the adventure in being ordinary? It is daring to love just for the pleasure of giving it away. It is venturing to give new life and to nurture it to maturity. It is working hard for the pure joy of being tired at the end of the day. It is caring and sharing and giving and loving…” ~ Marilyn Thomsen
I’ve arrived at the end of my year of Horticulture study greatly wiser, learning a lot… enough to understand there is so much more I do not know. However, among many useful skills I acquired the aptitude to research and find answers within the horticultural domain.
Professionally, as well as actually obtaining a qualification as a horticulturist and the starting point of a knowledge base, the most rewarding aspect was that I began to think like a horticulturist with confidence to look further, know who to ask or where to obtain more information.
Personally, I had a wonderful year. I enjoyed exercising my brain via processing new data. I met and spent time with a diverse & entertaining group of fellow students, talented teachers with impressive industry expertise, and found new community in the horticultural realm.
Some of the metamorphosis was tangible. For the first half of the year I showed up at class in versions of my everyday attire until mid-year when I knew this was a way of life to which I’d decided to commit, demonstrably in the form of purchasing a pair of steel cap work boots, now my go-to footwear paired with a black t-shirt and blue denim jeans, quite different to my city corporate legal wardrobe pre-2016.
If you’re wondering What Next? I was too. The answer became apparent as the year progressed. More of The Same. The more I learn the more I realise how much more there is to learn. It takes time to create a muscle memory bank, a knowledge reference base that is habitual & reflexive when called upon.
For 2018 I’ve enrolled for another year at Tafe studying Production Horticulture, with a balance of theory and appealing practical aspects growing crops such as garlic and ginger in the Tafe agricultural plot.
“Plant dreams, pull weeds & grow a happy life.” Anais Lee
Wishing you love and light for the festive season. Thank you for your blogging company during 2017. Day-to-day life has been pleasantly busy and not all as I’d envisaged prior to our sea-tree change in late 2015 but at the moment the balance works for me, and I’m happy with the juggling act that it is.
For glimpses of our everyday life you can see my Instagram snapshots on the right (hover cursor over the pics for the captions) or if you’re an Instagrammer you can follow me at daleleelife101.
My Horticulture Certificate 3 year in pictures…
In addition to Horticulture Certificate 3, I did a couple of complementary short courses. SafeWork NSW National WHS General Construction Induction Training (White Card) and…
It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in a year via subsidised education fees – my fee spend was $340, plus petrol money and my time.
Hello from mid-semester holidays.
My year of studying Horticulture at Tafe is hurtling along. One more term -8 weeks- until I complete Certificate 3, during which time I need to decide what to study next year… Too much of a good thing is wonderful! Despite more than a few aaarrrghhh I’m never going to meet this study-assignment deadline moments, I love being a face-to-face student, fortunate to find myself in the company of interesting & interested adult learners and talented teachers in an environment encompassing pleasant campus grounds, greenhouses and classrooms.
Day-to-day life continues to be a work in progress. The G.O. and I regularly marvel that we are still refining -but at least improving- the approach to and execution of our #lessismorelife. Although reconciled that many of my pastimes remain in limbo currently usurped by study and [often somewhat pared back] real life, as well as studying I continue to work at crafting a lifestyle which gives more attention to daleleelife101’s social media presence as well as recreational reading, writing and better than ad hoc visits across the blogging community. I have much to show & tell but coalescing it into shareable form remains an elusive art.
On the home-front we have been mostly focussed on the garden, necessarily. We’re two days into October and rain is falling for the first time since our early winter drenching courtesy of Cyclone Debbie in mid-June. When your household relies solely on rainwater tanks, almost 4 months with no rain feels like a very looooong time.
Some time ago when it became apparent record dry & hot temperatures and the forecast lack of precipitation was ongoing we implemented further water conservation measures, including harvesting kitchen sink water to keep the garden alive. In the midst of a dry winter and beginning to spring it has rewarded us with small pleasures.
“… real happiness isn’t something large and looming on the horizon ahead, but something small, numerous and already here. The smile of someone you love. A decent breakfast. The warm sunset. Your little everyday joys all lined up in a row.” ~ Buried Light, Beau Taplin
The title of this post was supposed to be “how we got happy…” but it’s more than that, I’m feeling rich these days, an abundance of happy. We made it, we’re really living the life we dreamed of.
We’re in the middle of a glorious Australian subtropical winter, I’m in the middle of a mid-year study break. Just over 18 months has passed since we traded our city lives & working incomes for the best laid plans of a new life in the country.
