We are pleased to announce the arrival…

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See, the egg does come…

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…Before the chicken.

…Of Star.

Blackie, our silkie hen who is, well, surprisingly black, started sitting eggs a few weeks ago. She didn’t like being moved to the smaller cage though and deserted her eggs. She wasn’t over the concept of motherhood though as she started sitting on the eggs left in the nest by other hens, and being curious as to how she would go, we left her to it. She sat on 2.

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Fast forward to today. It is 21 days later, not that we knew that this morning as I hadn’t marked down the date when she began to sit, so we’ve been having a peep under her soft breast once a day to see if we could get a gauge. I candled the eggs about 10 days back and was very excited to see they were both fertile and one even obliged by wriggling inside the egg. Imagine the excitement. ๐Ÿ˜€ Well this morning as I went out to the chooks to gather any eggs I could hear a curious noise. Peep. Peep. Peep peep. Peep. Clueless me thought it maybe beginning to hatch as I’d heard that they begin to make noise inside the egg just as they start hatching. Imagine my surprise upon gently lifting Blackie to find a completely dry and very fluffy, rather small black baby chick. Blackie gave me a withering look of, ’it’s already out silly’ and then graciously and with humble pride, allowed me to pick up and photograph her pride and joy. ๐Ÿ™‚

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I am pretty convinced the father is Black Boy our rather noisy and randy rooster (as opposed to the other rooster that was mature a few weeks back who is no less randy but not top cock like Black Boy) but in the bizarre twist that cannot occur with mammals, I am unsure as to who is the mother. Given the tiny size of the chick I suspect it might be Mrs Silverpants (now deceased) who laid it but it may also be one of our Henny Penny’s (Dorking hens) of which there are 3 standard coloured and 1 black one. I was sure Blackie was not the natural mother as I think she’s the hen laying the diminutive brown eggs of which we’ve seen none since she began to sit but who knows. There are 5 feasible mothers but Blackie has well and truly claimed Star (as named by Jasper) as her own.

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She’s making an excellent mother too. She’s now safely ensconced in the smaller enclosed pen to keep food and water safe from the other gutses and also to keep the baby safe from its less than caring relations, and after quickly shoveling down some food she is back snuggled down on Star and the other egg. I’m hoping for the second hatch today or tomorrow.

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Our first baby born here. ๐Ÿ™‚

IMG_6127Sorry for the over exposed photos but the day is rather overcast and the hen is black. Overexposure was the only way to make a black chick on a black hen in a dark location visible. Photographer I am not.

 

A harvest meal, real food, Freecycle and bartering.

We dispatched our first chicken last Sunday. One of our roosters has been limping for a few weeks and he hasn’t improved so the decision was made to end his misery, despite not having reached maturity or harvesting age. His end was as quick as we could make it with no prolonged suffering and he has been waiting in the fridge, resting until we were ready to cook him up. I decided to roast him, despite the lack of meat on his scrawny carcass and so he was roasted with some Chinese 5 spice rubbed into him, with plums inside the cavity and around, roast spuds and peas and corn.ย I wouldn’t say it was the best meal I’ve ever eaten, not by a long shot but it was tasty. The plums which I had bottled the other week were sour but the rest of the meal was good. The bones are now simmering on the stove to make stock (waste not want not) and I am feeling comfortable with our decision to raise our own meat.

 

Roast chook stuffed with plums, surrounded by crunchy spuds and more plums. Best looking meal I’ve ever made that’s for sure. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

I had a friend come visit today and we were talking about food. She jokingly asked what “real” food we had in the house, referring to conventional supermarket foods and we went to have a look in my fridge, freezer and pantry. What we found makes me beam with pride. There are a few condiments, vinegar and the like, frozen peas and corn and a few leftover berries, milk, a beer (home-brew is on the cards one day) and a few other bits and pieces. I am proud to say we make the gross majority of our food from raw ingredients. ๐Ÿ˜€ I don’t have an issue with buying things and I am sure I will in future but I love the fact that I can “damn the man” and make it myself. I just wish I could find a recipe for homemade Vegemite. Supporting Kraft, even as infrequently as one buys Vegemite sticks in my craw. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Who says you can't sleep the baby in the drawers? Yet another use for repurposing some old drawers into underbed storage - the kids can play in them :D

Who says you can’t sleep the baby in the drawers? Yet another use for repurposing some old drawers into underbed storage – the kids can play in them ๐Ÿ˜€

