Saturday, November 21, 2015

Happy Days

Today was one of the days that I love having.....most of the time I was in the kitchen! Our three helpers helped me make some cheeses - Mozzarella, Halumi and I still have quark hanging in the kitchen to drain. We made home made pizza for lunch with the mozzarella - 5.5 litres of milk for enough cheese for three pizzas.

Pizza with our chorizo,and the fresh mozzarella

Three lovely helpers - Gina, Marlene and Klara

Quark - we have two German girls so wanted to show them how nice my quark is.

I made a Herman the German carrot cake, which we had with fresh cream that I got yesterday from my dairy cows. Yum. Sour dough bread is still in progress.

I have racked my pineapple wine, but will do it again tomorrow, as there is still a little bit of sediment. It's very strong! More of a spirit than a wine I think, so it might have to be drunk with soda water.

The afternoon found us outside where we killed 9 roosters. Fortunately I'd put dinner on in the oven before we went out. I didn't plan things very well, because dinner was a casserole of chicken thighs - with onion, garlic, dried mushrooms and then I topped it with some of my tomato pasta sauce than I preserved a while ago. I don't normally eat the same meat that we kill on the same day. The chicken liver pate can wait until tomorrow I think.  Usually if I don't do it straight away, it doesn't get done, but I will get it done tomorrow.....along with the peanut butter I didn't get done today. Cheese making is quite time consuming!

Chicken Dinner - I did top this with tomato sauce. Everything in it was either home grown or purchased locally. The more of a locavore I become, the harder it is to buy food from further away!

Dessert was a quick thermie icecream - fresh cream, banana and strawberries.......did I mention that it was a happy day!!!!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Photos - some of the reasons I live where I live

This is a little patch of scrub that was left standing when the remainder of the paddocks was cleared. I'm so grateful the previous owners left it. It's a lovely quiet spot!

These two photos are taken down the Anabranch. An anabranch is a branch off a river - where it comes out and then goes back into the river. This is permanent water. The tyre tube was left there in the last flood.

I love bauhinia trees (above). They are a native to this area. The photo on the left was taken at the end of winter when it loses alot of it's leaves and goes a lovely brown/autumny colour. Then the leaves turn green and we get beautiful flowers. The stock love to eat this tree and it's also a lovely shade tree.

Lime bush. It's very prickly when small and doesn't normally have fruit on it, although this year they did. The taller tree on the left is a normal mature tree. They've been loaded with lovely fruit. Normally we have a lot of fruit fly in them, but not this year.
My kombucha on the left and kefir on the right. Ginger and Bush lime.

I like to eat our own meat, milk, cheese, yoghurt.

And of course mushrooms come most years in spring rain. This is my mushroom and rosemary salt.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Attitude of gratitude

I've had several blog topics going through my mind and I've been taking photos that fit, but I just don't seem to be finding time to actually post anything! In between farm work growing and preparing food, and  no backpackers, I get to the stage that sleep is more important. Today I'm driving with Edmund to biggenden. Well I'm obviously not driving at present, I'm just the passenger. I thought I'd write today about gratitude because at the moment we are feeling very grateful for some lovely rain we've had, and that western Queensland also got some, as did a lot of other places.

It's incredible the change in how we feel and think when there's some green grass around. It's almost as if we have new lenses in our glasses. I don't suffer depression, thank goodness, but I do get down. I get down with the amount of work that we seem to continually have in front of us, I get down when I can't seem to find time to do the things I love (gardening, cooking, writing,reading) but when there's green grass around that "down ness" turns into anticipation - what can I do next?

I'm grateful for the rain, for making it green and for bringing mushrooms! For the last four days I've picked mushrooms, I've dried mushrooms, I've frozen mushrooms and we've eaten mushrooms. My latest last night was making some mushroom and rosemary salt.

