Ok, so yeasting isn’t exactly a word but I figured it explained things with a lot fewer words. I’ve been back into playing with yeast and friends in several forms. 🙂 Continue reading
It’s all pretty amazing when things start coming together. I mean, you plot, you plan and you dream and you try and cram the plotting, planning and dreaming into reality, dodging around obstacles like time, money, weather, differing ideas, legal requirements and everything else and you hope to come up with a workable situation that hasn’t strayed too far from your first inspired musings.
My initial dreams involved up to 5 acres, an eco friendly house built by my own two hands, robust and healthy children who look liked they had escaped from Heidi, friendly animals, beautifully landscaped (but not rigid) gardens and fresh produce pouring from their richly composted soil. The reality is a little different.
We have a 1/2 acre, the house was not built by my own two hands although I have had a lot of input into the design and materials used and we have been as eco friendly as the budget allowed for (low VOC paints, woolen carpets over recycled fibre underlay and LED lights). My children don’t have the plump legs and ruddy complexions of Heidi fame but they are healthy and happy and sporting somewhat of a tan, testament to their enjoyment of outdoor life. Our animals aren’t quite as keen on us as we are on them but Milly and Molly are getting more comfortable although Mandy still keeps her distance. The baby chicks are well acclimatised to children as they are picked up and carted around by the kids for a couple of hours each day and the silkies are fast becoming favourites (Mrs Silverpants was replaced last night along with her companion Dandelion the white silkie and Goldie or Gold Star the golden silkie). The baby chicks are used to being handled by us too although they still peg it during the day (we go out each night to make sure they’re either sleeping in a nesting box or on the perch which they’ve finally figured out last night too). The gardens are not the verdant oases I dreamed of and their soil, although rich, is not as rotted down as I had dreamed. It’s getting there now though. We do have crops coming along nicely too. I have 2 zucchinis that will be ready in the next day or 2 (they’re taking longer I think due to the still un-rotted garden beds) and my corn are flowering and I can see the beginning of corn cobs. 😀 My watermelons won’t make harvest this year but I will try transferring them even though they hate it. I have nothing to lose at this stage. My tomatoes are still coming along in the garden too. I live in fear of possums discovering them but we appear to have few of those thieving little blighters around thankfully. My broccoli are doing much better since I got up close and personal with them, rubbing the underside of their leaves and squishing all the caterpillar eggs (or are they butterfly eggs – defined by what they hatch into or what lays them?) and caterpillars of the (presumably) coddling moths that had turned their leaves into fine green lace. They still look a little lacy but much happier. My onions haven’t even made it to pickled onion stage sadly but then again I never really expected them to. 😦
But it’s the greenhouse I am most amazed with and proud of in our garden. It’s a Sproutwell greenhouse built from a kit I bought off eBay (they also have a website and the price is the same) and the garden beds I built myself using corrugated iron and hardwood corner posts. The hardwood we already had and the iron, bought from my uncle, makes each bed cost $1.50! WIN! Anyway, I’ve built 3 beds in there and filled and planted 1 of them. I transplanted the tomatoes from the second martie bed as they were very small and not going to make harvest before the frost arrived so I had nothing to lose. I planted my mandarin, banana and lemon trees in there first, then the transplanted tomatoes and transplanted marigolds in there, some beans planted down the side, transplanted capsicums, rocket seeds between them, then planted carrot and radish seeds, some spinach seeds, leek seeds, coriander seeds, transplanted chives and also chive seeds. So far the chive seeds are the only ones I haven’t seen a sprout from yet. I also transplanted in a pumpkin that popped up from seeds I’d scooped out of a pumpkin around Christmas time and planted out mid January. So, although it’s not yet that verdant oasis, it is well on its way to being a nifty little food garden.
