Friday, April 24, 2020

My thoughts on Covid-19

Before I start this blog post, I have to apologise to all the people that comment......I can't work out why, but I can't reply. I thought it was just that I was trying to reply on my phone, but I can't seem to reply on the laptop either.......so if anyone knows what I'm doing wrong let me know....I use blogger.

For a while now, I've been interested with the idea of "the village community". I've always "done" better when I've been part of a community - be it the school community when the kids were young, our farming community or the market community when I was doing them. I think it's a natural human emotion to want to belong to a community.

One thing they've found in two of the Blue Zones that I know anything about, is that community played a large part in people surviving into their 100's. Both Okinawa and Sardina list traditional diet and lifestyle and the community surrounding them as factors to longevity. Community in this sense means family, friends and the village community. Often several generations live under one roof. We currently have 2 generations under one roof - will that mean that we'll live a longer life!

So, if community is such a big factor in health and wellness, what is happening now that we are self isolating. Grand parents are being encouraged not to see grandchildren and vice versa.  Fortunately, thanks to technology, contact can be maintained, even if it doesn't include a hug! There is a growing sense of community amongst various facebook groups and this is also good for most of us, but the extreme extroverts are probably struggling! I find that the sort of groups I'm in or the pages I follow are trying to keep up more regular contact and a conversation happening, even if it is only online.

One solution I thought of for a slow coming out of isolation, is to try and stick to small community areas. For example, we live near Bungendore and most of the essential items we need are available there. We could set up "working hubs" so that office workers could work together but on their own work externally still. At least they would be working "with" people. If there happened to be a covid outbreak it could be monitored and traced back to where it started. If many people got it, then it could still be contained within that community.

The benefit of that would be that local shops and local producers are supported and people can start moving about within their community instead of being isolated. We're pretty lucky that there are five of us in this house and we go out each saturday to the local farmers market. Some people could be in a household of 1 or 2! That would be very lonely!

What will the other side of Covid-19 look like? People are learning or re-learning skills. Gardens are being planted. Chickens being bought. Bread being made. Parents are home-schooling. People are shopping at farmers markets or direct from farmers. No one is going out for coffee! People aren't travelling, planes aren't flying and cars not driving! So many things that Climate Change Activists have been campaigning for for a long time. We've been trying to get people to take a look at their lifestyles and make some of these changes. I'm not sure if there is any noticeable difference in carbon in the atmosphere - some say there is and some say not. But surely if we could keep it up, there would be changes!


We're aiming for self sufficiency with eggs. Having a grandchild around is also going to increase our resilience!


Supporting local producers - good for community resilience.

I also acknowledge that there has been a lot of economic damage done, but maybe we just need to change aspects of our industry and business world. One thing that has been highlighted is our reliance on imports (and exports). We don't make things in Australia any more, so we may have to re-skill some of our baristas to become factory workers. We have all the raw materials that we need to make most things, so maybe we need to start making our own things. Like toilet paper and packaging, basic things that we rely on buying from overseas.

We only need one of these stickers!

We certainly need to look at being a little more self sufficient - both at a Country level and a local level. Being more self sufficient and less reliant on imported products, will make us more resilient. I think we need to be careful that our self isolation does not destroy our sense of community and that we can continue to be involved in community while also maintaining sensible distancing efforts. We are also lucky in Australia that we seem to be keeping things under control with very few new cases, but I also think we need to be careful to move away from isolation slowly to prevent uncontrolled outbreaks.

So take care out there - keep a physical distance, but not an emotional distance.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

In the country - Wamboin NSW

We have finally moved out of Canberra. We've been about 2 weeks here and finally unpacked and fairly settled in. It was a bit of a rush in the end, as we wanted to get out of town before any lock down's occurred. We are so much happier out here and don't know how things would be if we'd stayed in Canberra. This house is large and has plenty of space for all of us.

My main focus after moving, was to get a veggie garden started. What I didn't realise was how hard it would be to get veg seedlings. I really wanted seedlings as the weather will cool down very quickly and we may not have time to get seeds up. I did eventually track some seedlings down - akin to finding things on the black market. Chickens still allude us! They are impossible to get. Who would've thought that it would take a pandemic to get people to start thinking about food security. Climate change needs to organise a new marketing campaign.

The seedlings are now planted and we've had a little rain, so hopefully they'll explode with growth - although I don't know how, it's so bloody cold already! We have a large orchard and garden area that has been neglected for a few years, so we just had to dig out some grass and plant and mulch. I even bought some cow manure! Never thought I'd have to buy that!

Not sure what all the trees are, but I'm sure we'll find out in time.

Lots of brassicas, some leeks, turnips and strawberries.


