Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gardening in the Tropics

Where I live, it's somewhere between tropical and sub-tropical - that's in summer anyway. In winter I think we may be more like temperate - trouble is, it's a really short winter, so while it gets very cold (I'm talking Australia cold here, so no snow or anything too extreme!)it is for such a short period of time, that I can't really grow anything designed for the temperate regions, but it's too cold for tropical fruit and vegies. We don't have too many frosts, so I can get away with a bit.

Anyway, today I was going to talk about summer growing. In past years, I had decided that you just couldn't grow anything from about November through to February in the vegie garden. Well this year I'm changing that attitude! What we do need is lots of water and shade in some areas, some of the time! I'm just starting to have a little trouble with shield bugs, but apart from that I'm doing okay. We are currently eating:
Beans (snake beans) I've got climbing and bush beans flowering, but no fruit yet.
Warrigal Greens
Brazilian Spinach
Water Spinach
Amaranth - the leaves are cooked like spinach
Silver Beet
Basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme - my parsley is really struggling
Spring onions and chives
Perenial Capsicum
Cherry Tomatoes - romas and black krim still green
Asparagus - after the rain we had a few come up
Sweet Potato
Carrots - although I've just picked all my last ones and so have to wait for some more to get big enough!
Garlic - just starting to pull the last ones.
Strawberries - only the odd ones now.
Not ready yet, but will be over the next couple of months - banana, mango and custard apples are flowering, cassava, ruhbarb, pumpkin are also growing.
So I suppose I need to revise my idea of being able to grow food over the summer. I just have to remember to water, water and water....and try and battle the shield bugs!

Sunday, December 4, 2011


I just discovered that I made a huge error in my last blog - now corrected. Thanks Bill.....It's a good idea to eat foods that have as little pesticide and herbicide use as possible. Growing your own vegies is the best way to make sure of that!

I've also go to work this blog out. Aparently people can't comment, so I'll have a look at that asap.....

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Cost of Bad Food

Something that has bugged me for some time is when people talk about the cost of organic food. But, I would question "What is the cost of good health?" I firmly believe that you either pay now or pay later! There have been numerous bits of research on the ratios now and in the past as to the amount that is spent on food compared to health. As we spend less on food, we spend more on health. Our children are the first generation that are expected to live a shorter life than their parents! This is a sobering thought!

Organic food is more expensive (sometimes) than non-organic, but the quality is usually a lot better. Especially if you are buying from farmers markets or an organic delivery business - these guys know their suppliers and know that they are fair dinkum! Unfortunately now that the big Supermarkets are in on the act, the quality is not as good. Funnily enough, they are only in the organic industry as they know that the consumer wants it, but they don't always play by the right rules. They actively try and change the rules or at least bend them, and usually it's the poor old farmer that cops it! Then you have the corporate growers, who have profit as their only motive, and they will find ways to get around the regulations.

Profit is important, which is why we need to support our smaller growers - however they also care about other things, like animal health, soil health, sustainablity of both and the good health that their customers will get from eating good quality organic food.

Some ways to make it less expensive to buy organic:
- go to farmers markets
- start buying some organic products or products that use very few chemicals
- eat less - organic food is richer in nutrients so you need less (this may also improve your wasteline!)
- find out what is grown close to where you live and buy direct
- buy the raw materials and cook at home - this is a another topic altogether!!!

You don't need to buy food that is certified organic if you know who grew it and what they did to it! Get to know what is grown near you and talk to the farmer.....we are a friendly bunch!

Monday, November 7, 2011


We have finally killed our first pigs, so our Free Range Pasture Raised Pork Enterprise is officially official! It's early days yet, but we are really excited by the potential and so far have had some good comments about it. Juicy, tasty, no feed lot smell and the fat is divine! Well, I do agree on all those points, but then it's hard not to be biased when you have produced it yourself!

Recently our daughter brought out some left over roast pork - this was conventional pork that she had cooked a few days earlier. Our family don't believe in wasting food, so she brought it out for me to do something with. I cooked up a kind of stragonof thing, with fresh mushrooms (well, they were frozen ones that we collected previously), garlic and parsley (from the garden), onion and finished with some of my lovely fresh cream. I served it with pasta. Well the sauce was really nice, but I could not eat the pork! It really did not taste very good!
It's not much point eating it if it tastes that bad and I suppose it's not wasted when we have dogs!

It's a bit of a problem for us really, because we are getting to the stage that we can't eat conventional food. Have we become so accustomed to eating our own or other organic produce, that we can't stomach other foods. It's been a long time since I have "enjoyed" junk food, but to not even be able to buy the usual supermarket produce is another thing altogether! Oh well, I just suppose we have to convert all our friends and family into buying good quality and healthy food!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Free Range Pigs

We have just returned from a weekend workshop about starting a free range pig business. It was good, and we learnt a lot about pigs, but it was only necessary for us to do it because of the Intensive Pig Industry. We can run cattle or sheep or goats on our property, but to run pigs, we need to have a Certificate. It shouldn't be any different to cows, as we want to run them in paddocks and use the same grazing principles for them as we do for our cattle, but unfortunately, the "powers that be" don't think the same!
There is a code of practice that states that pigs should be allowed to act as pigs. The only way this can be done is to allow them to free range - not in a bare dirt paddock or a shed! And....I must add, that the supplementary feed should be placed in a trough, not just on the ground! Pigs do eat dirt (incidently not deliberately) as they like to dig in it, but they don't NEED to eat it.

