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.Β 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. πŸ™‚

 

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. πŸ˜€ 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. 😦

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 πŸ˜€

I love a good bargain but even more than that I love a free bargain! I mean who doesn’t? πŸ˜€ 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! πŸ˜€ 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.Β 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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ˜€ 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. πŸ™‚ MY parcel arrived today. πŸ˜€ 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 πŸ™‚ ) 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. πŸ˜€

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!

Operation Homestead: Day 8 AKA Well that didn’t quite go to plan

Melbourne, in fact Victoria and probably most of the southern east coast of Australia had sensational weather last week. Sunny day after sunny day and Melbourne even achieved a top of 31 on Thursday. It’s only early spring and it’s one of the hottest early October days I can remember. It was hot enough to have a fair go at convincing climate change skeptics and hot enough to bring out the snakes. Today however? My car proudly announced in lights that it was a balmy 5 degrees Celcius. What happened to the other 26 degrees in 2 days? As today was Saturday it is needless to say we had big plans for house and garden.

We started the day off with our alarm clock aka Allegra waking us all up at 5:45am with a rousing rendition of “DADDY! DADDY! DADDY!” which was continued until said Daddy dragged his exhausted from the week at work backside out of bed to silence aforementioned alarm clock. As per usual, said alarm clock refused to be silenced and cheerfully announced “It’s sunny Daddy. Time to get up.” Orik, to my surprise, slept through this so I had the wonder of another 45 minutes of sleep snuggled up in ed with my littlest man. Daddy had the 2 older ones up. This has to be the first time EVER I have eagerly anticipated the start of daylight savings.Β After pancakes for breakfast we loaded everything needed into the car and headed off. Only 18 minutes later than planned. Nearly a miracle. πŸ˜€

First stop, Altona for several boxes of newspapers that I was given via a freecycle advert. Then on to Bacchus Marsh to get compost. Puzzlingly, our compost man was nowhere to be seen so after a few minutes looking around for him we shrugged the shoulders and hit the road again for Ballan.Β By this stage we are running about 45 minutes late. Go figure.

Upon arrival in Ballan we unload trailer, children, food supplies and tools and then Orik and I headed off to pick up a friend and head off to the Ballarat Community Gardens Local Produce Swap. As luck would have it, 2 baby boys needed feeding and by the time we hit the road again we were close to 90 minutes late. So, sadly we arrived just as people were leaving and going home. Still, I still managed to swap egg cartons, sourdough starter, strawberry jam and 2 different lots of pumpkin seeds and I came home with 2 different lots of marmalade, some fresh lettuce, preserved lemons, a dozen eggs,a pot of parsley and 4 pyrethrum plants. Best of all I made a new friend who is into breeding and raising Silver grey Dorking chickens, the same breed as our now 2-3 day old chicks. Yay! πŸ˜€

When I got back to the house I found my poor long suffering husband had been dealing with 2 preschoolers who were both having meltdowns. Jasper was wandering around in Daddy’s jumper but refused to wear his own jacket and Allegra was also refusing her jacket. It was also raining so it was preventing Martin from getting the nearly foot high grass mowed or the trampoline set up. Lunch seemed to settle the troops for about 30 minutes but sadly we ended up with 3 melting down about an hour later so called it a day.

Here’s hoping for a productive and warmer day tomorrow.

Operation Homestead: Days 3 and 4

Homesteading, I’ve decided, is a LOT harder than I thought. I never envisioned putting in the garden beds to be quite as hard as it actually is. So hard that I’ve put my neck out. 😦 I spent yesterday pretty much up close and personal with a wheat pack. My kids thought it was great. They had full free-ranging freedom! lol A trip to the osteopath has eased things up tremendously and another treatment is booked for Thursday. Here’s hoping I can wield a spade on Saturday.

Maxxie and the chickens mutually not caring about each others presence.

Anyway, I’m now on the mend and planning out our weekend. I’ve advertised our new house’s existing kitchen on Freecycle and that will be picked up on Sunday, and the carpets will be picked up probably during the week as well. The new kitchen is ready to be ordered – just awaiting the final quote which we should get tonight. It’s exciting times here.Β We also enjoyed the sunshine in the garden today and to my delight we had 3 chickens free ranging within a metre of our Maxxie cat who didn’t bat an eyelid! We can only hope that our Minnie cat does the same thing.

Allegra helping with the bigger seeds – the pumpkins

In anticipation of the gardens being ready and the warmer weather we seem to be having I started planting the seeds for the “plant after the last frost” plants. Many of them don’t like being transplanted, such as corn, pumpkins, sunflowers, beans, peas and zucchinis, but with the exception of the peas and beans, I can get them all started growing in newspaper pots which can be planted straight into the garden, pots and all. It gives me a head start on the growing season which I am realising will be shorter than what I am used to in Melbourne. The difference between a temperate Melbourne climate and the it’s around 500m above sea level cold climate Ballan I guess.

Anyway, time for the wheat pack and a nice hot chocolate here now that peace finally reigns (children are all finally in bed).