Snow peas and broad beans

I had made some wicking beds and planted up one with herbs and the other with silver beet and celery.  they are doing much better now that they can get more sunlight. Sunlight was a bit limited in the house in town. Luckily there were a few pots of herbs here and a lovely big rosemary plant so we've got a good supply of most herbs.
Foam box wicking beds


We've also inherited a pumpkin which has a few on it so that should keep us in pumpkins for a while. Trouble is I don't know how long I'll have before the vine is finished (from frost and cold) and there's still quite small ones on. The pumpkin vine area also had quite a few tomato bushes so each day Astrid and I go out to pick "marties" She doesn't like them but does like to pick and carry them home.

There is a pumpkin vine under there somewhere. I think the netting is to protect it from the rabbits or maybe the kangaroos.

The owners obviously love roses, as theres rose bushes everywhere.



It's autumn in Canberra and we're just starting to see the leaves changing. It's getting cooler, with this weekend being very windy and cold. We have 3 fire places in the house, so they've been getting lit most days. We may even get snow in winter......

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Foodie Updates

I've been enjoying going to a regular weekly farmers market since we've been in Canberra. We started  going to the EPIC Farmers Market, but it's not really a true farmers market. It has a few local stall holders, but mostly resellers. We've been going to the Bungendore Farmers Market, which is a lovely little market. Only a few stalls and one is a community stall, so has bits and pieces from other suppliers. Right now is quite a prime time for vegetables by the look of it, and the produce has been really good. It's also lovely to be able to talk to the person who grows my food!

The last two weeks we've been going to a pick your own apple orchard, which also sells other local veg and the yummiest apple ice-cream! I preserved a few jars of diced apple, which will go nicely with porridge once it gets cold enough, as well as making some apple scrap vinegar. Well I haven't made the vinegar, that's quite a lengthy process, but I currently have the peels and cores of the apples sitting in some sweetened water. It's 1-4 weeks for this first process and then I strain the liquid and keep fermenting the liquid for another few weeks or months until it becomes vinegar. I'm following this method from Milkwood. I also bought some rhubarb which I stewed with some apples - yum!





I'd bought a previous batch of rhubarb, which I added to some plums and apples to make some jam. We had bought some jam at the markets which was too sweet for us so at least this way I can reduce the amount of sugar and have jam more suitable to our liking.


With the purpose of meeting people, I've been trying to get involved with the Canberra City Farm. We originally went along to a workshop about what to plant now for winter growing, which then led to going along to a working bee. We are now paid up members and will probably go along to a few more things. It's a lovely example of urban farming, and includes allotments for individual gardeners, as well as some communal areas and some completely separate enterprises.

Working bee attendance has the side benefit of getting some lovely organic veg as a thank you. This included potatoes, tomatoes, parsley and zucchini this week. I made a batch of zucchini pickle using my mums green tomato pickle recipe which tastes pretty good. And way nicer than the pickles I bought from the markets the other day.



One of the worst parts about making these preserves etc, is that I've had to buy jars! I've got boxes of jars at home, but that's not much good to me. Fortunately the local Vinnies had a few so I've been able to recycle and reuse - much better than buying new jars, which also cost more.

Apart from preserves, I've been making sourdough bread very regularly, and wow, have I got it going good! Ever since I had the opportunity for a lesson from Katie from Twofold Bakehouse in Daylesford last year, I've been making really good bread, also the starter from Jonai Farms has been a help I think. Read more about Katie and the Twofold Bakehouse here.  We miss out on so much in regional Queensland. Fancy having a CSA bakery to subscribe to! There's a vegetable CSA here, but I really like going to the markets so we haven't signed up for it yet.

Sourdough crackers is another thing I've been playing around with. I made some really nice cheesy ones the other day, and then more recently, some sesame seed ones. Although I think I prefer my regular seedy crackers. But it is a good way to use up starter when you have too much, which tends to happen when I feed my starter and leave it too long for bread making and have to re-feed it. That's the other thing I always do now, and that's the float test for starter. I think some of my failures in the past have been from using a starter that has gone too far. It's far better to feed it again and use a more active starter then to make bread with it.


This is a 70% hydration loaf shown half way through the  folding/proving process.  It's a very sticky dough and as such difficult to handle, but makes good bread! 



Cheesy starter discard crackers. I adapted this recipe by adding grated cheese to it. 

All in all, the last month has meant I've enjoyed myself by having access to local food and by having the time to cook with it. I'm certainly spending plenty of time in the kitchen and as that's my "happy place", then I'm happy :) 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Canberra

Well, we've moved. Although at the moment we are living in house in a Canberra and not yet on a farm. Hopefully that will change very soon, but for the time being, it is what it is and we are just enjoying spending time with our gorgeous little grand daughter.

We're also enjoying being in town for a short while. Movies last night was a treat and then last weekend we went to the zoo. I used to have mixed feelings about zoos and enclosing animals, but this zoo is quite well done and basically some species have been lost in the wild and zoos do keep them alive. And it is good to see such beautiful animals!