I’ve also bought some more interesting seeds – mangel wurzels which are like turnips but they get HEAPS bigger and if harvested small they’re good for human consumption or if left to grow out, great for cattle and chickens. I wanted to try them just because I can! I’ve also finally sourced some black carrot seeds (purple/black inside and out and amazing for antioxidants), kale, rainbow chard and some other bits and bobs. I’m planning some BIG gardens over winter. 😀 And speaking of winter gardens, I’ve started building the garden beds to go in. The existing beds will be raked up to fill the new ones and they’re a little shorter but I can double the amount of beds, greatly increasing planting area overall. I am eagerly awaiting Autumn now, something I NEVER thought I would say. 🙂
But the most fun of all is that Ignisa and I are starting to work together. We’ve had some very unseasonably cold weather this last week and Ignisa, our lovely Gourmet Cooker has been alight for about 44 hours although she’s been resting for the last hour or 2 but I’m getting cold again so reckon it’s time to fire her up again.. We need to organise some hardwood to burn (if anyone local has any they’re getting rid of or selling…?) but in the meantime we have been able to make do with our existing poplar stocks which is marvelous that we can use them up. 🙂 We also had a little bit of plum from a tree that we chopped down after it died at Spotswood. I started off by bringing in our old DVD shelves and then arranged them in such as way as to make a surround or frame for the stove. I’ve now got some space for trinkets, wood, kindling and fire lighting paper. The lamps came out and look lovely too, bringing some pleasant ambiance to the room. The fire guard, half of our playpen is doing duty as a fire guard and at night it makes a great clothesrack too once stoo up on it’s ends. 😀 Multitasking and repurposing at its best. 🙂 I’ve done some cooking with Ignisa too. 😀 I cooked a compete meal on her the other evening, spuds in the oven and then fried off the bacon in a fry pan on top and breakfast this morning was homemade sourdough English muffins cooked on Ignisa and a hot chocolate made with her heat too – another complete meal. 🙂 I also baked bread in her belly the other night but the oven was a wee bit hot (like 350C rather than 200C required). Should be fine once I carve off the top inch. lol
I also did some more unpacking – DVD’s away (not that they will see much use given the lack of tv), my crystal radio set up and working (I need to find a better station with some music although ABC news radio is ok too), and I’ve been knitting away getting clothes ready for winter. The kids each have a new hat and I’ve made a scarf for Orik too. I need to source some more yarn to make Allegra a scarf so it’s time to dig into the stash. I also knitted my first dishcloth using this pattern and I’m happy with how it’s come out. Now to test it and see how it works.
Our food is improving on a weekly, if not daily basis. I’ve committed to making sourdough pasta using this recipe so we are slowly using up our normal pasta which I can’t eat and once it’s gone, that’s it. We’re now drinking real milk, our veggie box arrives each week from Highland Heritage (I highly recommend contacting them if you’re local and interested as their produce is first rate) and I’ve started culturing milk too – milk kefir is like super dooper yakult and it tasted a HEAP better as well as being heaps better for you. Google kefir if you’re interested. I just don’t know enough about it at this stage other than to say it’s very good for you and not unpleasant to taste.