Pigs eat a lot of grass and this will always be their first preference, so it's essential that they have free access to it! They also need to eat a grain supplement, which will include meat meal. Pigs are omnivores and so they do eat grain, grass and meat. Just like us - we need a balanced diet too! The big difference with us, is that we need to make sure that we don't eat too much of a good thing!

If you were to eat true pasture raised pork and conventional shedded pork in a blind taste test, you may think that the stronger flavoured pork is the free range. This is because one of them will have a "gamey" taste. True free range pork tastes fantastic (and simple) - it is not strong flavoured at all! The "gamey" flavour, which you will find is the shedded pork, is not a wild taste, but a taste of their own effluent! So, next time you want to try pork, PLEASE try a pasture raised or organic piece of pork to try and see if you can taste the difference!

Another story I must the workshop, we where in the paddock with some young gilts (females before they are mated) and were standing around in a circle talking. One gilt, who wouldn't allow us to pat her, came over and "sat" in on our conversation! About 6 of us humans were standing in a circle and she was sitting on her haunches  in the circle and just being "part" of the discussion. Pigs are very intelligent and should NOT be kept in pens in sheds.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Pig - using everything but the Oink!

Well, the title is misleading, but I like it, and one day, maybe I will........

We recently killed a pig and I decided to have my first crack at bacon, make some brawn and try some things that we don't normally eat. We had some of the liver, which we don't normally eat and I don't think we will bother again! It's a lot stronger than beef liver.

Today I had my first try of the brawn.....I will be doing that again! It's made from the head and the feet of the pig. I did half a head and two trotters - next time I would add more meatie stuff like the hocks or shoulder chops, but even as it is it's really good and it just set so perfectly. The addition of the trotters is to add the extra geletin that's needed to make it set and hold together. When I cooked the brawn I included both ears, but took them out before making the brawn. I wanted to try something with them, as I'd seen a recipe in a recipe book - Crispy Pigs Ears. The recipe didn't quite work, but it was very good.

The ears are sliced and then crumbed and fried and finished off in the oven. My crumbs didn't stick but the idea is good and I will be trying again to perfect it - just need to wait until we kill another pig. I served the ears with some wilted greens - shallots, asparagus, snowpeas and warrigal greens. Everything was home grown - well, the warrigal greens were picked out of the paddock. They are a native green vegetable and is used just like spinach. It grows on creek and river flats naturally, and is really nice. It's similar to spinach in that it should be cooked, although I have used it in pesto and salads without any dramas. I think you need to eat about 4 cups in one sitting to be a problem, so that's not likely!

If anyone wants the recipe for Brawn or Crispy Pigs Ears, you will have to ask for it. I will post a photo of my brawn as it looked really good!

The bacon was also really good! I didn't smoke it as I don't have a smoke house, it was just cured in the fridge for a couple of weeks and then I sliced it. So simple and I don't know why I haven't done it before. My brother just visited and brought me some home smoked ham and bacon, so I will enjoy comparing my bacon with his!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Spring is sprung and we have had some lovely rain! This also means mushroom time! I went out yesterday afternoon and collected about 1kg and then this morning another 1/2 kg for breakfast! Will go again this afternoon, and maybe for a couple of days, but as it warms up, they will finish up. Some people are a little concerned about eating wild mushrooms and rightly so. However we have been eating wild mushrooms for many years - I never even liked mushrooms until my husband brought home a hatful one time after we were first married. I'm in Central Queensland and I know I can eat these mushrooms, but if you live anywhere else, PLEASE check with someone who knows before you eat any wild mushrooms. The main thing to look for is pink to brown gills - if they are white under neath, don't even think about it. There are two types of mushrooms that I know of that are brown under - one you can eat and one you can't. If they are brown to goldie coloured on the top, and usually a little pointy, DO NOT eat these ones. The edible ones tend to be almost flat and white on top. Sometimes they can have a little colouring on top, but not too much.

If your mushrooms look like these, they should be pretty right. Last year we had heaps and I made mushroom soup, mushroom sauce, froze some and just generally we ate mushrooms for a week! I will dry some this time, as I think that might be better than freezing. They go very soft and mushie when frozen, but are great for soups and stews. I'll put some of my mushroom recipes on the Recipe Page.
Goodluck! And remember, don't touch them unless they are pinkie brown underneath and not gold on top!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Paddock to Plate

Tomorrow we are taking some ducks to Biloela to be processed (is that the right word?). Because our ducks were such prolific breeders, we've got more ducklings than we could eat, so we will get them professionally killed so that we can sell some. This will be our first paddock to plate experience, so it's a bit exciting. We've already asked around and have orders, but hopefully we will get to keep some! Although....I'm not sure whether we will get full value as I keep the feet for stock and the livers for pate when we do them ourselves. Maybe we'll have to keep the next lot just for us!

We are still in the process of getting the free range pig business off the ground, as there is so much red tape to go through. It bugs me that we have to get all sorts of approvals to have pigs and yet we don't intend managing them and their grazing any different than if they were cattle. Unfortunately the powers that be treat free range pigs the same as intensive shedded pigs. Doesn't make a lot of sense, but why should that surprise me!