I've also done a few other foodie things. This week we killed roosters and then I boned them out for freezing. It's bush lime season too, so I should be picking them to do something with them. In past years I used to make bush lime cordial but that has too much sugar so that's out. I have tried some kefir and kombucha flavoured with them. So far the kefir is good, but kombucha isn't as nice with citrus, so I'm not sure how it will go. Bush limes are beautiful things. They are tiny, less than 1cm in diameter, but look just like a tiny lime. This year there's been a bumper crop too. There's some in the pig paddocks and the pigs eat them as they fall to the ground.

Some days I just think how lucky I am to have all this food around me - especially when it's wild food and I don't have to do anything except pick it! I really do love living where I do and living they way I do. I'm so very grateful that Kim shares this passion with me. Or maybe he just puts up with it! The other day I was helping him feed pigs when I got distracted picking mushrooms. I saw him drive off and I thought " oh dear, he's got the s--ts and taken off and left me to finish it off." When I asked him where he went and was he cranky cos I was off foraging. His response was "how long have we been married?"

So I'm just grateful!

I will post some photos in the next day or so.....

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Intensive Farming

I'm currently reading my favourite book of all time - Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. A good point was brought up in it about CAFO's which is the American term for feedlots, but covers intensive piggeries and poultry farms as well.

The powers that be, would have you believe that we need to farm intensively to feed the world. While, it is probably correct that it is a more inexpensive way of feeding the world their protein, it really isn't necessary. I personally believe that the bigger issue with world starvation is political and not because of trouble with the production of food. If more regional centres were encouraged to develop their own local food economy, by growing and processing food locally, there would be less reliance on feedlots. For example, Rockhampton is our local centre (in Central Queensland) and we have two abattoirs that predominantly processes grassfed and finished beef and yet it is very difficult to buy any of that beef in Rockhampton butcher shops. (Or that is labelled as such)

Anyway, not to get into that argument now, needless to say, the general assumption is that we need to have intensively farmed animals as it is an efficient way of producing cheap protein. The following are three of the impacts or concerns that I have with intensive farming.

  1. The ethical treatment of animals - feedlots and sheds have animals confined in small spaces. Those animals in sheds see no sunlight but are protected from the elements of bad weather - feedlot cattle see plenty of sunlight, but also have to put up with the wet season, which will see them standing knee deep in mud! They are packed fairly tightly which is a breeding ground for pathogens so they need to be fed antibiotics - this is beneficial for two reasons - protection from disease and illness, and it also helps with weight gain. Animals were bred to live outdoors, that is why they have feather, fur or hair. They find their own protection from weather in woodlands.
  2. Pollution. Having this many animals in small places creates pollution. Run off from the farms effluent washes into water systems creating problems locally and eventually when it hits the oceans. In contrast, animals on pasture are cleaner, as their effluent enriches the soil. Most soils in Australia are low in fertility so encouraging good animal management on farms will improve soil fertility and therefore increase farm viability.
  3. Health. Animals raised on healthy pastures provide healthy food for humans. They have less chance of carrying pathogens and will have a higher vitamin and mineral content. Cattle and sheep are not designed to eat grain. Pigs and Poultry can eat grain, but they eat an awful lot of grass too. Not all grazing management is created equal though. To receive maximum benefit from the excess nutrients from the animals, pasture needs to be maintained in the paddocks. Bare paddocks are no better than a shed in terms of run-off. Where there is actively growing grass, it has the added benefit of storing carbon in the soil. (another topic for another post).
Which kind of farming do you want to see?

If you would like to read more about ethical Food and Farming, this is a great blog to read. Tammi Jones Food Ethics.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Busy Days

Wow, it's been a month since I've posted. So much for my self imposed goal to post something each day!! Life is just busy! I'm stealing  a little time now, waiting for Kim and Edmund to get back from unloading cattle. I've been showing our french backpackers how to make pasta - they've made the sauce (creamy prawns), and they've also made some "little pillows" which is a deep fried  pasta basically, sprinkled with sugar for desert. And smokos for the next week! Dinner is going to be a carb overload, but I suppose we don't do it very often so hopefully I'll survive!