Bertha was also split and fattened up and her daughter, Agnetha has gone to her new home. Bertha will be fed and split again and posted this week to The Eco Mum and Narf so you should see some mail coming your way soon ladies. I had planned to post it today but I haven’t fed her or her babies enough for the rigors of travel. 🙂
My latest project, much to the horror of my darling long-suffering husband is to purchase a house-cow. Yep, a cow! 🙂 Don’t have a cow, she wouldn’t be a full sized one and nor will she be a genetically twisted (albeit via breeding only) miniature cow but a genuine naturally occurring small breed cow, the Dexter. The average Dexter cow, when fully grown will stand no higher at the hip than Jasper. They stand around and just over the 1m mark although the bulls are up to 1.17m I think (44in) so they really are quite small. They’re easy calvers, easy milkers, friendly animals and make excellent lawnmowers! 😀 They also require a lot less pasture space and although we don’t quite have enough land for exclusive grass feeding we may have access to some good local and I believe organically grown hay. It’s also another reason I want to try growing mangel wurzels as they used to be used for winter and early spring food in the UK for cattle. We are big dairy people here with hot chocolates, homemade yoghurt, custard and cheese (not yet homemade) on our menu with frequency. I want to know that our dairy is organic and hence free of hormones, anti-biotics and all the rest of the garbage pumped into many commercial cows (I’m not sure how much of that is dairy cows rather than beef cows which I believe are treated with regularity in factory farming conditions but any of that gunk is too much gunk) and I also want to know that it’s cruelty free. These cows are prolific milk producers for their size and can easily feed 2 or even 3 calves so I figure that there is no need to remove the calf from mother and we can simply milk the excess. No poddy calves! 😀 I also want to know that our milk is local. Full respect to dairies around Australia but I would prefer to support any in the district and preferably my own back yard… Literally. 😀 I also want to be able to give my children raw milk, full of all the wonderful goodness that milk contains, not pasteurised to within an inch of its life. I understand that pasteurisation aims to kill nasty bugs but it also kills many beneficial ones and a single cow raised at home will be much easier to maintain in a sanitary milking condition than hundreds of them all traipsing in manure and mud. And that brings me to another great reason for keeping a cow… I want her manure for my gardens. 🙂 Bonus fertiliser cakes. 😛 Dexter cows are also great for their meat which is reported to be superior – a wonderful duel purpose cow. They can also be trained to pull like oxen, something that will come in handy in a post peak oil world. Any bull calves would be fattened up for organic, pasture-fed, free-range, cruelty free (need to find an on-site butcher) and utterly local beef. It’s a HUGE undertaking though, with initial costs, commitment (10 months of the year they lactate and they live for up to 20 years, even more) and we obviously need to check council rules and permits (definitely required) and whether we have or can access sufficient fodder (I do not want to grain feed except maybe as a treat) and there is also up to 10 litres of milk a day to work through. I would need to make cheese on a daily basis which would be far too much for us to eat) and I’d still have enough left over for custard, yoghurt, bechamel sauce, Orik’s bottles and all the rest. It’s very exciting to dream though and following up on information and researching is keeping the old brain box ticking.. 🙂
So anyway, that’s the updates for now. There is lots happening, lots in the pipleline and many many more things on the discussion table. It’s a busy time and I’m loving it. 😀 What’s the news in your slice of paradise?
I bake my own bread. I have done for a few years now, even before the arrival of Hermy the Thermy. I love that my whole family LOVES the bread I bake. I either make sourdough white bread or a sourdough home-ground spelt and white bread, depending on whether Thermy has just been washed or not (if he’s wet I have to spend the time to get him bone dry for grinding grains and that depends on available time and motivation at the given moment. 😉 ) but either way I know EXACTLY what goes into each and every loaf I bake. Even before I made sourdough bread I baked at home, firstly using my mixmaster to help with at least some of the kneading and then usually putting in some time to hand knead too and then after the arrival of Hermy I’d get him to do the hard yards, both grinding and kneading. Now I still use his skills for mixing and kneading but the dough itself does the work for me as I use a no-knead technique which works beautifully as it also allows for souring time. Win all round.
I bake my own bread for several reasons. Firstly, with a history of gluten/wheat intolerance in my family and finding I have my own issues with eating plain wheat breads it is cheaper and tastier to bake my own sourdough than buy traditional supermarket gluten free breads.
Secondly, I enjoy it. Some days I can’t necessarily be bothered making the dough for the fridge (that’s where the no-knead dough lives whilst it kneads itself) but then I think of the wonderful benefits and taste of my bread and that never fails to motivate me, which brings about the third reason.