The other hold up for us is getting the work done that needs to be done - fences and yards for the pigs. I'm busy with my day job and can't help much. We're thinking of getting backpackers or wwoofers to help out so that may make life easier. Who wouldn't want to come here and be part of our farm enterprise? It should be a novelty for most people I think, to have fresh cows milk, eggs, our own meat from ducks, pigs, cattle and soon we will have goat meat! We have 4 young ones - 2 males and 2 females. We will eat the males and then breed with the females - just to have some meat for ourselves, not to sell.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Blog problems!!!!

I have been trying to comment on the previous comment and for some stupid reason, I can't even comment on my own blog site.....sometimes I hate technology!!! Anyway, I had some witty, intelligent comment about fruit and veggies, which doesn't sound witty and intelligent when you try and put it in a comment about 10 times! So....this post is just to say....that if a teenage boy who has very rarely eaten veggies and another teenager that always has, says that green pawpaw is nice as a veggie, than it must be! Don't knock it until you try it!

Pawpaw - vegetable or fruit? Or both?

I've just discovered pawpaw as a veggie! I've made an Asian style pawpaw salad before, which is really nice, however cooking it as a vegetable is delicious. I've only used really green pawpaws for both. As a cooked vegetable it's very similar to parsnip in taste. I've tried it roasted as well as fried. It's really nice fried in butter with garlic and onion. If you have a tree, give it a try, you will be pleasantly surprised.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Preserved Fish

I had a profitable trip to Rockhampton today. I have this fantastic brother-in-law who loves fishing - I love fish, so it's great when we do some horsetrading (well I should say protein trading). Anyway, I am currently boiling up some trevally, which he assures me is very like tuna. I will then preserve the fish in oil - tomorrow morning. It's an Italian method of preserving fish - the fish (usually tuna) is boiled in very salty water, then drained and left to cool overnight. The fish is flaked and place in jars with some herbs, garlic, chilli and oil and put into a water bath for a period of time to seal the jars. I've done tuna before and it was so nice that I've been hoping for an opportunity to have another go. I've even bought myself some new fowlers vacola jars to do it properly! I can preserve it in brine also, so I may do a jar of that to see what it's like. I'll try and remember to post some photos of the finished product.

Pastured Chicken

I had an absolutely delicious roast chicken dinner the other night. It was raised by a friend, who has just started a pastured chicken business. His chickens are moved around his paddocks and grazed on fresh grass all the time. He's using a trailer for their housing - he locks them in each night. Then during the day they are let out - he uses portable netting so that they don't roam too far. It tasted so good and  I really hope that he can make a successful business out of it. He's just starting out and is selling them all locally - Central Queenland.

If anyone wants to know how to get hold of some, just leave a comment and I will put you in touch with him.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


I've just made some rosella jam. It would have to be my favourite jam as it's a nice mix of sweet and tart and it is also a lovely colour. I always grow rosellas and I suppose it's made easier by the fact that they grow very easily from seed - usually self sown. The first plant I planted was from some seeds that my Aunty Anne gave me (actually I think she gave them to Mum and I got some) and I haven't had to plant again. That would have to have been about 4 years ago when I first started my garden here.

Rosellas are an unusual plant - a type of hibiscus, and although not native to Australia, we have made them our own. The fruit is also supposed to aid in hypertension, so with jam that is delicious and the chance to reduce blood pressure, why wouldn't you grow them?  There isn't much better than rosella jam and cream on scones, bread or even toast - YUM! I've put my recipe on the recipe tab. The hardest thing about making this jam is the time it takes to peel the petals off the seed - although it's made easier if done while enjoying a glass of wine at the end of a day!!
Rosella Jam

Monday, May 2, 2011

Living the Dream

We had friends over last night for dinner. Well, they came for the afternoon as we were going to make cheese together. Normally we spend an afternoon gardening at either her place or mine and then we have dinner together. This is usually done during the footy season on a Sunday so that the men can sit and watch footy while we work up a sweat weeding or digging or something.

Yesterday I thought it might be fun to cook as we both enjoy cooking (and of course the associated eating). We made some Halumi and Ricotta. While this was happening we made some Duck Liver Pate to go with some fresh toasted bread. I had made some Quark earlier and so we tried that with my recently made Fermented Shredded Beetroot. My friend made the comment that I'm living the dream and in a way I suppose I am - although it would be better if I didn't work fulltime! It is great to have our own cows - for meat, milk, cream, cheese and butter. And my garden is starting to come along really well too. We had the above mentioned things for our antipasti course and then for mains we made a Prawn, rocket, roast pumpkin and cashew salad. (I didn't grow the prawns or the cashews!) Then for desert I had done some little baked custards with warm caramel served over the top - I can't think of the name of it, but it's a bit of a twist on a creme caramel and was quite nice. Anything with egg, cream, milk and vanilla beans has to be good doesn't it?

So yes, I am living the dream - well mine anyway. I love the fact that we are able to provide so much of our own food and then to be able to share it with friends and family is pretty special.

Monday, April 25, 2011


I've just been reading another blog and the subject was meat-less meals. I haven't done this yet, but I really don't think I need as much meat as I used to. ( I'm talking dinner time meals here). I keep saying that I'm going to have a try, but when you have your own meat, when you have never gone without meat/animal protein for the main meal, psychologically it's really hard to do. Also I think if you don't have meat, you need to have some sort of lentils or beans. I'm not organised enough to prepare them ahead of time. I do use tinned ones sometimes, but I really prefer to soak and cook my own legumes.