When we left Anabank less than two weeks ago, a wet season had just started. We'd had just over 100mm then, but now it's close to 300mm. Amazing!! It's been incredible how fast things have changed and we aren't there to see it! Chloe has been sending lots of photos so we know what we're missing out on. The place has gone from one extreme to another, but then that's Australia, the land of flooding rains and droughts!



Kim and I have just started doing an online Permaculture Design Course, which we thought might give us something to do......although I'm struggling to find time to do some of the other things I want to do, like this blog and also finish of my recipe book, so I don't need to find more jobs! I'm nearly finished doing a recipe book that will just be a small ebook with some of my basic recipes. It's always been a dream of mine to write a recipe book and this is not my dream book, but just a starter to practice. I keep changing what my dream book will be like, so if you have any suggestions, don't hesitate to drop me a message.......that's something I'll be working on over the next twelve months I hope.

I know I've said it before, but I really want to post more often so hopefully I will.


Monday, January 6, 2020

Blog Birthday

I knew that I'd started this blog in January so I thought I'd go back and check how long ago it was. On the 3rd of January 2011, I wrote my first short blog.

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.

Not much has changed, although the next couple of posts talked about the fact that we were flood bound, so that has certainly changed. We are currently facing the worst dry period that we've ever had in the almost 30 years that we've owned this property.

This is one of my favourite photos and was taken during that flood. 

This makes me happy and sad! I haven't got anything like that in the garden at the moment!

Anyway, I'm still committed to blogging and also updating my Lucy's Kitchen Facebook page. I am still passionate about food and farming and still want to share what we do in the hope that it may inspire someone somewhere to make changes in their own lives and look for food that is grown nutritiously and by farmers who farm regeneratively. That may mean growing your own or buying it in, but either way you will benefit. I haven't grown to much lately in my garden, we've been away to much to keep anything alive in this heat. The first thing I'll do when we move south is get a veggie garden planted. 

Yes, we're moving, and hopefully by the end of January/early February.

At this stage we aren't actually sure where we're moving to, but it will be on a small acreage outside Canberra. Kim and I will continue to own Anabank, however we will be leasing it out for the next little while as we see how things go with our change. So I'll keep you all posted where we end up.

I wish you all a Happy New Year and may it be a wetter year than last year. 


Monday, December 2, 2019

Drought, cell grazing and Chooks.

Recently a friend said “this cell grazing doesn’t work, it doesn’t stop droughts” and he’s right on one point it doesn’t stop droughts, but it does work.  If cell grazing is done right it can put you in a better position when a dry period turns into a drought. I’m not sure where we’d be today without cell grazing and leauceana.

We are in drought and have halved our stocking rate. If we hadn’t been lucky enough to get some rain we probably wouldn’t have any cattle left at all. When you do cell grazing properly, you keep what’s called a grazing chart. You record cattle numbers in each paddock, and for how many days they are in each paddock. As well as this you record rainfall. The calculations you make show your rainfall use or water use efficiency. When you use the information and calculations correctly (monitor) it allows you to plan how to manage it. In a good season it shows you when you can increase numbers and in a dry season it shows you when to decrease. And as the season gets dryer, you just keep decreasing numbers.

So we’re lucky that we’ve had a few storms and we’re also lucky that we have leauceana. It is an amazing plant and really comes into its own when there’s storms around. It’s doesn’t look like it has much feed on it, but it’s enough for a small mob to go around and hopefully we’ll finish them off for when the meatworks open in January.


The leauceana doesn't have a lot of green left on it, but every shower of rain helps to keep it going.



We only have a small mob on the leauceana paddocks to eat the leaf before the heat burns it off!


We moved these cattle into this paddock. This end of the property did get a bit more rain.


The cattle are doing okay, just.


You can see the yellow colour of the grass - this paddock has managed to keep growing grass, because we removed the stock after a grazing. This is the only way that you can make the most of the small falls of rain that we do get.


We've had a lot of "pasture dieback" in our buffle grass country. This photo shows the dead buffle grass with weeds starting to grow. Weeds are an early succession plant and hopefully the next thing to grow will be pasture grasses - hopefully some natives might come back.


We have 3 dams on the place and they are dry or all but dry. Luckily we have an annabranch of the Dawson River running through our place. Although it too has almost stopped running as the river has gotten too low. 

We've started a rotation for our chooks too. Fortunately we can water this small area to give them good green grass. They were so happy to be moved the other day. We used to have one really big chook yard, however it was starting to fall down, so we thought we'd just divide it up with gates left over from our pig farming days. 





It's really hard to stay positive when you go out to the paddocks and it's so dry and when storms build up and they go around! Although I do wonder if they are mostly dry storms. I haven't heard that many people have had good rain. Well, looking at the positives, we still have some grass, the cattle are holding and we don't have bush fires anywhere near us. (touch wood)

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.