My bread, or any home-made, non commercially baked bread in my opinion, tastes far superior to supermarket bread or even bakery bread. That’s just my opinion though but one that my family shares. My bread is deep, rich, heavy (no light fluffy nothingness bread here), nutty when made with spelt flour included and completely filling. A cheese sandwich here is a filling meal! 🙂
Fourthly, my bread is healthy. Aside from the argument that grain products aren’t good for us (read into the paleo diet if you’re interested) or the arguments about excess salt, my bread is healthy. It contains filtered water (no chlorine), rye sourdough starter which is full of all sorts of wonderful beneficial wild yeasts harvested if you like from the air we breathe and made with filtered water and freshly ground rye flour, some salt and I use Himalayan crystal salt, not refined table salt crap (read here for an interesting article on salt) and then of course, the flour. I use organic Lauke white flour and sometimes, as mentioned home ground biodynamic spelt flour. Flour begins to lose its nutrients after grinding so many of the flours in the supermarkets may well be nutrient-devoid or dead by the time we see them on the shelf. Grinding your own is the best way to guarantee it’s fresh. Some flours begin to turn rancid soon after grinding too, spelt is one of them and given the bread I bake I like to buy large quantities, not something I can do with spelt flour. With only 4 ingredients I can’t really go wrong! 🙂
Fifthly, I bake it because I can. I don’t like to buy things that I can make myself. Call me a rebel but if I can “damn the man” in anyway possible, I do. 😀 As soon as I find something I think I have to buy I will have a good go at making my own just so I don’t have to give any more month than absolutely necessary to the big supermarket chains or large companies.
And sixthly, because I don’t trust the big companies, or even many of the smaller ones. At risk of sounding like some crazy conspiracy theorist (which I probably am to be honest 😉 ) I don’t trust their ingredients or intentions (beyond making as much money as they can) as far as I can spit! THEY don’t care about the health of my family beyond the level that means I can’t sue them. If they can get away with it and it’s not illegal then they will do what they can if it makes them or saves them money. (Read this as a perfect example).
Anyway, this morning as I was acquainting myself with the flood and fire news of our country I came across this clanger! Now, bread, even homemade bread is at least vegetarian (some recipes use milk, butter or buttermilk) and I know mine is vegan (discounting harnessing and using the yeasts) but these articles, this one that I read some time back and this one I read this morning share that bread is not even vegetarian and in some cases, somewhat cannibalistic! YUK! If I want to eat hair I have plenty of my own thanks and I KNOW what products and chemicals have been used on it. As for chicken, if I want chicken I prefer it without the feathers and again, from sources I know! And NOT in my bread thanks.
Reading the second article this morning simply served to back up my beliefs that you cannot trust corporations in many cases as far as you can spit and the FSANZ is no better. These are the people that okayed BPA after all and didn’t even know that Canada had banned the use of BPA So I’m pretty convinced they aren’t doing their jobs to be honest. It all serves as a warning though that we cannot trust the government nor corporations to do what is best for us personally. They are balancing economics into the equation, just as we all have to do but their economics are in the millions and billions so the inclusion of an amino acid extracted from human hair or chicken feathers in our bread is probably not even a blip on their radar. We need to look and research for ourselves! It can make it a long and tedious (or more tedious) job to do the grocery shopping but if we want to avoid eating foods containing compounds of dubious origin or preservatives and food colourings with questionable research into their effects then research we must or simply, never purchase anything but pure raw ingredients. That’s rather difficult to do (mostly yes but entirely?) so reading and research really is quite necessary in order to avoid ingesting these sort of things.
Anyway, that’s me finished on my soapbox. 😉
I will say one thing for conventional and supermarket purchased foods though. They can NEVER be accused of adding to the taste of foods. 😛 We had a friend stay over the weekend and I cooked up a biodynamic corned beef I had (ok, I corned a silverside cut for the pedantic 😉 ) and served it with organic green beans, mashed potatoes with parmesan cheese, carrots and organic turnips and I must say ALL the flavour was in the turnips and beans and they beef was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!!! I have NEVER had corned beef like this before in my life and there is no testament to my cooking there I promise you. I’m capable of cooking good foods and following recipes but I’m no great shakes as a cook I can guarantee. So, ALL the glory goes to the meat. It was mindblowing! We all ate far more than we should have, followed by organic rhubarb and custard which was also delicious. I can highly recommend spending the extra to buy organic and better yet biodynamic meats. Nom nom nom.
