An easy meal that I can grow all the ingredients for at home

In theory at least. I’ve not managed it quite yet but I know I can. Continue reading

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In preparation for Easter

Not quite figured out the connection between rabbits and eggs yet but we’ll get there.

Easter here is going to be an interesting affair. We heavily restrict sugar in our house as even the smallest amount causes incredible silliness and misbehaving in both Jasper and Allegra. For example, a 1/6th of a bounty bar and a single bakery biscuit each last week created an awful afternoon of two children who basically spent their time swinging from the rafters. Continue reading

Wild harvest

What better way to add to your pantry than to harvest something for free. But what about wild harvesting? Ok, I know the concept and I love it. It’s about harvesting from nature, not from other homesteaders, property owners or farmers but direct from Mother Nature, planted by her where she wills and grown by her hand entirely. That’s where, in my book, it gets a little scary.

When you’re harvesting from nature you need to KNOW what you’ re harvesting, not just pretty sure but because you haven’t planted the seeds yourself there is no manual or seed packet to remind you. Many plants are poisonous as are many mushrooms, some lethally ย so and taste is no indicator so seriously, KNOW WHAT YOU ARE HARVESTING!

In this instance I knew what I was harvesting. Several sources have confirmed it and even a cursory glance at google backed me up. I KNEW what I was doing in this instance but trust me, that will not make me confident. Even knowing and being sure and convinced and all the rest I was still nervous… Just in case. I had to make sure I’d done the necessary worrying before things went wrong just in case they do. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Yeah yeah, I’m a worry wart. ๐Ÿ˜›

I’ve taken these photos from Dr Google as I picked and cooked all of mine before realising I should maybe take some photos. Not the brightest spark in the fire, am I?

Pretty flowers, sadly no scent. When we cleaned up access to the creek we hacked off many of the lower branches and hence, most of the flowers and hence, most of the berries. Lesson learned. What the goats don’t eat, we will next year.

So this time we harvested our Hawthorns. Hawthorns are really beautiful trees. They have lovely green foliage, frothy white bunches of small flowers in Spring and in late Summer and early Autumn they are covered in bright red berries hanging in little clusters, not unlike a Barbie doll sized apple but in clusters like cherries. They are however, one of the most vicious trees I know. For those that are of Christian belief, this is the bush widely held to be the supplier of the branches woven into the crown of thorns. Some of the thorns are inches long! And the rotten things sting like billy-o if you’re unlucky enough to impale yourself on one. And if you’re seriously unlucky the tip will break off inside whatever unfortunate piece of flesh you stabbed yourself in. And if you are the unluckiest of the unlucky, you will react to whatever toxin is inside or on those thorns, causing the pain to increase 10 fold. When I stabbed myself I resorted to vicious methods to extract the 1mm long thorn tip embedded deeply in my hand as there was nothing short of amputation that could have possibly hurt more. Thankfully today we are victorious with zero casualties. Yay!

You really do NOT want to find out about one of these the hard way. Trust me!

So, whilst Orik slept, Jasper, Allegra and I, armed with out 15L stock pot (overkill in hindsight) headed out to the other side of the fence, keeping a wary eye out for any unwanted legless visitors (we saw none thankfully) and picked any of those lovely red berries we could find. Once we’d stripped every berry within arms reach and a few more besides we headed inside to remove leaves and stems. We ended up with 640g of berries. We’re following this recipe. I washed my haws as the berries are rightly known, threw them in Hermy the Thermy and gave them 60 mins/100*C/sp slow reverse. I did forget the mashing step but they kind of mashed up pretty well anyway. Martin picked up 1/2kg of white sugar on the way home last night. Normally this is something we never have. Sugar is refined, bleached and totally devoid of anything remotely resembling nutrition and it’s highly addictive but sadly, rapadura doesn’t really cut it for jam making. It’s different in many ways so on the odd occasion I can deal with a little sugar. I tipped my haws into the jelly bag to drain, gathering the liquid in a bowl underneath.

The liquid, around 640g (it works out similar in ml but the Thermy works only in grams) so in went all the sugar – 500g and on to 100/60 mins/sp 2. I checked for gelling. Nope, but close. 15 more minutes and I thought I had it. Into their sterilised jars, clear cellophane covers on and labels on the jars. I’ve checked them this morning now that they’re cool and a little later it will be off with the cellophane and back into Hermy the Thermy for about 30 minutes. No gel, just thick viscous sweet and delicious syrup. Bugger. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Well, you live and learn and I’ve always been a little premature on the gel front. Except for the lemon marmalade I made whilst on the phone to Ing a few years back. That stuff was nearly teeth breaking! I have it on good authority that it was delicious though but I cannot attest to that being truth. Who in their right mind eats lemon peel in any way shape or form. Any peel for that matter. Bleuch!