We have cut back on the amount of meat we eat, because we just don't need it. I think that's why I'm even considering trying a meatless meal sometime. I think the reason for this is because the meat we eat is either home grown or organic. This type of meat is more nutrient dense and therefore you just don't NEED to eat lots of it. So if you can't grow your own, the next best thing (as I've mentioned before) is to get to know a farmer and buy direct. Even if you only buy a quarter or half a beast, it will still be cheaper (by the kg) than if you were to buy it from the Butcher of the Supermarket.

If the farmer you appoach says he can't do it, suggest that if he gets it slaughtered and butchered in registered facilities, there isn't any problem. Most regional areas have slaughter yards and butchers that will do this. Good luck!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Food again

This blog is supposed to be all about the link between healthy farming and healthy food, but I seem to be concentrating more on the food a bit lately. My daughter is out again this weekend, so we are cooking again! Last night it was a very nice chicken pie. She wanted to make puff pastry, but we really didn't  have the time, so we made a Rough Puff Pastry, which was very nice, although not as flakey as puff pastry - used nearly as much butter though! The pie included cream from my cows, mushrooms from the freezer that we collected last year and some herbs from the garden. It's nice when at least some of it's home grown.

I made butter this morning. I'm now milking three cows, so have heaps of milk so it's worthwhile separating. It's lovely having so much milk available, but I just don't have the time to do enough with it. I would love to spend the Easter break making cheese but it's a bit hard on your own as there is so much stirring to do. I also have so many other jobs to catch up on while I'm not working. Boring things like book work! I also want to get into making some fermented products. I've made a pickled beetroot before, which was really good, so want to do that and also some fruit and nut kimchi. These are fermented using whey as a starter culture and are supposed to be VERY good for you. The older cultures around the world used fermentation as a way of preserving foods and most of the attempts I've made have been good. If it doesn't ferment properly you know it straight away, so there is no risk of eating something that's going to harm you.

You might think it a bit yuk, but we commonly eat a lot of fermented products - cheese, yoghurt, cultured butter, buttermilk are the obvious ones. I've been making my own yoghurt for quite some time now and find it hard to go back to store bought stuff. Anyway, my daughter has just discovered that I'm not doing my bookwork and is cracking the whip!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Duck again

I didn't mention the other day, but when you bone out the duck it's very important that you use all the bones to make a duck stock. Then you can do a yummy and quick lunch with the stock. It was quite cool today and I was feeling a bit miserable with a cold, so I decided to make soup. So easy.  Fry off some chopped onion, carrot and celery and brown slightly. Add some garlic (and because I had it, I dug some fresh turmeric) then some chopped tomatoes. Add the stock and cook for a bit before adding whatever vegies you can think of in the garden. I put in some comfrey (yes I know you aren't supposed to eat it!), brazil spinach and water spinach, grated squash and some herbs (parsely and chives). It was all very good and so healthy!

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Duck for Dinner tonight. This was one we grew out some time ago. We bought a dozen ducklings, grew them out, kept 3 ducks and a drake and put the rest in the freezer. The live ones don't seem to be doing too much at the moment - by that I mean that I don't think they are thinking about reproduction at all. The lady we got them from told us they were all musgovy ducks, but I'm a bit concerned that they may be musgovy crosses. If this is the case, they may not be fertile. Aparently some people believe that musgovy's aren't ducks, because when they cross with another duck breed they are mules. Meaning that they won't be able to breed. Although our ducks sped a lot of time in with the pigs (they like their wallow), so if they are stupid enough to lay their eggs in there, the pigs will more than likely find them and eat them. I am amazed how much grass the ducks eat. They are loving it at the moment, as the grass is all out in seed and they walk around eating the seed heads. They fly very well for such a big bird, and it is not unusual to see them sitting on the roof of our laundry watching us eat our breakfast!

The duck was a whole one, so we boned it out - my daughter is home again and wanting to experiment! If it was just the two of us, we would have had separate meals, but because there was the three of us, we did two courses. Started off with a duck breast salad and then had a duck casserole with potato mash. It was all very nice - two totally different ways to eat the duck, but both good. I've put the recipes on the Recipe Page. You can buy ducks occasionally - if having trouble, go to an Asian supermarket as they usually have them. Do try to get one that's been pasture raised. They are quite fatty, so if it's pasture raised it will be all good healthy fat!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Good Food

I have half my children out this weekend (2 out of 4). My daughter loves cooking, so of course I have to think of something "different" to cook with her. It's so good to cook with someone else - I'm not sure why, but it just seems to make cooking more fun and adventurous! So we cooked Pasta - I just did this two days ago, but because she had the leftovers for breakfast, we had to make it again. Pasta really is easy, especially since I worked out that for 4 people you only need 2 eggs and 200g flour and it really doesn't take very long. Of course a pasta machine (hand cranked) makes life a little easier. I had an organic chicken in the freezer (no, not home grown unfortunately) we jointed that and made a caserole (onion, mushrooms, garlic, tomato casata, beer) and then served it with fried squash and eggplant (from the garden) and capsicum. It was very nice!
I do like making pasta. It's not hard, just takes a little more time than opening a packet! But it could be almost a different food to dried pasta, and so worth while doing. And I do know that some people have a pasta machine in the back of their cupboard so......if you do.....  - give it a go! My pasta recipe is on the recipe page.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Health Benefits of Grass Fed Products

