Friday, September 27, 2019

Mindful Milking

Last year I did an online program called Mindful in May. It was really good and well worth doing if you are new to mindfulness or would like more knowledge the subject.

One thing it taught me was the difference between meditation and mindfulness and that mindfulness is actually a form of meditation. It's about doing things (anything) mindfully. You can be mindful anywhere and anytime. You can be mindful while walking, having a cuppa, sitting in the garden, gardening etc. So in the past I used to think that milking for me was sometimes a meditative practice but it's not really true meditation because you do have to be aware of whats happening around you and you actually have to be physically doing something - milking the cow. I now call it mindful milking.

Now, you can't mindfully milk just any old cow. You don't want a fidgety cow, a cow that swishes her tail in your face, a cow that puts her foot in your bucket or one that tries to kick the bucket. You don't want one that poos or pees in the milking bale, you just want a nice quiet calm cow that you can lean your head against and just get into a nice smooth rhythm of milking......ahh so peaceful and relaxing and especially calming!

My view while mindfully milking.

I am currently milking two cows. Romano is an AIS X (Australian Illawarra Shorthorn) and is lovely and quiet, milks well (+10L per day), lets her milk down easily, stands quietly while being milked and is generally happy for me to mindfully milk. She is probably my favourite cow of all time. Although in saying that I have had many cows over the years that I remember very fondly.

Romano and her heifer calf

Then we have Fontina, a Jersey X. She is not my favourite cow and is quite a way down the list, and in fact almost the opposite to Romano. She's cranky, bossy and has been known to fidget, swish her tail and pee while being milked. And she doesn't always let her milk down, so I often have to let the calf have a suck for a bit to her to let it down. I then remove the calf and can get more milk. She can be so bossy and forthright that even my cowgirl daughter admitted to being a little scared of her!

Well, I have a funny little story from this mornings milking. I was mindfully milking Romano, and it was going very well as I was completely off with the fairies, until I was startled back to the real world by the pressure of a horn in the back of my neck. I let out a little yelp and Fontina got a bigger fright and backed off. Unbeknown to me, she had been standing right behind me and I think she may have been in a mindful state too, and you know how you totter a bit when you're in that state, well I think she must have tottered a little too and just given me a little nudge. She must have been there for a little while because I noticed afterwards that the back of my shirt was quite wet from her dribble.

Fontina after we were both startled out of mindfulness!

Actually as I write this, I can remember that her mother (lovely old thing that she was) used to stand up close behind me while I milked the other cows.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Farm Update

In typical Kim and Lucy House fashion, we have changed the plan! After finishing the free range pig business, we fully intended to go on a long road trip/holiday. We got as far as Canberra to visit the grandchild and then came home. Why....many reasons and too numerous to try and make sense of, but nevertheless, we came back to Baralaba and haven't left. Our life is a little complicated and the main reason for this is, that we actually don't "live" on our property Anabank anymore. I'm not going into the reason for this on this post, basically I feel I need to mention this as it makes it easier to talk about our farm life if you dear reader are aware of that fact. We continue to run cattle, goats and sheep (and a few other odds and ends) on the property and I had originally thought I wouldn't be able to keep a garden going, but I am going to give it a red hot try. Not living on the property was one of the reasons that we had planned on being away for so long, but things changed and at the moment we're staying put. We live on another property near by and just come over to Anabank to work the farm.

When we got back from our trip, which is only a bit more than a month ago, I immediately planted some things into the garden - not even knowing whether I would be around to harvest them. Since then I've gradually added a few more seedlings and have even planted some seeds into seedling pots while I continue to work on getting some ground ready to plant. It's been incredible to note how many seedlings are surviving, as my usual death rate is pretty high. Amazing what having the time to water often makes to the chances of survival. My usual, is to plant seedlings and then remember to water them a few days later!

Tomato plants, one starting to flower. Tomato seedling's planted a month ago and garlic coming up after planting a week ago. I thought it was too late for garlic, but I've got heaps and it's all shooting, so I thought I'd give it a go - I can always cut them as garlic leaks if it warms up too much for them to form heads.

Silverbeet and spinach seedlings planted a week ago and all still alive.