I love a good bargain but even more than that I love a free bargain! I mean who doesn’t? ๐Ÿ˜€ I love Freecycle for that reason. Freecycle is a place to list your unwanted goods or to put up a wanted ad if there is something you are after. You will not be offered things like a good car or the latest LED TV but people list unwanted books, furniture, unused garden items (gravel, plants, seeds), kitchen items and occasionally some pretty wonderful items too – I missed out on a knitting machine once which I sought for a friend (I already have one) – as well as the more commonplace. I’ve seen requests for glass jars, school uniforms, newspapers, yarn, and offers for kitchens (we listed our old one), topsoil, kindling, hot water units and more. Almost anything goes although different groups have different policies and those policies differ often around the placement of wanted or offering animals/pets.

The other day an offer came up for a 6 seater extendable dining table, something we have been after for quite some time. We have 5 of us crammed around a 4 seater table and Martin or I end up sitting on a folding chair as Orik’s high chair clips to a normal chair. I fired off a reply as soon as I saw the ad and was lucky enough to be offered the setting. The description wasn’t encouraging – laminate and timber – so I was expecting an old, possibly late 70’s early 80’s brown wood look laminate table and the matching vinyl chairs but needs must. I was jaw-droppingly surprised to discover we had just become the new owners of 6 lovely high backed chairs and a deep reddy-brown timber veneer extendable table with only a little damage. I am stoked! ๐Ÿ˜€ Freecycle, you RULE! We have some more stuff to list now, including our old table as well as some other unwanted items that are too good to throw out. If they don’t find homes on Freecycle then it’s off to the op shop.ย I love the idea of eBay, Freecycle, Gumtree and any other similar webpages, just like op shops, as they do one HUGE thing. They keep usable items from ending up in landfill. There is nothing wrong with our old table except its size but without a second hand market out there it’s a perfectly good and undamaged item that will sit there for all eternity (glass doesn’t decompose).

The excitement of lift off and pressure building int he pressure canner - first time I've used it and I "canned" chicken stock.

The excitement of lift off and pressure building int he pressure canner – first time I’ve used it and I “canned” chicken stock.

Another concept I love that I am just delving into which is fast becoming the new black, at least in my circles, is bartering. Swapping this for that. Offering your goods or services in exchange for other goods or services. Effectively buying things but without exchanging money. It’s fun and it’s challenging, just like op shopping. ๐Ÿ™‚ The challenge of locating what you need is far harder than just walking into a normal store and grabbing the item off the shelf. Now where is the challenge in that? I LOVE the thrill of the op shop hunt and the open mind that you must have too. You may not get exactly what you dreamed of but that’s the joy, the flexibility. ๐Ÿ˜€ Well, bartering is the next level up from that! Not only are you searching for what you want BUT you must have something to offer in exchange that the items owner wants. It all of a sudden becomes a dual challenge. You find yourself assessing your goods and services, what you can offer, afford to spare or are willing to give up. Recently I had made a wonderful barter swap with a fellow blogger and hippy Narf7 from Serendipity Farm in Northern Tasmania. Steve carves the most amazing and wonderful spoons from locally sourced timber, some even from their own farm and I have been gagging to get my hands on one of these amazing works of art. But what did I have that I could swap. Turns out I was rich in 2 things that Narf7 was after, sourdough starter and knowledge and kefir grains. We faced the potential problem of customs as Tasmania is pretty rigid regarding the importation of anything that could harm their beautiful island so seeds and plants are out (sorry Narf7, otherwise I’d split my mangel wurzel seeds 50/50 with you) but after discussing the issue with my local postmistress I was pretty sure it would be ok. I bundled up Audrey the sourdough starter into a couple of leak-proof layers and did the same with the offspring of Kiefer our kefir grains, threw in a handknitted dishcloth and some rye flour which I pulled out again. I figured it wouldn’t clear customs and rather than tempt fate it was better to leave it out. It arrived yesterday and both the kefir and starter as settling into their new homes. ๐Ÿ™‚ MY parcel arrived today. ๐Ÿ˜€ In exchange for my items I have received not 1 but 2 hand-carved spoons and some parsnip seeds (the ban on posting seeds only works one way ๐Ÿ™‚ ) To say that I am happy is a major understatement! I AM STOKED! My salt spoon is the sweetest cutest and most practical little spoon perfectly suited to its job. It now lives in the vintage ceramic salt cellar I purchased off eBay a while back, helping to spoon Himalayan salt into my cooking and baking. As or my second spoon, I am not sure what its purpose will be quite yet but rest assured it will be an honoured position. I feel very very proud to be the owner and recipient of not 1 but 2 of these gorgeous spoons.