So what have I been up to in the last month? Apart from working on the pig farm - less backpackers has meant a little more work for me, which makes life a tad busier. Office work, marketing, cleaning, cooking......still needs to be done. Fortunately I love cooking so I prioritize that (sometimes that's not such a good idea!)

I finally dug my turmeric and processed that. I peeled,boiled it and then sliced and dried it, before finally grinding it. My yield was not very good this year, so I don't think I'll have enough to last until next year.

I've dug my potatoes - I don't think I'll give up pigs to become a potato farmer! I can't remember how much money I spent on seed potatoes, but I only got about 5-7kgs so at a guess, they are about $5/kg. Not happy at all! Although they taste pretty damn good.

I have done quite a few other food things: the usual suspects  (weekly)like fetta, yoghurt, sourdough, herman the german friendship cake, and some other things like bacon (not smoked, just cured), halumi, beetroot relish, tomatoes preserved in vacola jars, tomato sauce (pasta sauce to freeze and "ketchup"), mulberry jam and passionfruit wine. The wine is umm....interesting. I'm hoping it will mature!

My garden is looking impressive! I spent some time today wipper snipping. The snakes have been plague proportion almost, and after seeing one in the garden, I think I need to tidy up. We've seen 4 browns and one tiapan, so you can't afford to have too much long grass around. I suppose when you have grain, you have mice and then you have snakes. I just wish they were the carpet snakes and not the deadly ones!

I'm eating spinach, silver beat, NZ spinach, tomatoes, eggplants, cabbage, pumpkin, pawpaw, potatoes, passionfruit and lots of herbs and I've planted more lettuce, spinach, beans, tomatoes and carrots.

Anyway, Kim has returned we've had dinner and surely it's now time to go to bed! I think that that's my favourite time of day.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


I sometimes worry that there's something wrong with me because I'm tired all the time! I've been pondering this and have decided that maybe it's just because I'm always doing something!
Last weekend was the markets and yesterday we had a 20 hour round trip delivering pigs to the abattoir and then driving to Kingaroy to pick up a new boar and a ram.

And because I like to cook I do things after dinner instead of sitting and watching TV!

Tonight I pickled some beetroot, bottled my kefir, bottled kombucha, cooked sausages and tomatoes for breakfast, put some sourdough in the bread machine, pickled a piece of belly pork for bacon.

Dinner tonight was pulled pork with homemade tortillas.

Ummmm, I feel tired just thinking of all that! Lucky for all of us that Tanya made a lemon meringue pie for desert. I don't do desert, but I ate it so that she didn't think I was rude! (Sorry no photos I'm on my phone tonight).

I think I'll enjoy my beauty sleep tonight!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Home Grown, Home Made and Foraged

The only problem with growing or making home made things or foraging, is the time it takes. I choose to make time because it's something that I really like to do. Usually it will taste better and it's healthier than any store bought alternatives. And the feeling of satisfaction that you get when you eat something that you've invested time and effort into creating is so incredible.

My garden is finally looking like a garden and is providing us with some of our vegetables. If it was only Kim and I, we would easily feed ourselves out of it, but having extras in the house (2 sons and usually 3 backpackers) means that I would need to quadruple my garden! At the moment we are eating spinach, silverbeet, kale, eggplant, cabbage, lettuce, rocket and various herbs. Okay, if it was just Kim and I, we would get sick of leafy greens! Tomatoes are not far away. And the asparagus gave a little spurt after the last rain, and the garlic and potatoes have a while to go yet.
Potatoes weren't covered originally,but the chooks have given them a touch up, so they are now protected and looking okay.

My rocket is going to seed - that seems to happen with rocket. The lettuce are too as the weather warms up.

We've just planted some perenial spinach amongst some kale and silverbeet. Not sure how it will go as we do get quite hot, but the bird cover might help with sun protection over the summer.

We did get about an inch of rain (25mm) over a week last week. It was lovely - you can water the garden all you like, but once you get rain it just explodes! The other thing we got was mushrooms. We only spent the one afternoon foraging, as there weren't as many mushrooms as we've had in past years, but we still got enough for breakfast and mushroom soup for lunch.