I've been doing some tidying up and planting out some plants that we'd had in pots as that was going to be easier to keep alive while we were away. We also found 4 banana suckers that needed to come off the main trunk as it's got a bunch on it and 2 other palms (?) that are too big to remove. We've planted these around the drain from the laundry and kitchen, although that doesn't see a lot of water these days, but it's a trench that we can fill when needed to keep them well watered.

Once the banana bunch stops forming, it's time to cut the flower off. I thought about cooking with it and I might, but there's a far bit of work involved in making it edible and I'm not really sure I'm that invested in the idea. It's not wasted if the chooks eat it, is it?

This bed had about 5 purple snake bean plants self seeded, so I've just tidied it up a bit and then decided to leave it unmulched until we see if anything else comes up - I think I see some little pansies. I also planted out Sam's pineapple and a galangal that have been in pots for ages.

The Farm

When we finished with the pigs, we pulled out their electric fencing, but still have quite a few ringlock paddocks, which we keep the sheep and the goats in. We did get rid of a lot of goats too, but some were too small to be saleable, or nannies too close to kidding. We've got lots of kids on the ground but only a few lambs. Just about every nanny had twins and we've only had one lot of twin poddies so thats been a good thing. Poddy goats are cute, but very annoying in the house yard.

And of course we still have cattle. We've only had half our annual rainfall in our running 12 month total, so things are not so good grass wise. We're doing okay as we've been lightly stocked for several years due to the long term dryer conditions, but we will have to keep selling off as we can. Being organic, there really is only one market and that's fats, so if we have to sell stores, these would most likely go into the conventional market, so hopefully we'll continue to get little bits of rain and the weather will continue to stay warmish and we might just make it through until the end of winter. We're very lucky that we have quite a bit of leauceana and this has responded reasonably well to the recent small falls of rain. The grass is browned off, but does have a green pick when you look into it.

We have chickens for eggs this time and not meat.

And yes, we got pigs again - only 4 for our own personal use.

All in all life for us is at a much slower pace than it used to be and I've enjoyed having the time to do more in the kitchen and the garden. My goal for the garden is to grow most of my own vegetables and that combined with our own dairy products, eggs and meat, makes me very happy.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Preserving - Drying

A few years ago, when my son was giving up smoking and just had the munchies constantly. He worked out that the best two foods to eat when he had cravings was jerky and dried mango. That was my first attempt at making jerky and he went out and shot a roo for us to make roo jerky. Recently I've had another friend giving up so I made a batch of beef jerky. Only a small one, as I didn't have a lot of beef - topside is the best to use apparently. I marinated it in a mix of sauces (Worcestershire, soy and fish sauce) plus chilli, garlic and some dried veggie/herb seasoning.

Marinating the meat

drying the meat in my dehydrator


I mentioned my dried veggie seasoning in my last post. This is great to do when you have excess veg. I like to use whatever veg I have growing, or am not likely to use up, and will usually add some herbs from the garden as well. I've used kale, new guinea bean, snake beans, chilli, garlic, pumpkin, mooring, capsicum, celery, zucchini. Basically you want a nice tasty dried veggie stock powder that you can use to season meals or even just to make a simple cup of soup with either hot water or bone broth. I do this in the dehydrator, and yes, I know I should be sun drying, but I just haven't gotten around to that, and I do wonder how it would go as it's always so dusty around here. Sun drying would be the most environmental way of preserving foods.

Veggie stock powder

When we stayed in Daylseford, the Permie Love Shack had a lovely bouquet in a vase - a bouquet of Bay leaves. Meg said that I was welcome to take them if I wanted to, so I did. I put them in a bag and hung them until dry. I did the same in Canberra when I bought curry leaves (they come in a lot bigger portion than we needed). I hung them in a paper bag until dry. Herbs are much easier to dry in bags and hang up than any other way. I like them in a bag as you don't lose any bits that would otherwise end up on the floor and the bag also keeps the dust out. Rosemary is one herb that I struggle to grow here, so whenever I get an opportunity to steal harvest someone else's, I dry it and then that gets processed into a powder. I think rosemary is one herb that doesn't spoil by drying, it seems to hold it's flavour well. Moringa is something you'll occasionally get from the markets (in the tropical regions) and this is considered a "super food" by some. I think it's fiddly to cook as it has really small leaves, so I've only ever dried it - this is best done in a bag.