I am tired. Exhausted, pooped, weary (my Papa used to say he was weary – sorry, nostalgic moment 🙂 ), worn out, buggered, stuffed, knackered, all done in, fried, zonked, shattered. I am also elated, stoked, happy, pleased, proud, satisfied, contented, over the moon. It’s been a busy weekend.
Achievements this weekend include finishing the chook pen. Ok, so it’s not quite ready for them to move in but the fences are el completo, the door is up, although not yet lockable and the nesting boxes and perch are in. The nesting boxes are an upcycle job from junk existing left at the house. It was one of those shelves that are all boxed in (if that makes sense) so it’s been turned on its side, I’ve attached (ok, Martin attached) 2 bits of 2 by 4 to stick up in the air and after a large hole was drilled through, a piece of chopped down poplar branch was jammed in and drilled into place. Total cost? A few cents of electricity to run the drill and a few screws, non of which were actually bought for the job but lying around from previous jobs. It weighed a tonne so a bit of Egyptian engineering helped us manoeuvre it into place.
Martin also managed to get Trevor working again. He’s since mowed most of the grass flat again and made it worth while digging out the whipper snipper again too. The garden is looking a LOT neater and the snake risk is much lower. This has definitely been on the brain a lot of late as there is a snake road kill on the road into town that has had us both on the watch. Now that the grass is too short for them to hide in though we are both beginning to relax. Well, at least a little. Sadly, Trevor hit a stump and broke the belt that runs the mowing attachment. He can’t mow right at the moment but he’s earned his keep hauling a hole lot of crap and junk out of the creek. Sadly the fallen tree was a little too ambitious. Worth a try though.
I also got stuck into some planting. With the help of a few more loads of soil, the north and east sides of the chook pen are tyred in place (take THAT Mr Fox) and planted out too. There are a few tyres on the south side so, planted in anti clockwise order are: 3 tyres of marigolds, oregano, curry bush, thyme, rosemary, 2 with pyrethrum, curly leaf parsley, 2 more pyrethrum, then the rest either have sunflower seeds or sunflower seedlings planted. They will become chook food once ripe and hopefully a wonderful beneficial bugs only invite too (no shirt, no shoes, no service unless you’re a beneficial bug 😛 ).
I also planted out another of my no dig beds. This one is currently half full of purple sprouting broccoli seedlings. I will add some other brassicas in there too to fill up the bed. Only one more to plant out now, the second tomato and capsicum bed. I’ll also be planting some more marigolds in there as they are of assistance to tomato plants from what I’ve read. The tomatoes all got a water with Epsom Salts too. It’s supposed to be liquid gold for marties. We will see how they like it.
The mulberry tree is absolutely covered in fruit too. I am most impressed and will be planting a LOT more of them (they’re water hungry which makes them a good replacement tree for the silver poplars and they can be harvested for us to eat (and thoroughly enjoy I might add) as well as providing food for the chooks with any fallen fruit.
The radishes are growing well and I may also have a few carrot seedlings coming up. It’s hard to tell at this point and they may well be radish seeds that got washed out of line. Time will tell.
Beans and spuds are doing very well too.
The kids have had a ball too. They’ve spent a good deal of time in various states of undress or swimming attire and playing in the half wine barrel of water. They’ve had bike washes (they had their balance bikes and rode them through their bike wash 🙂 ), baby wash (Orik seemed to enjoy it too), a couple of friends over to visit and a lot of running around and playing.
I also had the pleasure of meeting one of my blog readers today who is a resident (and a rather new but extremely knowledgeable one at that) of Ballan. I’ve come away relaxed after an hour off from the kids and working, well welcomed to Ballan by jelly slice and a simply divine hot chocolate from Michellez cafe (near the butchers) and feeling like I know some more people and things going on in the community. I was also introduced to some further locals and I feel very much more like a local now too. We discussed blogs too. Check out her blog here. The offers of help have absolutely blown us away too. Thank you so much!
Anyway, my brain is totally fried and I can no longer see to type so I’ll pick this up in the morning.