This is just a short and sweet blog......I go on a lot about grass fed meat and this link tells it much better than I could. So if you are interested in knowing more about why it's better this should help.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Our Western Diet

I've been on a journey of discovery over the last few years. Our food is killing us. When you look at people today and the health problems - obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, cancer......the list goes on and it is so depressing! More so because it is so unnecessary! These are all relatively modern problems - well the dramatic rise in the incidences is a modern problem. Primitive societies all over the world are gradually catching up due to the explosion of the western diet into their societies. Everyone wants a Macca's don't they? Aside from the obvious cause coming from the explosion in the fast food industry, there are other causes. Low-fat, good fats and bad fats, carbohydrates, protein and just good old nutrients. We are so aware of what's good and bad, health authorities have even changed the food pyramid to make it easier for why aren't we getting healthier instead of un-healthier! (I know that's not a word).
Nutrition is probably the problem. The scientists that come up with all these good and bad food ideas think that food is just nutrients! They want to take a good food apart to find out the nutrients and then they think that will work in isolation. A good diet is one that is well balanced, that has a mix of fruit, vegetables, grass fed meets, whole grains and of course good fats/oil, but most importantly is food that you have evolved to eat. (eg Eskimos, Kalahari Bushman, Aborigines all had different diets, but were good for them) We have not evolved to eat junk food! Maybe in 100 years, we will all cope with this diet, but should we want to do that?
I have recently begun to wonder if I’m gluten intolerant. I’m not really sure what it is, but if I go away and eat food from cafe’s or restaurants I get sick. I often think that it’s because I’ve started eating so much food that I’ve either grown myself or is organic, that when I eat conventional food, my body can’t cope. I’ve cut back on bread and this has helped but I don’t think it’s just gluten – is it our western diet! Everytime I go to a meeting/conference/workshop, you get the usual fair of white bread sandwiches and packaged cakes or biscuits. I just cannot eat this. I don’t even know why white bread is not a banned substance! We can’t buy raw milk because there’s a “health risk”. Isn’t there a greater known health risk with most of the packaged food that we buy in shops! I think I better stop on that note – will take it up again later........ 

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I have got so many eggs at the moment. The chooks are laying so well that we're having trouble eating all the eggs, although there is so much you can do with eggs. I'll have to do some baking on the weekend - like a big rich fruit cake - that will use about a dozen! I made an egg custard tonight for desert to go with an apple and pear crumble. I had some apples and pears getting past their best-by date and they certainly tasted nicer in a crumble than fresh! Because I'm trying to cut back on wheat, I made a gluten free crumble and was pretty pleased with the way it turned out.
Once you have your own chooks, you'll start thinking about what else you can do with eggs and honestly there are lots! We were away last weekend, so Sunday night dinner ended up being eggs, but the kind of eggs you would eat all the time if you could. Fried eggs - not the usual ones, this was a recipe I pinched (and altered a little) from Kylie Kwong and it really is worth trying. I've put this and a few others on the Recipe Page. They really are delicious and if you cook them in some grass fed lard, and serve with brown rice, it's all good! 
So what are some other ways to do eggs? Frittata, quiche, bacon and egg pie, mayonaise, ceasar salad, egg and potato salad (using homemade mayo of course - my daughter's favourite!), clafoutis, bread and butter pudding (use the scraps from some fancy sour dough bread - waste not want not). I won't put recipes up for all these, but if you want one, let me know.....
I have two flocks of chooks - 4 rhode island red hens, 1 rhode island rooster and 1 aussie game hen live in one large chook pen with 3 ducks and a drake. The chook pen is so overgrown with grass, that my daughter thinks I should put some sheep in there (she likes lamb). I also have a moveable chook dome in the vegie garden for 7 standard laying hens. As these get old, I will replace them with (hopefully) my own rhode island red chickens. I move the dome every couple of weeks, and the idea is that the shooks do the digging, mulching and ferilising before you plant the next garden bed. It's a great idea and works pretty well, although sometimes the grass is a little bit much. We grow big clumps of grass in CQ! But by the time they are finished I only have a little bit to dig out and then I just plant it out. I do add quite a bit of hay towards the end of their time in each bed. I'll take a photo in the next couple of days.
So think about keeping your own chooks and if they're in a moveable pen, all the better. Chooks, like every other farm animal, love eating grass, so if you can move their pen around the eggs will be so much more tastie and nutritious. Just be careful about letting them out, as they will end up on your back patio, or digging up your garden!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Grazing Management

I went out and helped Kim move the cattle yesterday. It was good, as I haven't been out in the paddock for a while. There is so much feed around after the rain and it all looks just fantastic. We practice a form of grazing management called cell grazing or time controlled grazing. It's based on the growth rate of the plant and the cattle graze the pasture when the grass is actively growing and therefore at it's most nutritious. The grass has more sugars at this time and therefore has more chlorophyll. Therefore it has a good balance of Omega 3's and Omega 6's. The cattle are only in each paddock for a short while and then moved to another paddock, before they eat the grass down too short. The paddock then has a long rest, giving the pasture a chance to re grow.