I love to dry mushrooms when we get a bountiful wild crop. We only eat the common field mushroom and I must caution you, to make sure you know what you're doing when eating wild mushrooms. I know what we can eat and that's all I do eat. I got excited when we were away because I thought I'd found pine mushrooms, but after checking with a wild food facebook group they said not to eat them. I like to keep it safe. We walk around the paddocks having competitions to see who picks the most. Our mushrooms are usually very dirty so I get them home, brush them off and even wash some if they are really bad. I then place them gill side down on the dryer trays and because they aren't really fleshy like the bought ones, they dry pretty quickly. I do make sure they are VERY dry as I don't like moldy mushies! Then they are processed to a powder. Even after drying, there is often a bit of grit still in the mushrooms, but not nearly as much as when you cook them fresh.

Dried tomatoes are another favourite. I like to use the small ones for drying - just cut in half and if I think of it, I sprinkle with salt first. I fully dry them, rather than semi dried because that's how I like them. Also, you can keep jars full of dried tomatoes in the cupboard and then just marinate them as you want, which saves fridge space and they last longer.

My method for marinating is this:
Place the dried tomatoes in a bowl, then cover with a mix of half hot water and half vinegar. Allow to soak until cool. Drain off the liquid and add chopped herbs and garlic. Toss around and then place into a jar with olive oil. A trick I've discovered is to add a little sunflower oil with the olive oil and this prevents it from going cloudy in the fridge - you only need a tablespoon or two of sunflower oil. I know that sunflower oil is a seed oil but at least it's not genetically modified and I also think it's okay because it was a traditional oil (of the American Indians).

When you grow New Guinea Beans, Snake Beans or Zucchini, you will often have an abundance! These veg are best preserved by drying. Dried and packed into jars they will keep for a very long time in the pantry. The last lot of New Guinea Beans we did, we sprinkled salt on them and they were a nice little beer snack.

A little while ago I made Gomasio with foraged seaweed - I need another trip to the beach as I've eaten all this one. I posted about it here.

I did hang this to dry and it only took a couple of days.

Mango is a delicious dried snack. Yes, I know, mango is delicious no matter what you do with it! We have one common mango tree, which is otherwise called a cooking mango - great for chutney but once dried, you can't tell the difference between a dry common mango and a dry bowen mango. I'll dry banana's too when I have a home grown bunch. You get a massive bunch and they all ripen at once, so freezing or drying is what I do. Mostly frozen as it's great for making nice cream. Most fruits can be dried - just slice about 1/2 cm thick and usually takes between 12 and 24 hours to dry.

I like drying as a storage/preservation method for a few reasons:

  1. drying reduces the volume so takes less room in storage
  2. dried foods keep in glass jars at room temperature
  3. not needing to freeze leaves more room for other things to go into the freezer
  4. if sun-drying, it's very eco friendly. 
What do you like to dry?

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Preserving Meat - Sausages

I love making sausages but haven't made too many for a long time as I haven't needed to. The only exception has been the couple of batches of Turkey Sausages I've made. The recipe I used for them was one that I adapted from a pork recipe in Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman. I would've liked to do one like this with our pork, but is was always a little tricky asking to get extra or new things done. I'll include my recipe below but there's a few things to remember when making fresh sausages.

  • aim for 20% fat ratio to meat
  • add seasonings before mincing the meat
  • when using the mincer, and add a little water if you need to get it to mince better
  • always sample a little bit first - this way you can adjust seasonings
  • use less salt and add more after tasting if you are concerned about the amount of salt

Test small samples for correct seasoning
My turkey sausages - before I learnt how to correctly twist them!

Turkey and Fennel Sausage (you could use pork or chicken for these)
  • 3kgs Turkey Meat
  • 500g Fat 
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds - toasted and ground
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
Cut the meat and fat up, mix the seasonings through and then mince. Fill the sausage skins. I like to leave my sausages for a day in the fridge before I package and freeze them.