Slept like a log! Best nights sleep in ages. Can’t imagine why. 😉
So, what else happened on the weekend? Well, our chooks have been on the blink as far as laying eggs goes. I was pretty certain they had a hidden stash but I had been unable to find it. They haven’t been showing any signs of being broody – in fact I think they’ve all decided to be career chooks this year. If I’d seen signs of dedicated desire for motherhood I may well have sourced some eggs but alas it’s not played out that way yet. Anyway, on Saturday, through sheer luck I happened to be doing the egg hunt and just happened to see through the grass and spot an egg. I pulled away the grass then ran inside to get 2 egg cartons. I found 15 eggs! Yep, 15! Not a bad haul from 3 girls who probably lay ever 2nd day each. The best bit is they all passed the float test. 😀
I’ve also noticed that more of our ‘fwowers’ are coming up. The ‘sturshuns’ have popped their heads up, the ‘I yisten’ is well and truly up too. I’m hoping to move my seedlings up to Ballan this week as we are at the point I can begin to move up a LOT more boxes so I think we might end up doing a few more trips each week which will allow me to water the seedlings when I’m up there.
We’ve also decided upon names for the various areas of our property. Our house has been named, as has the chook house and the veggie garden. I’m sure the shed will earn itself a moniker once it’s built too but in the meantime, I’m off to go and make some signs for the chook shed and veggie garden. I’ll share details once they’re done and not before so no asking. 😉
Well, the morning has disappeared and it’s time for lunch. I have small people reminding me of this fact with increasing frequency. What is it about 4 year olds who are permanently hungry? Bread rising, yoghurt culturing, about to start souring a chocolate cake starter too to trial sourdough chocolate cake (it seems almost anything is possible with sourdough).
So, what did you all get up to on the weekend?
It’s been a busy day in the kitchen. Just the way I love to start my week too. I have 2 loaves of sourdough on the rise (modified recipe which I shall post if it works well), frozen blueberry and raspberry yoghurt ice-creams in the freezer for the kids, homemade ice-cream freezing, sprouted spelt wheat in the dehydrator, sourdough starter feeding, barm brack and gem scones in the oven, both made substituting homemade date paste instead of sugar, mashed potato with salami and cheese in Thermy for lunch, banana milkshakes, made and I’ve made date paste too. Thank goodness for my Thermomix is all I can say.
I love baking. I pretty much hate cooking, the traditional way with saucepans etc, although I don’t mind it so much with my Thermy and I dread the usual “that’s yuck” I get before even tasting from my
cheeky wonderful children. Dinner every night is a chore, and one which I must soon address too. 😦 Baking however, I can lose myself in. Even though the Thermy takes away most of the hard yakka kneading and stirring and most particularly so with bread, I still find I have to give it a hand knead or stir and then shape it in to the pan for baking. Bread making. It’s one of those old world jobs, performed in some form or variety, around the world and has been done for centuries. I feel a kin-ship with the women and men of ages past kneading and pummeling the dough with their floury hands. Inevitably Orik wakes and screams his head off right in the middle of the most floury part but apart from that it feels like my contribution to the art that is baking. And I am by no means an artist. I am merely a mimic of the greats. I may tweak and twist a recipe to suit my tastes and needs better but I lack that skill the greats have to recognise when I have created a masterpiece. I strive only to please the taste buds of my family and any friends who have inflicted upon them receive something from my kitchen. Apart from the healthful goodness of home baked and mostly organic bread, including the extra nutrients from freshly ground flour, the one thing that keeps me bread making on a near daily basis is the smell. In my huble opinion there really is nothing better than the aroma of freshly baked bread, piping hot from the oven, turned out of the pan to cool (except maybe the smell of that self same bread freshly toasted the next morning with a hot coffee;) ).
My house at the moment is bathed in the aroma of fresh gem scones, cooking barm brack, rising sourdough (it bakes in another hour or so) and the gentle aroma of harvest from the drying spelt.
What is your favourite thing to cook?