Mushrooms fried with kale, garlic tops and parsley.

You need to brush all the grit off the mushrooms. If we pick in damp weather, we often have to wash them, but they were dry so we just brushed. You do need to be careful when eating the mushrooms that you don't scrape the bottom of the pan, as there is always a little sand left!

My cows are producing lots of milk now, so I recently decided to have a go at making some fresh quark cheese to see how it would go in a cheesecake. Needless to say that it was delicious! I just did a very simple baked cheesecake and served it with some frozen berries that I cooked up into a Jus, and some fresh raw cream. I love my dairy cows!
From this to -

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Easter at Fortuna, Aramac

This year we spent Easter at Fortuna (this is my first chance to post about it!). Kim and I have always loved spending time out there - there's something about heading over the Great Dividing Range that creates a kind of peace for us! The closer we get the more it feels like we are going home. It's weird because neither of us is from the west, but we both feel the same. So many times we talked about selling up and heading out there, and just as many times we talked ourselves out of it! Mostly because of kids and education etc etc....

We arrived on Good Friday and returned back home on Tuesday. So it was a short and sweet visit. We were greeted by the blind kangaroo, who is now 9 years old - she would't have survived in the bush as long as this. Kim's brothers family have been saving animal for years and have roos that come and go, an emu (or two) that come and go and lots of other animals like echidnas and birds!

They have quite a few goats - this is where our nanny herd came from. They are a tough breed and make very good mothers. The dingoes are always a problem and so they come home to be locked in the yards each night.

We drove to Greyrock which I thought was the site of some aboriginal caves, but these are on another property and we'll have to do them on another trip. Greyrock is the site of the 3rd coach stop from Clermont to Aramac. There is one aboriginal carving as well as whiteman graffiti on this huge rock that dates back to the 1800's, and up until recent times. There were a few rocky remnants of the old pub, but nothing else.

Can you see the aboriginal painting in the picture above? There's a man and I think a child beside him. The right hand picture was the oldest date that I could find - 1898.

Then we drove around Horsetailers Gorge, which was where the coach horses were rested and swapped over for the next leg. Apparently there are aboriginal burial caves here, but no one has really explored them. The gorge was a good choice as it only had one way in and out.

Next stop was on the jump up (this is where the range country goes down to the downs country) where there is still visible signs of the stage coach track that was carved into the rock of the ridge.

Our trip back to Fortuna took us past Lake Dunne. This road has many fantastic sculptures.  These are made by a local lady and from a distance look so life like - they are life sized.

Sunset over the downs - looking out from the desert country to the downs. It's a big landscape out there.  What a nice way to finish a lovely few days.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Western Queensland

Kim and I just did a very quick trip out to Aramac. Kim's brother and his family own a property, Fortuna, out there and they are really starting to feel the effects of the drought. Most of western Queensland has been in drought for several years and there are a lot of people doing it very tough, with a lot of cattle being sold or moved off properties.

Fortuna is in what they call Desert Country. Out west, there is desert and then there is the Down's. The downs country is flat, black soil and almost treeless country. In good seasons it's highly productive fattening country and runs sheep as well as cattle. The desert country is tougher and more arid, and is really only suitable for cattle breeding, as it's not the best type of fattening country. However, when a drought hits, it's the desert country that hangs on you will often find graziers moving their cattle from the downs to desert to keep them going.

These photos were taken around the watering point, so there's no grass. There is grass out in the paddocks, but it's getting shorter! These are also younger cows and so they aren't in too bad condition.

There are quite a few people that have taken their cattle and are droving them along the stock route. They will do this until the drought breaks. Life is pretty tough out there at the moment for  a lot of grazing families.

Fortuna isn't too bad, but if they don't get rain this coming wet season, things will be pretty grim for them too.  Unfortunately they are now inundated with kangaroos, as they've moved up from the downs country. They are also having a lot of trouble with dingoes. They too have moved up because there are less roos and cattle on the downs now. The fairly large goat herd on Fortuna has been badly affected by the dingoes, so we brought a load in with us. We brought some young wethers as well as a few older nannies that won't make it through the drought. So our goat herd has grown!