The reason I mentioned above for not needing to make sausages often, was because our business Dawson Valley Freerange ensured that we had as many pork or beef sausages as we could want. We had three different butchers using the same recipe but they were all different and I think its all about the ratio of fat to meat. Each one probably had a different view or maybe because they used different type of salt. When measuring salt in a volume, be careful as all salts have different strengths and really should be measured in grams. Which is why I suggest to use less until you've done the taste test.

If you don't feel up to, or don't have the required equipment to making your own sausages, you could probably ask a butcher to make some up for you. They may require you to get a certain amount done at once - our original butcher liked to do a minimum of 10kgs, otherwise too much meat is lost in the process in their big machines.

Please be aware of what meat you are using - ours tasted good, as we had grass-fed/grass finished beef and proper free range pork. I know it's difficult to get both of these but you can only try. A lot of beef is sold as grass-fed, but often times it's been grain assisted. But, that's another whole blog post....

I was (not so) recently asked on my facebook page for our DVFR recipe, so I thought I'd share it here as well. 

DVFR Paleo Sausages
  • 10kg Pork or Beef (fat included)
  • 6 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons mince garlic (from the jar)
  • 1 tablespoon mixed dried herbs
  • 4 cups water
I have found in the past when killing our own beef, that we have two lots of trimming - one for lean mince and one for sausages. The 20% of fat is a rough guide and with beef it's fairly easy - all the hard to trim meat is the perfect fat ratio for sausages :). If you're worried about fat, don't be, it's the single biggest factor in having tasty (or not) sausages. Most of it is cooked out anyway.

A recent thing I saw was to emulsify (fine and quite smudged looking) some of the minced meat and then mix it in with some courser mince. I think it was about 50/50 or maybe 30/70. I've never tried it, but it may give a more "sausage" like texture, whereas our paleo snags were a little like a rissole sometimes. 

Good luck and please let me know how you get on - either making some yourself or getting a butcher to make them for you. I also am going to have a go at smoking some of our sausages, so I'll let you know how I get on when I do it.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Preserving Food

I love preserving food, especially if it's something I've grown myself. In the past (when I haven't had the time to grow too many vegetables or fruits) I've often bought excess so that I can preserve some. We are lucky in Queensland that we can grow something all through the year, but some things do only have a season and if we want to stretch that, then we need to preserve in some way.

Methods that I use include:

  • Drying - vegetables, fruits, meat (jerky), turmeric, wild mushrooms
  • Freezing - tomato products, broths, mango, banana, pineapple
  • Pickling in vinegar - beetroot, cucumbers, new guinea beans, chutneys and pickles.
  • Pickling in brine - cucumbers, beetroot, carrot, garlic
  • Fermenting - cabbage and other veg, cheese, yoghurt, turmeric (paste), garlic in honey, mustard
  • Water bath (either in vacola jars or regular jars) - brawn, fish, tomatoes.
  • Sauces - chili, tomato, mushroom
  • Jams - star fruit, rosella
  • Mead and fruit wines (I need to do more of this)
Mead - it was even sparkly and drinkable!

Tomatoes are probably the most common thing I like to preserve. I puree them and freeze in containers; I puree them and then cook them into a simple  passata sauce or pasta sauce and either freeze or water bath; dry them in the dehydrator to then preserve in oil with herbs (smaller tomatoes are used for this); tomato paste - the easiest method I've found so far is to do this in the thermomix. This recipe for tomato paste only made a small amount, so I just froze in small containers, but you could water bath them too. I also make a lot of tomato sauce (ketchup). I use my thermomix for small amounts (1kg) but if I can buy a box, I'll make up 6 litres and bottle them into wine bottles or other sauce bottles. This lasts for months in the pantry.

I pickle vegetables, both in vinegar and brine. Beetroot and cucumbers I do both methods, depending on how much time I have (I roast the beetroot first with both these methods, if I'm doing sliced beetroot). Carrot is yummy to have - just grate it and put it in a brine and ferment for a few days. And every year I make up a big batch of sauerkraut. Last year I did two cabbages, which has gotten me through to this year - with the addition of a couple of smaller batches of kimchi. My kimchi is not like a traditional Korean kimchi, it's really just a spicy mixed vegetable one, with fish sauce added!