Our first year was a whirlwind of unpacking, shuffling, fixing, gardening, building, adapting, cooking, cleaning, growing, making, maintaining, settling interspersed with several months of holiday caravanning around Australia before resuming unpacking, shuffling, fixing, gardening, building, adapting, cooking, cleaning, growing, making, maintaining, settling. Much of which continues.
It isn’t quite what we’d envisioned… lazy days reading books in the sun, pottering around the garden, leisurely homegrown home-cooked meals, creative projects, day trips to the beach. It’s more; busier, challenging, exhausting and rewarding.
It seems we’ve hit a sweet spot. In words and pictures, as briefly as I can…
First on the list and incredibly satisfying is doing things for ourselves. I grew-cooked-made-built-fixed-did this. Tangible & immediate payoff, or long-term gain.
We support, share, barter, collaborate, exchange with neighbours, family and friends.
With so much going on in our lives exposure to television, news media and the superficial side of social media is naturally limited. We’re not sorry about that.
Although we no longer participate in a structured Monday to Friday working week, this wonderful homemade life is fulltime, so we endeavour make -at least- weekends our free days.
We focus on what we have, what we can do for ourselves and the benefits.
There are times we spend modest funds running errands, going to markets, celebrating occasions, and so on. Sometimes we make major purchases that will add value to our life. We then resume our usual fabulously frugal.
We aren’t alone, there are people in our community and all over the world living similarly, many using creditable social media platforms to document their experiences and inspiration. Our life would be so much poorer and less enjoyable without the generosity of their shared information. We contribute to the mix via the blog, Instagram and Facebook, and taking time to chat.
Love the life you live. Live the life you love.
We believe wealth is more than money in the bank and dollar value of possessions. Time is an under-valued resource. How much of your life did that Thneed cost? Time or money, what we spend must give us a lifestyle return.
Although our income is limited we have an extras contingency plan which enables us to take advantage of bargains, bulk buys, and cover emergencies. We use it judiciously. We live fabulously frugally by choice, and long term have modest funds we can’t access until later in life.
When I planned to study I called the local Tafe college, then visited, and was provided with advice on courses, what financial support I could access and how.
When it became apparent the G.O.’s self-employment plans were going to be delayed by his knee injury we sought assistance from local government agencies to understand what options were available for him.
We don’t do cheap. We prefer the terms fabulously frugal… or plain old-fashioned thrifty, embrace less is more and live well.
Finally, free advice if the ambiguous title led you here and you made it through all the way to the end.
If you’re searching for rich don’t overlook happy. If you’re searching for happy you can make it yourself.
As the season changed from summer to autumn I continued to live in two horticultural worlds; one of words creating an imaginary garden in answer to a client brief to fulfil the major plant culture assignment for my Hortculture course at Tafe, and the other of deeds working on our garden.
Today I finished the report. This is the overview, where I “sell it”…
The gardening year naturally divides into four seasons characterised by their own events, cycles and weather. Taking into account the practical, aesthetic and sensory this plant assemblage has been selected to accomplish an outcome which is both handsome and serviceable.
It offers an opportunity for simple pleasures: waking to birdsong, beholding butterflies, soothing bee hum, wafting perfume, feel of fragrant foliage, aroma and flavour of fresh culinary edibles, as well as seasonal appreciation of ever-changing leaves and flowers.
Central to this garden design is its heart, literally evidenced by a signature Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ (Eastern Redbud) whose burgundy heart shaped leaves and rose coloured flowers are on display front and central, offset by a mass of Gaura lindheimeri’s (Beeblossom) whirling butterflies blooms adjacent to a stand of stylish Prunus glandulosa ‘Alba Plena’ (Dwarf Flowering Almond).
Acanthus mollis’ (Oyster Plant) resplendent ruffled shiny green foliage studded with striking purple and white flower spikes in summer heralds the front walkway, preceding an invitation to linger along scented Lavendula dentata (French Lavender) fringing the entry, divert to a troika of tasty Fragaria (Strawberry) species or the perfume of an espaliered Osmanthus heterophyllus (Fragrant Holly) just beyond.
Flanking the western border are glossy dark green foliage and pink budded, fragrant springtime flowers of Viburnum x burkwoodii (Burkwood Viburnum) countering a multi-hued floral display ensemble of Impatiens species skirting the deck.
On the eastern side Backhousia citriodora’s (Lemon Scented Myrtle) bronzed green leaves and clusters of flowers provide a lemon scented boundary and backdrop to the patio.
Neighbouring the existing grove of citrus, a triad of culinary tub specimens garnish patio boundaries: Punica granatum ‘Nana’ (Dwarf Pomegranate), Eugenia reinwardtiana (Cedar Bay Cherry), Laurus nobilis (Bay Laurel) are close by Rosemarinus officinalis ‘Tuscan Blue’ (Rosemary) demarcating the kitchen garden proximate to the pergola’s swathe of Passiflora edulis (Purple Passionfruit).