Maitland got some leauceana so that we could give them a nice feed when we unloaded them. Some of our goats were keen to get to it too. Can you see the one on the roof and the other inside the car?

We spent Easter out at Fortuna and I had meant to post a bit of a story about that, so I'll do that in the next couple of days. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Sunday breakfast

Do you have any Sunday habits? Edmund started a habit of having pancakes for breakfast on a Sunday morning. He seems to be here when I'm not but when I've been here, there has been suttle pressure for me to continue it.

Our pancakes are more like pikelets and we usually serve them with a hot honey and butter sauce. When we have bananas, we have sliced banana, honey and butter sauce and then cream on top. Recently we made a chocolate sauce and have that with crushed nuts. That's pretty good too. I occasionally get inspired and make crepes but they are a little more work.

Tomorrow I'm mixing it up a bit and having crumpets. Sigrun showed me last weekend how easy they are, so I going to have a go. The sourdough mix has been mixed and will hopefully be nice and bubbly by morning. I wasn't sure what to serve them with but I think we can choose from honey, star fruit jam that I made yesterday or some coconut sugar syrup. This is so easy to make and I use it nowadays instead of maple syrup I figure that palm sugar comes from a country closer to us than Canada. You will find the recipe here. This is also really nice withe natural yoghurt. And yes I know it's sugar, but for an irregular thing I reckon it's okay.

What do you have for breakfast on a Sunday?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Friday Night

Laura and I cooked dinner tonight - Calamari, stir fry vegies and rice. A guy from Cairns (?) comes to Baralaba once a month and his calamari is some of the best I've had for years. For a long time the only calamari I've been able to get, is "squid hoods". This calamari is the real deal, it's frozen, and it's whole squid. Cleaning the squid is so worth it, to get nice calamari. I use a Vietnamese recipe that is just so good. Calamari needs to be marinated before cooking, and then cooking very fast. Tonight we marinated it in ginger, garlic, chilli, sugar (1 tspn) salt (1 tspn) and pepper. Then before cooking, you toss it in flour and then deep fry. I like to use lard (however, my lard is finished and I used macadamia oil tonight). And, sorry, no photo of the food.....I am not a food blogger!

The exciting part about the calamari we got from this fella, is that he's keen to swap meat (pork, beef or goat) for seafood! I love that kind of trading!!! 

So, the take home message from the above discussion, is that cooking with someone else means food that is twice as yummy, and trading home grown food for seafood, is part of the sustainable goal for me!

It's Friday night now and it's been quite a while since I've posted - almost two weeks and wow have they been busy! I've had a weekend at the markets in between and this is my weekend at home.

Last weekend (while in town for the markets) I did a sourdough workshop - an advanced one, learning how to make crumpets, croissants, scrolls and pancakes. It was so good - any time spent with fellow food enthusiasts is always good. And I think we'll have crumpets one day this weekend, they were my favourite I think, although...the scrolls were yummy the next day...and the croissants!!

Yesterday we killed some roosters, which is something we need to do more often. There are ducks still to do and more roosters that we need to catch yet. Our three backpackers were pretty keen to be involved in the process - their keenness may have had something to do with the crowing at 3am!

This chook plucker (below) is an incredible invention - Our kids bought us this - I wonder if you can buy an automatic invisterator! This thing makes plucking a dream, but we are a bit slow doing the rest. 

I like to break up the chickens into the parts (breasts, thighs etc) so that we can do different things with the chicken.I do keep a few whole, because roast chicken is so nice. 