Fermented Carrots 

Ingredients for Kale Kimchi - I would've added fish sauce and salt

After our trip to Melliodora, I learnt a simpler version of preserving fruit. I thought that you always needed to do a water bath after boiling up fruit in sugar water, but all their fruit is simply prepared by peeling/chopping etc, bringing to the boil in water and then placed into clean hot jars, leaving as little room for air as possible and then screwing the lid on tight - the lid sucks in and that's a sign that it's sealed correctly. 

This is 3 pears and 3 apples sliced, boiled and then bottled into the jar, no sugar, no water bath. Not sure how long it'll last because it'll be eaten before winter ends as we like it with our porridge. But I'll eat the Fruit and Nut Kimchi with our porridge first. 

This is a mix of apples, dates, brazil nuts and walnuts, with whey and salt added and then left to ferment for a few days. I forgot to take a photo when it was finished, but there was no visible liquid left and we had it with our porridge this morning (after scraping a little bit of mould off the top)

I also dry lots of things - herbs and vegetables mostly, but during mango season I dry (and freeze) a lot of mangoes. Dried vegies are great - I dry them really crispy and then process into a powder. This is used to add flavour to soups or stews. I often dry a mix of vegetables and then this is used as a stock powder. Herbs are easiest to dry in a cloth bag - just leave to hand somewhere airy. If I'm doing lemon grass, I cut it first, but most other herbs I just dry and then process finer in the thermomix.

We had so many snake beans so we dried some. I'll add these to a stew or soup.

And I haven't even started on some of the other things I like to preserve, like fish, dairy and meat.

Caerphilly cheese in the making - 8 litres of milk and this cheese will be over 1kg when ready.

We get fish from my brother-in-law and while it's not the most premium fish fresh, it goes pretty well as a preserved fish.

If you cover pate with enough melted butter, it will keep for a month or two.

Google is a wonderful tool if you want to know how to do any of these things. I've learnt from either an online search or from some other good cook books. One of these days I will put some more things on the recipe tab of this blog.

Nourishing Traditions - This book is amazing

Friday, June 14, 2019

Melliodora and the Permie Love Shack

Kim and I have recently visited Mick (our former farm employee) in Hepburn, Victoria. Mick is an amazing young bloke who came to work for us to find out more about free range pig farming and regenerative agriculture. He's a passionate environmentalist and was ready to go vegetarian due to his concerns about farming and it's damage to the environment. Coming to us, he learnt that there are people that farm in a way that can save us from environmental disaster and help to mitigate the damage from climate change. He left us to further his education and went on to learn about permaculture, before starting a journey travelling around Australia on a push bike learning about permaculture. After living and working within his values - his journey also included learning about yoga - he is now a yoga teacher and a permaculture teacher. The journey so far has taken him to Melliodora in Hepburn.

Melliodora is the property designed and built by David Holmgren and his partner Sue. You can read more about them here.  David is also the co-originator of Permaculture (along with Bill Mollison). Melliodora is 2 and 1/4 acres of food. Mostly fruit and vegetables but there are goats for milk and cheese and chickens for eggs and occasionally meat. It has been one of my goals to visit there and had always hoped that we'd be able to got to a PDC or even just a farm tour. So when Mick started working there, we that that it might be a good opportunity to visit, especially as we were in Canberra and only a days drive away.

We arrived at our airbnb in Daylsford just on dusk. It had rained all the way from Canberra and as we were unpacking the car it actually started snowing. I really wish I'd taken more photos!

Our airbnb hosts were Meg and Patrick from Artist as Family. The Permie Love Shack that we stayed in was very quaint, although lacking a kitchen was a little disappointing (as you know, we like to prepare our own food when travelling). This tiny house was positioned in the middle of their incredible permaculture garden. It does have a composting toilet so may not suit every traveller. I learnt a little about composting human manure here and while at Melliodora too. Once again, my photo taking let me down!

Human mane is a valuable resource, which would have been utilised in the past, but is not considered highly today. It makes sense that our poo would be the perfect fertiliser for our food. It's such a wasted resource to just flush a rich potential fertiliser down the toilet and either into a septic tank or a sewage system - either way, there is no benefit gained.

Human mare can be safely used as fertiliser once it has been through a long compost process. It should then only be used on tree crops and not vegetable crops.