Well, when they’re done I’ll share a photo of my 3 finished jars. ๐Ÿ™‚

I would like to get into wild harvesting a lot more but I know I need to learn a lot more before I do. I would simply adore to be able to safely and confidently go mushrooming but I might stick to buying used mushroom compost for now or a grow your own kit. There’s too much at stake to play around with mushrooms. Or any wild harvest when you don’t have the knowledge to be honest. Still, it’s exciting to know that there is food just waiting to be discovered and picked. ๐Ÿ™‚

Fresh harvested lunch

Lunch was a simple affair here today. Salad, scrambled eggs and some fried polenta from the other night. Yum. The salad however deserves a YUM instead of just a yum. It was so full of flavour that if I had any doubts about the wisdom of growing our own then they are totally allayed by the taste of my lunch. The spinach was fresh, crisp and delicious. The rocket was actually so spicy it burned my tongue a little. The tomatoes, albeit very small, packed a punch well above their weight and the radishes burned my tongue quite badly. Whoo pepper! The only lacklustre vegetable was the capsicums but they weren’t bad.

The eggs were local harvest from Highland Heritage Farm and the olives in the salad were purchased through them too. In fact the only ingredients not organic, biodynamic or local were the milk in the scrambled eggs and the polenta. The salt was also Himalayan rock salt which I don’t create and nor is it local. But it IS good for you. ๐Ÿ™‚ The polenta came from Coles cornmeal from the pantry and the milk is just from the supermarket but all in all pretty good I reckon.

I have no photos to share as we scoffed the lot before I thought to take a picture. Sorry.

Our only ripening tomatoes so far are the Tommy toes but there are a few others on the bushes so if the frost holds off… I just need that first blush of colour please. Then I can pick and ripen them inside away from birdy beaks.

The mad scramble for lids, a hot day and procrastinating.

Let it be known… I am not the best at making decisions that bring together ALL the elements. Not my strongest area, not even remotely close to it actually. I’m not very good at planning things at all. I’m better at coming up with harebrained schemes or dreaming about things for ages but putting things into action with forethought and direction? Naaaa.

I decided Monday that I wanted to pressure can some chick peas. I stuck them in my stock pot to soak as I am following the instructions from this blogย and they soaked overnight. Yesterday morning I remembered that the forecast top temperature was 32C. Probably a little warm to have the stove on all day but not much I could do by then. I’ve ended up with 11 of the size #20 Fowlers Vacola jars (about 11 pints – the #20’s are pretty close to a pint and close enough for working out pressure and time ๐Ÿ™‚ ) ย but of course, whilst I’m filling up and putting on lids I discover that I’m 3 lids short. I’m just sooooo good at planning ahead. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ A mad scramble finds me 3 jars of which I can pilfer the lids and we’re good to go. Then I discover that the canner fits 9 jars, not all 11 so the remaining 2 are waiting to be pressure canned along with the 5 #31’s of pumpkin soup ingredients (the #31’s are 900ml and I pressure can them as quarts – again it’s close enough. Please note, NEVER puree the pumpkin soup before canning. It’s too thick to can safely, yet as partially cooked ingredients it is safe. ๐Ÿ™‚ ) I’ve followed my own pumpkin soup recipe but the canning information is here and also in my canner instruction manual. ๐Ÿ™‚ At least I had the lids and rings and clips all ready for the #31’s. ๐Ÿ™‚

So I now have 5 jars of pumpkin soup ingredients and 11 jars of chickpeas all cooling and settling and ready to go as convenience foods which I know all the ingredients. It’s exciting. ๐Ÿ™‚

Pumpkin and potato soup ingredients. If you blend it then it doesn't get hot enough int he middle to kill the bugs as it's too thick. So, open can (bottle), heat and puree in Thermy, with blender etc and serve. Easy peasy. :D

Pumpkin and potato soup ingredients. If you blend it then it doesn’t get hot enough int he middle to kill the bugs as it’s too thick. So, open can (bottle), heat and puree in Thermy, with blender etc and serve. Easy peasy. ๐Ÿ˜€

Chickpeas!

Chickpeas!

Chickpeas MUST be pressure canned. A Fowlers Vacola won’t process them at a high enough temperature to make them safe to eat as they are a low acid food. PLEASE be vigilant with this if you want to process your own foods. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now, if I am to be perfectly honest, I had no absolute need to can those chickpeas. They’ve been sitting snug and dry in their jars for several months and will happily sit there snug and dry for probably a lot more than several months more but the real reasons I wanted to can them was because I am having a ball canning things and I love seeing all the jars lined up nice and neatly in my pantry. I also love the convenience of grabbing a can from the cupboard and hey presto, dinner is served but as many cans are lined with plastic containing BPA and I have no idea just how many or which brands (this article states it’s as high as 92% of cans) I made the choice to avoid canned food as much as possible. Yes, that means my kids have not had the pleasure of canned spaghetti nor of baked beans very often (although they did the other night) but once I get some navy beans and tomatoes I can make my own tomato sauce (tomatoes have been ordered) ย and then my own baked beans. I can’t wait!

MUST get more lids and rings before then though. AND more jars. ๐Ÿ˜€

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.