Right now, Kim's watching footy and I'm sitting by the fire. Winter has come back again, so it's nice to have the fire going. I've got a pot of bone broth on it (we have a pot belly stove).  Soup for lunch tomorrow! We have soup about every second day these days. Although we need to eat salad every other day, because I have so much lettuce and rocket in the garden. My garden it delightful lately, but that will be another post, and I'll take some photos as stay tuned.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Last day of our holiday

All good things come to an end! Today has been an absolutely lovely day. The weather, while still abit cool is so much nicer than it's been all week, the sun is shining and that cold wind has disappeared. I'm sitting out on the deck enjoying the sun and the bird song.  There are quite a few different varieties and the odd crow can be heard as well. It's lovely, peaceful and relaxed.This will all change tomorrow. Will get an early start so that we can get through Brisbane before peak hour.

I couldn't live in the city, but I do love to visit it. We haven't eaten out very often, but we've had seafood a few times - prawns, bugs, oysters and fish.  We love seafood and don't get to have it very often and I'm happier to spend the money on good food to prepare at home rather than spend a lot more and get less. And sometimes I just think that I could do better cooking it myself than going out!

We discovered an artisanal baker not far from here, which makes the best sourdough I have ever tasted. My goal now is to make bread as good as that! Although I must admit that I don't normally eat much bread and the first loaf we bought we ate in a day......the second loaf lasted about half a day longer!

I found a little health shop a few days ago so stocked up on a few groceries that I can't get in Baralaba.  I also bought a neoflam saucepan.  I've been looking at these for some time but wasn't quite sure. They have a non stick coating but apparently are all good. I love my cast iron fry pans, but some of my stainless pots are starting to die.   Bought them when I first got married so thought I might upgrade slowly. The neoflam pot is also extremely light so I'm not too sure how it will go. Has anyone else tried them?

Anyway, we will travel home tomorrow and it'll be straight into work mode. We couldn't have gotten away without the help from our boys, who have been doing a great job managing everything, with the able assistance of some great backpackers.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Leaky weirs

So, finally I get to show and tell....... we have Peter Andrews standing in the Creek and looking up and down - he sees stuff that we don't!

No. 1 Weir: We started at a road crossing and this is just above where we are starting to see some erosion happening. We laid a large hollow log across the bed of the creek and then proceeded to fill it with sand - lucky it wasn't me on the end of the shovel, or it would have taken longer!

We then filled it in and under with smaller logs and drove in some wooden stakes on the bottom side of the log, with the it angled against the current, to anchor the log. We then laid some berry bush across and layered it with sand to hold it down.

We will get some rocks to place at the back (downside) to help hold the log. Peter says that we need to get grass growing on these straight away, so this one we planted para grass at the base, as there was a small puddle of water already there. He suggested Kikuyu for this type of thing, or if you are lucky enough to have them, Willow trees are best. Use these as the stakes as they should grow. Or just have some seedlings to plant in the pile.

No. 2 Weir: there was a log already in position, so we just put in another to form a V shape. This one we will still have to finish - we'll put sand and berry bush again on the tip of the V and some rocks.

No. 3 Weir: standing at No 2, we looked down the creek to see where the next one should be. To do this you look to see where the grass level changes. And the amazing thing is, when you walk to that spot (and No. 4 was the same) there just happens to be an old tree across the creek. Mother Nature is already trying to heal it, so we are just giving it a helping hand!the log below the white one was there originally.

We just kept laying logs across the creek and where they had a fork, we would place the fork into the standing tree to jam it in. These logs were found in the very nearby vicinity.

The next weir was just on the corner that you can see above.

Weir 4 we did much the same as the previous ones, logs across and anchored against the tree that was conveniently next to the creek and the one in the creek.

We used wire quite a bit in the building process, either to tie logs together like above, or to tie them to the living tree that happened to be handy.

Peter did suggest that with all our weirs and other works, the secret is to get grass growing on them. None of them were actually higher than the bank, just as high. The idea is to slow the water down and make it spread out into the bank. If we can get the dirt or sand to fill in around the logs and then get grass, and he suggested kikuyu, to grow, that will help hold it all together. 

I do have to confess, that we haven't actually finished them all off yet. We will before it rains....and then I'll take some final photos, as well as some after photos when it does rain.