My new celery top pine salt spoon. :D

My new celery top pine salt spoon. ๐Ÿ˜€

It's so little and cute and perfectly sized for its job.

It’s so little and cute and perfectly sized for its job.

My second piece of art.

My second piece of art.

 

LOVE how the spoon "bowl" sits proud f the handle. Your attention to detail and craftsmanship is amazing Steve.

LOVE how the spoon “bowl” sits proud f the handle. Your attention to detail and craftsmanship is amazing Steve.

Well, here’s hoping for an early night. I AM trying to get to bed before 10 and be up before 7. Truly!

Factory Farms

I saw the ad on tv last night. It made me cry, just as much as I cried the first time I saw it. I watched it again just now and again I cried. You can watch it here.

I am a meat eater and I am ok with that. However, more and more the cruelty of our meat industry tears at my heart. And more and more I can see that there really CAN be a world without factory farms.

Stop for a moment and think. What did our ancestors do? My mum was born on a farm in country NSW and I know they slaughtered their own meat. It was just too far to drive into town. Even after they moved into town they kept chickens for eggs and meat. My grandfather, her father, who was also raised on the farm would most definitely have eaten meat either raised by his father and older brothers (he was number 10 of 11) or at the very least, raised by his uncles. My father’s family were city folk but I reckon you wouldn’t need to go back too far to find backyard chickens raised for eggs and for a Sunday roast. It was just how it was done.

Nowadays, meat is something that comes in nearly bloodless form, definitely without skin or wool or hair, on an unenvironmentally friendly styrofoam tray, wrapped in plastic, already cut into convenient sized pieces depending upon our need. The offasl is also dealt with quietly and away from our sensitivities. We are so far removed from the sources of our meat that we can just about ignore the fact that an animal has died to provide it. And the fact that we have allowed factory farms to proliferate shows that we do in fact ignore the origins of our steak or roast.

In factory farms animals are packed in to very tightly combined spaces. How many can we squeeze in the maximise production? Think of that crowded elevator at 5pm on a stinking hot Friday as everyone is making their way home. Squashed in with other people, everyone perspiring and uncomfortable. Now stop that lift, wedge the door open a mere 20cm and place a bowl of food for you to eat. But it’s not the meal you are used to eating, just a bowl of oats (not rolled or processed oats like we usually eat in our porridge either) with no milk or sweetenener or flavour. And that meal is placed there every time. It’s not food we are designed to eat. Now, you need to use the toilet… I won’t go on, but this is pretty similar to the life of factory farmed animals. Unnatural foods (cows are supposed to eat grass, not corn and neither chickens nor pigs are vegetarian in nature – both eat insects for starters), pumped full of antibiotics to prevent infections that are being shared inย unsanitaryย and crowded conditions (think how cholera andย dysenteryย spread in concentration and refugee camps) and no natural light, just artificial lights kept low to conserve electricity or switched on and off at unnatural intervals to convince you to lay faster.

We are already low meat consumers. We would have a meal with meat in it maybe once every 10 days with the exception of ham. We do eat a bit of ham. Our egg consumption is pretty high although I buy free-range eggs (I have my suspicions on how free range free range eggs really are though) or from our own backyard, mostly organically raised, free-ranging grass accessing and hiding their nests hens. I have no intention nor the inclination to give up eating meat, a personal choice that I hope can be respected. Believe me, it is something I have thought about and it’s not just a non-choice of that’s how I’ve always done it. The true test will come. I also believe for optimum health that animal products are required in our diets unless you try to substitute with synthetic ingredients but I also completely respect those that choose white meat vegetarian, full vegetarian or vegan lifestyles. It is a totally personal choice and it gets my complete respect. One day, in the not too distant future I hope to be able to raise most of my own animal products. That way I can ensure that they live clean and healthy lives, enjoying room to roam and be the animal that they are. In the meantime though I do pledge to you all to start making a change to eating non-factory farmed meat.

I urge you to watch this film, I really do. And I urge you to think about what you can personally do to make factory farms an embarrassing part of our history, not of our present.

Caged eggs. Makes you think twice about that omelette.

Or that Parma down at the pub.

Steak? Hamburger? More like sardines.

Christmas ham? This image is rather close to home for me as a breastfeeding mother.