The toilets we used a both the Permie Love Shack and Melliodora did not smell at all. I remember when I was a kid we had thunder boxes (as we called them) but I don't recall dad turning that poo into compost. What a waste! I wonder what he did do with it? I'll have to ask him....

This is a squat toilet and the side where the board is, is the one in current use. The other side covered with newspaper is the full side that will sit there until it's composted or until the current side is full and it will need to go somewhere else to compost. This was a Melliodora, the Love Shack had a much more civilised looking toilet system! They had one for pee only, a sit down one, which was a bucket  half filled with sawdust to prevent smell and the other was a squat style toilet with a bigger reservoir, which you threw some sawdust after depositing your poo.

We went for a walk around the gardens at Melliodora - everything looked so healthy and there was just so much food in a small area.

We walked down the creek where the 3 goats spend their days undertaking blackberry control and doing a great job. Walking further, Mick showed us where hill and creek and been mined for gold many years ago. 

Kim and Mick walking to see an old mine shaft.

This "track" was created to run water on the level of the hill to assist with the sluicing of the gold.

Fires went through here early this year and it was an incredible effort made by Mick and David to save Melliodora!

I would love to have a cellar!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Travelling, foraging and local shopping

One thing I was looking forward to on our trip was trying some different local food sources, and maybe even do some foraging. There just seems to be so much more to forage once you get out of QLD, although I haven’t actually found or tried too much yet. I also haven’t found too much local food, but hopefully that will all change this weekend when we go to the Bungendore Farmers Markets. 

I’m a member of a facebook group “Edible weeds, wild food and foraging in Australia”. This group is amazing - both the knowledge and the willingness off the members to help out. I thought this one looked like it could be edible but after posting the photo was told what it was and that it was toxic. So always a good idea to check! 

Traveling through Rylsdale, we found some local free range eggs at the butchers. They were in a box labelled with caged eggs, but the lady assured me that they were definitely Chookie Charlies eggs and were free range - he just doesn’t bother with the extra expense of cartons! This was reinforced by the friendly tradie that stopped to chat while we drank our coffee on the footpath - I do think he just wanted to talk to Jack the Russell (our dog and the reason why we were outside the warm cafe in the cold of the footpath). It just shows that if you can trust the person you’re buying your food from, it doesn’t need to be certified free range, or organic. 

Same deal with roadside stalls - if the guy that grows the produce is there to tell you that of course it’s organic, you can tell when you taste it! And yes, you can tell when you taste it. We bought up fairly big at one stall between Kyogle and Scone (not sure exactly where it was). We bought some of the yummiest apples I’ve had for a while and picked the day before we bought them. Potatoes, kiwi fruit and tomatoes were added and then of course we had to buy some jam and chutney as well. 

The kilogram of tomatoes was half green and half red, so when I got to my sons house I decided to make a small batch of green tomato pickles. My mum has the best recipe for this, so after texting to ask for it, I got a text back with the recipe. I’ve tried many different recipes for green tomato pickles and none match my mothers. I cooked mine in the thermomix so it does look a little like a chutney. I had to reduce my recipe down a lot because I only had 320g green tomatoes and so had to do the math to reduce, and I’m not sure I did it correctly, but it does taste pretty good! I did put extra sugar in because I felt it needed it, so I’ll let you decide what to do if you have a go at the recipe.

This is the message I got from my sister: "Mums lost the scrap of paper that had the recipe on it, but these are the ingredients - 4lbs of tomatoes and 4 large onions, 1 litre of vinegar - 4 chilli's optional- 2 cups of brown/raw sugar(to taste), 2 tablespoons dry mustard, 2 tablespoons curry powder, salt. Mix all together, bring to boil, cook approx 30mins. May need some thickening with cornflour. Bottle as desired. Mum says add other stuff to taste."

This is what I did:

Green tomato pickles
320g green tomatoes
50g onion
65g vinegar
65g sugar
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon curry powder. I used half cumin half coriander and 1 turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
In the thermomix - 30 minutes 100 rev 4 - I did 30 minutes, but I would check after 20 if I did it again. Mine has a chutney texture rather than a pickle, but I quite like that.