Apart from being more nutritious for the stock, this is also very beneficial to the environment, as it stores carbon. During the process of photosynthesis, the plant takes carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atomosphere, releases oxygen (O2)  back into the atmosphere and puts the carbon (C) into the soil, where an exchange process happens between the soil microbes and the plant roots. The microbes convert the nutrients in the soil into an available form for the plants to use. Cell grazing is ideal as it keeps the plant actively growing, thus photosynthesising.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

New Additions

Dixie had 8 piglets over the weekend, 4 boys and 4 girls. They are all very similar, except one that doesn't have a stripe over it's back. The pig breeds we have chosen are heritage breeds and are considered quite rare. It may seem strange, but by breeding them to eat, we can do our bit to preserve the breeds. We only have the one pair the same - the Boar and one Gilt are Berkshires. The idea is to get started this way and then as we build up, we can get more and breed the individual breeds. The Berkshires will be sold as pure breds for other breeders and the cross breeds will be sold for eating. So these piglets we have now will be the start of our Pasture raised pork business. I'll post some photos of them, they are very cute.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Eat food, not too much, mostly plants

The title of this Blog is the first sentence in a book I'm currently reading by Michael Pollen - "In Defence of Food". He wanted to write about the need to eat Food. It may seem strange, because we only eat food - right? Well, no some of what we eat is not food, it's "food-like substances". Food is grown and it is not grown in a packet. The "food" that most people eat on a regular basis is killing us. Most of the diseases today can be directly linked to the "food" that is eaten. Watching the news over the last couple of months, I've been horrified by the amount of overweight people (adults and children) that I've seen. I'm not a skinny thing by any stretch of the imagination, but neither am I overweight (well not much anyway!). The reason that I'm not skinny is that I LOVE food - and I eat too much of it. It's good food, but even good food needs to be eaten in moderation, which when it tastes really nice is hard! Taste - that's also something that real food has. When you compare a freshly cooked meal which includes really fresh garden vegetables, there is absolutely no comparison to the taste of Junk Food! Unfortunately junk food seems to be addictive and when you eat it regularly you actually don't notice that it's disgusting. I know this, because my children eat it too often! They won't be happy with me saying that, but they don't read my blog (much) so it doesn't matter. I am changing that mindset slowly and in fact have spent some fantastic times cooking real food with my kids.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


We moved Latesha closer to the house,  into a pen that has water laid on and a decent shelter and a floor above the ground if it rains. We thought that she may have been a little bit protective, as sows can be quite agressive if someone comes between her and her babies. Not Latesha. We loaded the 3 little pigs (sounds like a good title to a rhyme!) into a carry box on the quad and thought she'd either follow or we might have to lead her up with a bucket of feed. Well, she was so happy to be out and able to eat some fresh grass, roll in her favourite mud wallow, eat some more fresh grass, have another roll and just generally enjoy being unconfined for a little while. She obviously trusted us completely to look after her little ones. In the end, when we couldn't persaude her to follow us, even with us holding onto the piglets so that they would squeal, we left her and put the piglets in their new home. An hour or so later, she waddles up to the shed and you could almost understand her pig talk, mumbling "well, I suppose you better show me where they are". Have a look at the photos of them if you like.

Trust is an interesting thing when you consider it in relation to farm animals. Latesha trusted us to look after her piglets, which makes it a little uncomfortable to think about the fact that one day we will take them off her for good to wean them, and then eventually when they are big enough, we will take them away to be slaughtered. But, that is just part of eating meat. If we want to eat meat, we must kill the animal first. One of the advantages in raising meat like this, is that at least you know that they have been raised humanely and in a healthy environment. This is what farm friendly food is all about - healthy nutritious food, and where there is a connection between the farmer and the consumer. I like to know where my food has been grown and I think that the more people that want to know this too, then we will see a shift in the way food is grown and produced.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Life and Death

Our farm now has 3 new additions. Our beautiful Large Black has just had 3 piglets - 2 gilts (girls) and 1 boar. I will post some photos soon. She had 4, but one died at birth. This is a very small litter and so I was a little dissappointed. It may have been because she is a bit young. She escaped down the paddock to have them, so we've built a pen around her and set up water down there for her, luckily it's a nice shady spot. We will bring her back up and probably put her back with the others soon I think. We are a bit new to pig farming, so are learning as we go.

My daughter turned up over the weekend with her dogs, and a friends dog. We are now short two game/rhode island red cross chickens! I was so upset yesterday when I discovered it. We had left them locked in their cage while the dogs were here, but they managed to get the gate open. What really annoyed me, was that it was done mostly for sport. I couldn't find one of them, but one was virtually undamaged. I buried this one in the chook yard and planted a Jack Fruit Tree on top of it. They were ear marked for eating, but not by dogs - by me! They were about half grown and growing really well too.

One of the Rhode Island hens is sitting, but I don't think that she has a clue what she is doing! I found one chicken half hatched yesterday - and dead! I could have given up raising chickens yesterday, but I suppose that unfortunately life on a farm is all about life and death. Actually all food growing is. Everything we eat is living and must die for us to eat it. This applies to fruits, vegetables and meat products. It's all a cycle. What we must be aware of is, that it's important that nothing gets wasted in the process. Which is why I've planted the fruit tree on top of my dead chicken. As the chicken rots down, this will fertilise my tree and it will grow strong and healthy. It will also act as a reminder of my first attempt at chicken breeding and ...... that chicken pens need to be VERY dog proof.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chicken and Pork