A guard of tall evergreen Melaleuca armillaris (Bracelet Honey Myrtle) with creamy-white puffy flowers and characterful bark grace the rear northwest corner balanced by a trio of fragrant flowering Abelia species in the northeast.
Taking advantage of the generous proportions of rear space a trinity of Ceratopetalum gummiferum (NSW Christmas Bush) provide shade and festive display in harmony with the adjacent jewel of the backyard, a Lagerstroemia indica x fauriel ‘Natchez White’ (Crepe Myrtle).
Complementary and constructive plant selections have been made to accomplish eighteen contiguous but distinct areas and uses proposed by the landscape concept plan, and are detailed in Appendix 2 Plant Selection Sheet and Appendix 3 Plant Profile Sheets.
Then went for a walk around our garden with my camera…
“A man of words and not of deeds
Is like a garden full of weeds” ~ John Fletcher
As autumn weather intensified into flood rain during the latter part of the week our day-to-day life calmed. During a sunny Sunday morning lull in the downpour I checked the garden and snapped some photographs.
Approaching week 8 of my Horticulture course at Tafe I’ve been directing time and attention to preparing for assessments and assignments. To date I’ve developed a memory bank of 30 Latin plant names.
Amidst this everyday, life and death goes on… We’ve attended 2 family funerals, an uncle on my mum’s side and the G.O.’s aunt, the G.O.’s knee arthroscopy went well and while he
impatiently recovers he literally & figuratively workshops future ideas & plans. We take care of domestic business, shop, cook, clean and of course garden.
The client brief for my major assignment sees theory and practice mingle as we improve our own garden and I create another on paper, in the process learning that I can dig holes, and weave words around just about any subject.
“Remodel existing garden using optimal plant selections to achieve eighteen adjacent but discrete functional areas and uses proposed by the landscape concept plan.
Propose solutions for pests and diseases.
Retain and rejuvenate trio of existing citrus trees.
Propose care plan for kikuyu lawn.
Select and provide detailed profiles for plants suitable to a residential garden…
… This stylish scheme fulfills the fundamental requirements of the garden and adds value to the property, then goes further to reward its owner throughout the year with leisure-time enjoyment and opportunities for hands-on cultivation balanced by peace of mind in leaving broader care to a horticulture specialist…
… Bees are necessary to the ecosystem and beneficial to gardens. Their diet needs to come from a variety of sources, in early spring and in times of scarcity when little else is in bloom, dandelions are a valuable food. Timing lawn mowing to allow dandelion flowers to bloom provides incentive for bees to come into the garden. Mowing before flowers develop into seed heads prevent dandelions proliferating…”
Above: We have growing things! Looking from both ends of our vege garden cage
Above: The G.O. added rock edges and I added plants to extend back & front garden beds
Above: Bone gardening Diesel-dog style…too many parsley seedlings anyway… and brick paving G.O. style
“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is.” ― Yogi Berra
This blog post comes to your screen courtesy of the Dark Playground of procrastination. A term my uni student sister introduced me to, and having now embarked upon my own studies, a place I’m becoming quite at home in.
Ignoring the siren call of the Dark Playground is one of my new everyday challenges, added to plant culture language & skillsets directly Horticulture related such as memorising for assessment sixty Latin plant names -Stenocarpus sinuatus, Buckinghamia celsissima, Stepanotis floribunda, Canna x generalis, Prumnopitys Ladei, Plectranthus argentatus, Banksia integrifolia, Leucanthemum x superbum, Pelargonium peltatum, Caesalpinia ferrea… just for starters, shooting levels with a dumpy for site set out, plant propagation, and wielding a mattock & wheelbarrow to re-establish a garden.
Home work is a legitimate distraction from homework. Familiar domestic diversions of hanging washing on the clothesline thereby somehow losing an hour in the garden, and kitchen witchery are viable immediate activities which I conveniently convince myself are more pressing than preparing for assignments due in weeks 9 and 14.
The Dark Playground manifests in many forms. I embrace them all. Sometimes simultaneously. Blog posts, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Pandora, Podcasts…
“Life always begins with one step outside of your comfort zone.” Shannon L. Alder
It’s just nice to be home is my customary response to numerous What now? enquiries about our plans since we’re back from our Big Trip around Australia and settled into life at Taylors Arm.
During our staycation over the busy festive summer school holiday coastal season we alternated progressing projects with R&R. Somewhat rested & refreshed I started my Horticulture Certificate III course at Tafe yesterday. It involves a twice weekly drive to & from nearby Coffs Harbour, 80 kilometres-one hour each way, 9 am to 3.30 pm classes + home study + assignments + projects for assessment, and runs until the end of November 2017 with half term and mid-year breaks.