There is such a huge taste difference between Pasture Raised Chicken and Pork and the conventional product that is available, that it could be considered a different meat product. I have read and heard different opinions - like you can't taste the difference or that people prefer the conventional product. The only comment I would make is that they must be too used to the conventional product. I think that conventionally raised chicken meat is very tasteless and has no texture - it's like a paste! Free range, pasture raised chicken will have more flavour and will be moist and juicy. Pasture raised Pork will also be juicer, however I think it actually tastes LESS porky, but more tasty than conventional pork. That may sound strange, but conventional pork is stronger flavoured and I believe that's probably due to the fact that they have to live in their own filth! Apart from the taste, the nutrient value of the meat is far superior with the pasture raised product. And if those reasons aren't enough to make you consider changing from conventional to pasture raised, think about the animal welfare issue. The animals are housed in sheds where they can't experience the sunshine and fresh air and to live the way nature intended. They love grass and it would surprise you how much grass chickens and pigs actually eat.

We rotate our pigs around and also let them out to graze around the house and sheds. At this stage we only have 4 sows and a boar, but when they start reproducing, we will install more paddocks so that they can be rotated, ensuring that they always have fresh grass to graze. We have one sow due to give birth in the next few weeks, so this will be the beginning of our Pork enterprise. These pigs are all heritage pigs and some of the breeds are quite rare. They are breeds that naturally free range well. Conventional Pork comes from pigs that have been bred to grow fast to ensure a quicker turnover for the producer. They are pink and therefore can't handle being raised free range very well, as they get sunburnt too easy. We have had them here and they do get a little sunburnt, but they usually rest under a shady tree in the heat of the day anyway. Our pigs are real characters! They all seem to have a unique personality and love a scratch and a bit of attention. They can also be a nuisance - you can't leave a houseyard gate open, or they head straight for the vegetable patch.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

More Mangoes

I made a lovely Mango Ice to go with homemade icecream last night for dinner. See the recipe on the recipe tab. I stole the recipe off Jamie Oliver after watching a bit of his show the other night. Served with the icecream, it was just really nice and very refreshing. The weather has been so hot the last couple of days, and no let up for a little longer yet.

Sorry, forgot to do a picture!

Monday, January 17, 2011


I am not going to say that I am sick of mangoes, but I am sick of cutting them up! We have had a bumper crop of mangoes this year off our single tree. Although I just wish it was a Bowen Mango tree rather than a common one. However, I've discovered that when you dry them, they are equally as good as the Bowens.
So most nights will find me cutting up a batch of mangoes to go into the food dryer, and of course I then have to suck on the seeds, so my teeth are constantly full of strings!!!!

Having so many mangoes and any other fruit you may grow that is seasonal, you notice that when you've got them, you've got lots. You eat them until you feel like you could go the rest of the year with out eating another. Wow, that's what seasonal eating is all about! When you go to the supermarket in winter and you can buy cherries, do you question where they come from? Some of our fruit and vegetables we can grow for most of the year somewhere in Australia, and while there is certainly food miles attached to these, I think we need to think seriously about buying something that is grown in another country, or that has spent months in cold storage. Apart from anything else, food that is in season will taste so much better than something that has been in cold storage. Funnily enough, it will taste like real food. The best way to start is to take a little bit of notice what grows when and where. You won't be able to buy local mangoes or bananas in Melbourne, and you won't be able to buy local cherries in Rockhampton. Once you start growing your own, you get a much better idea of what is seasonal and you will also taste the difference.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Flooding and Supermarkets

The floods are now finally easing, and life will gradually get back to normal for most people. My thoughts go to those in the Lockyear Valley though, our problems all pale into insignificance compared to them!!

I was talking to my brother recently and he said that there were two issues higlighted by the floods.
  1. Our reliance on road transport and transporting food across the country, and
  2. Our reliance on the supermarket.
He is so right on both counts and while we an't do a lot about the first part of the first one, we can certainly do a lot about the rest. Most regions in Ausralia (well, the coastal ones) have farms that can provide: dairy products, meat products, fruit, vegetables, wheat. Why aren't we directly accessing these or at least why aren't there more Farmers Markets. With the Bruce Highway cut in so many places, it shows how crazy the transport system is, as well as our marketing strategies. They truck Bananas from Cairns to Brisbane, so that they can then be sent half way back to Rockhampton to be sold at the supermarket.

We need to think about supporting our local farmers and working out how to buy direct. The consumer needs to start by asking for it and as I've said before, if there are customers, there will be suppliers. And, of course, the producers/suppliers need to stop worrying about how to do it and just start doing it. The term for this kind of buying is called Farmer Friendly purchasing. The consumer and the farmer just need to get to know each other. In Central Queensland alone, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Biloela and Emerald would be big enough centres to each support a Farmers Market. It would certainly be a bonus now as the supermarkets in those towns have shown some very serious food shortages.

It's a little ironic that when I think of the average city consumer, I think of the very same brother mentioned above, who use to go to the supermarket on his way home from work to buy the ingredients for that nights dinner. Anyone can change the way they source their food, they just have to WANT to. One of the impressions I got from the media during the flood crisis was that people were panic buying. I'm lucky, because I'm used to stocking up as I live in the bush, so I could cope for months - although it would get a bit boring! We got to the shops on Monday and bought some lovely stone fruit and some more vegies - these are things I can't grow. I didn't NEED food, but the variety is good. I'm as guilty as the next person for ignoring food miles, but really, we all just need to compromise a little and try and buy whatever we can locally and then treat ourselves to those luxuries from further away.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


I made the yummiest icecream last night. I usually make my own icecream and it's usually vanilla flavoured, but because we have so many mangoes I thought I'd make mango icecream. The mangoes are the common ones and are very stringy, so I wizzed them in the food processor first. I will put my ice cream recipe on the Recipe Tab. It's just so easy to make because I don't make a custard first - it's made with all raw ingredients, and of course with my icecream the only thing that I don't produce is the sweetener. I'll need to get bees won't I? Kim doesn't particularly agree with that idea! I don't know why.....but I'm sure it would be easier to make honey than grow and process sugar cane!

Friday, January 7, 2011


I weaned my two Aussie Game chickens yesterday. Took Mum back over to the main chook pen where she can get friendly with our Rhode Island Red Rooster Roger. She seems to be bossing the hens around, but Roger is sorting her out a bit. The chickens (see the photo tab) are a cross between these two so should be good eating. Knowing where your food comes from is an important part of a healthy diet. Chickens raised on pasture, as opposed to free range will be more nutritious and therefore tastier than any other chicken. I won't even compare them with caged or barn raised chickens! Unfortunately, sometimes free range just means that they have access to an exercise run - it's not all that different to what I imagine a prison yard would look like! Although this is so much more ethical than barn raised birds, at least they get sunshine and fresh air. There are people around growing out chickens in a rotational system on pasture - source them out and taste for yourself.  I have a chook dome in my garden, which I have my egg laying hens in. These hens are moved around and then the garden is planted on the area vacated. Then when those vegetables are finished, the chooks are moved back to clean up the bed, before planting again. I would like to have a simillar system in the paddock with meat chickens and also our pigs. A more substantial cage will be needed though, as my dome is made out of pvc and is very light.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


The majority of the beef we eat in Australia is finished on grain. By finished, I mean that at least for the last 100 days of its life, the animal is enclosed in a Feedlot and is fed a sole diet of grain. Cattle aren't designed to eat grain, they are grass foragers. I was at a workshop once, where there was also the manager of a Feedlot. The facilitator asked him, "what do you do with your sick cattle?" I hadn't really thought about it before this, but apparently it's someones job to ride the pens every day and take out any cattle that are sick. They are then given anitbiotics until they are well or they die - the ones that get well then enter the meat market. I'm not exactly sure what is the cause of this kind of sickness - is it the small confined pens, is it the grain feeding, or is is simply that none of it's natural to the animal. We as a society are eating this beef. Until we have a certified grass fed market we won't know whether we are buying a cocktail mix of chemicals and poor nutrition when we buy our conventional beef. If you are interested in your health, but also the welfare of the animal, it's really important to find grass fed beef (or any other meat product for that matter). It may not always be as tender as grain fed meat, but the flavour is so much better and it's so much better for you too. It's not even about buying organic meat, as long as it's diet is freerange and is based on good quality pastures, the meat will have the nutrtional value that it should have. Beef that is raised on green pastures will have a good balance of omega 3's and 6's. Grain fed meat is predominantly omega 6. The smaller butcher, CSA groups, organic buying services or getting to know a farmer may be all that is needed to find a source of pasture fed beef. Once the customers come, the product will be available.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


We are currently flood bound (as is a lot of Queensland), but a long way from needing food drops. I did a bit of a stocktake of what food I have, and apart from the meat, eggs and milk, which we have heaps of, my garden is producing pretty well. There is only two of us to feed so that helps. Normally it would be far to hot to grow many vegies at this time of year, but with having so much rain, the garden is going really well. I've got squash, zuchini, beans, tomatoes, cumumber, pumpkin, NZ Spinach (Warrigal Greens), Brazilian spinach, a few miserable lettuce that don't like so much rain, and then carrots coming on. I dug about 10 kg's of potatoes about a month ago, which we are still eating. The other day we picked a bunch of bananas and are now picking mangoes and passionfruit. We are still picking the odd paw paw too. So all in all we won't starve. The flood has highlighted the reliance on outstide souces of food and so we could all benefit from growing SOME of our own vegies - you don't need a big yard.

If I can work out how to use Blogger, I will add some pages to show recipes, photos and suggested books to read. If anyone can work out how to do that, it would be good. I think I'm a bit computer challenged at times.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Food Philosophy

The purpose of this blog is to share my food philosophy and to hopefully help people to understand better ways of farming, gardening, cooking and eating. I am confident that the leading cause of disease today is our food. We need to eat healthy nutritous food to lead healthy lives. One way to ensure that we are eating healthy food is to eat food that is produced without or with minimal chemicals. You either need to buy it or produce it yourself. I do produce a lot of our own food but I know that not everyone can. What I would like you to do though is to think about where the food you buy has come from. How was it produced? How far did it have to travel to your local shop? These are the two main questions you need to consider, however when you consider how it was produced, you need to think about so many things: organic, biodynamic, pasture fed, chemical free, hormone free, free range, and the list goes on. Hopefully through this blog you will get a better understanding of these two questions and can then make your own decisions. The food we grow on our farm at the moment includes: beef, chicken, duck, pork, vegetables, milk and eggs. We aren't self sufficient, and it would be difficult to be so as I enjoy cooking too much and need ingredients that I can't grow. I am passionate about food - from growing it, to cooking it, to eating it. I will share my adventures in these endeavours - from sharing recipes to just sharing my experiences.