The G.O. continues to potter in injured knee accommodating manner. His specialist diagnosed torn cartilage and likely treatment with keyhole surgery but will confirm next week after viewing the MRI taken last week. Once that’s fixed, the G.O. has plans for lawn mowing & garden services self-employment to which I hope to value-add my newly acquired horticultural knowledge.
Diesel-Dog has further entrenched himself… eyeballing the kookaburras, defending his yard against cats, greeting his daytime visitors enthusiastically, guarding his nighttime territory vigilantly, sleeping on
my his verandah futon, chasing tennis balls, swimming in the river, sleeping in front of the air-conditioner.
In lieu of January blogging-mojo Instagram was yet again my go-to social media… Following this first, catch-up post for 2017 there will be more Insta-blog posts where I upload daleleelife101 pics and short commentary rather than fewer EllaDee wordy observations. I’ll also continue flitting around the interwebs of the blogworld, Instagram and Facebook, visiting & commenting.
Instead of making new year resolutions I commenced 2017 on the premise start as you mean to go on… reflected via the daleleelife101 Instagram January theme #wordsfor2017.
“Begin as you mean to go on, and go on as you began…” Charles H. Spurgeon
For glimpses of our everyday life you can see my Instagram snapshots on the right (hover cursor over the pics for the captions) or if you’re an Instagrammer you can follow me at daleleelife101 and the G.O. at welshy055.
daleleelife101.blog the new identity of my EllaDee blog heralds a fresh start, my answer to the oft asked question Where to From Here? Before I go ahead with that, it’s important to know how I got here.
2016 feels like it turned in a series of circles, bringing us back to the chapter we commenced a year ago, when we relocated from our city existence to life in the country.
We are living the life we dreamed… in our rural village in the Nambucca Valley hinterland, in our home with its wide verandah and backyard overlooking green hills.
Already we’re supplementing the dream; adding a dog -Diesel, a Koolie adopted from the RSPCA days after we returned from our around Australia roadtrip, and a sizeable vegetable plot enclosed within a wire cage to grow, firstly our own soil, and then enough veges to go a long way towards feeding ourselves.
To be able to do this at a relatively early stage in our lives – the G.O. is 61 and me 51- we spent ten years living & working in the city with the purpose of being debt free with sufficient immediate-use financial savings, and moderate reserves locked away for longer term. We then swapped our city cash flow time poor existence for a modest lifestyle where time is our currency rather than money.
The process of setting ourselves up began from rudimentary beginnings a decade before the pay-off. But any starting point is better than none. Recognising the watershed moment, when enough is enough, is the real art.
We could have remained longer in the city: working, saving, spending, working, saving, spending… And our dreams would have patiently waited for us to let go of the ring and grab them. Or would they? What happens to dreams that aren’t pursued, are parked while the dreamer quests for more and better? Too many times we hear anecdotes of dreams faded to What Ifs and shrivelled to Might Have Beens.
Where to From Here…
We’ve enjoyed a self-funded holiday during 2016, fulfilling that plan. For 2017 I’ve enrolled at Tafe to study Horticulture, a basic Certificate III course two days each week at nearby Coffs Harbour: a new beginning realising a long-time aspiration. However, not everything has gone to plan. The G.O. is currently -literally- hobbled with an injured knee which will likely need keyhole surgery some time in 2017. But that prognosis rather than a knee replacement is good news. The intention he had of finding work and/or self employment are in hiatus. For the time being there’s plenty he can gently apply himself to catching up on small projects around our 1930’s house that have waited more than a decade for attention. He really did need to slow down -one of the reasons we left Sydney- so it’s not all bad.
Our daily life 101 maxim is Live Simple Home Made Grown Local Creative Better. Our lifestyle is authentic, modest, about trying new things, doing it ourselves, and in turn inspire & assist others.
Then, after 2017? That comes under the wonderful realm of Possibilities.
“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” ~ Shel Silverstein
In the immediate pipeline is a few days spending Christmas with my Dad, followed by festive season houseguests and a Taylors Arm January staycation which if all goes to plan I will spend lounging around reading blog posts & books, and maybe writing a blog post or two.
Below is a selection of photos from the two
four six eight ten busy weeks since we arrived home from our roadtrip around Australia.
“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” ~ Mother Teresa
For glimpses of our everyday life you can see my Instagram snapshots on the right (hover cursor over the pics for the captions) or if you’re an Instagrammer you can follow me at daleleelife101 and the G.O. at welshy055.