Week 12

What’s in the garden, and hence, on the menu?

Our farm is on a multiple occupancy (been here for about fifteen years), that means that four families share our property, Wiccawood.   We each have a five acre block and then we have a 125 acres of communal land that we manage together.   We are neighbours and we care about each other.  We had our quarterly community meeting on Saturday so we gathered together at our place for a meeting and a meal.  I picked all these lovely veggies out of the garden and cooked them in a goat yogurt curry that was delicious.


This summer I planted a couple of pickling cucumber plants. They are fantastic for fermenting because they don’t get soggy.  I sliced them and put them in a jar of brine with a bay leaf, clove of garlic and some spices.  They sat on the bench and fermented for three days.  I think it’s one of my most successful ferments.


I am shocked at the tiny amount of mung beans that we harvested from each plant   Normally, we would consume about half a cup of mung beans a day.  So, Etienne planted a couple of patches of mung bean in December and now that the pods have turned black we have begun harvesting them.  The pods look so big but there are literally only a few mung beans in each one.  We would have to plant a paddock of mung beans to have enough for a year.  I have a new appreciation for the price of mung beans, which is $4.95 a kilo at bulk food.  How can they cost so little when they require so much space and produce so little.


What’s happening at the moment?

A quick recap and an update on the tooth situation: In January, my dentist (through the public dental clinic) said that I needed a false tooth.  She said that the waiting list for a public denture clinic is twelve months long so she said that I should get the denture made up privately and then she will remove the tooth through through the public system (in other words I pay for the false tooth but the tooth extraction will be free).

I called two private clinics and they both stated that they couldn’t possibly give me a ball-park figure for the cost of one tooth on a bridge.  They insisted I attend an appointment.  At the first clinic the dentist looked in my mouth for about one second then told me that the cost would be $1000.   I decided to haggle.  I pointed to my teeth and said “my dentist has informed me that due to lack of flossing, more of these bad boys are coming out in the next 10 years.  If you can give me a good deal on this one, I’ll come to you for all the others.”  I got $100 off!  I decided there was absolutely no need for me to attend an appointment at the other clinic to get a quote.  I called them again and gave them the chance to give me a quote over the phone.  They said no, so I’m getting the tooth through the first lot.

If it was a back tooth, I would simply get it pulled.  But the trauma of having one front tooth is very familiar to me.  One afternoon, when I was in Year 9, as my sister and I were riding our bikes home from school, when she suddenly cut in front of me as we passed through the service station near our school. (Yes, that is still my version of events Marg!)  My front tyre collided with her back tyre and down I went, face first onto the cement in the servo.  I scrambled to right myself and instinctively ran my tongue over my teeth feeling for damage.  Half of my top left tooth had snapped off.  Just to compound matters, I was not the sort of girl who took pride in her appearance in the usual ways ie. washing and styling of hair, exercising regularly, wearing deodorant etc.  I was slightly chubby, quite plain and my hair was regrettably drab.  So, minus half a front tooth, and I looked like one of the Beverley Hill-billies.  And that was my look for the weeks that it took to get a tooth repaired in 1987.

Anyway, it’s all organised now.  I keep having the same thought pop into my mind though-  NINE HUNDRED DOLLARS!  That’s a big hole in the budget.

Self-sufficiency pointers:

Firstly, it’s really important to be well set up before you begin.  There’s no point giving up the stress and worry of a job just to find yourself stressed and worried about having the things that you need to survive and thrive.  PREPARATION will help you to avoid stress and worry.  We’ve spent 15 years equipping ourselves with solar power, a tractor,  a zero turn, a brush-cutter, power tools, hand tools, solar hot water system, a wood fire stove, lots of wood, bees, bee hives, bee hive extraction equipment etc.  All these things make self-sufficiency in the Northern Rivers possible.  Etienne is great at making things, repairing things and recycling things but he can’t make a brush-cutter, and in this area, it’s an essential.

Secondly, flexibility is key.  Example 1: When things are not working in one way or another, it’s important to embrace change.  For example, Etienne and I are two people, with our own perspectives, who are both trying to run the farm in our own style.  This is a big issue.  In January, we tried to do everything together, and that led to quite a few arguments re. how jobs are being done, when they are being done, who is doing them etc  We kept getting bogged down in petty arguments. So end of February, we changed the program.  We decided that we would attempt a week on week off approach.  The person who was ‘on’ had to do all the animals, gardening, cooking and cleaning for the week.  The other person could help if they felt like it but they could also pursue creative activities, basket making, fishing etc. with no set responsibilities to distract them.  This approach ended in a volcanic eruption this week.  Of course it didn’t work!  We didn’t do anything together. When we tried to talk to each other, the person who was working felt annoyed (and a bit resentful) because they were busy.  And the person with loads of free time missed spending time with the other.  Unbelievable, but true!  So, what’s the new strategy?  Half of the week we work together and the other half will be week on, week off..  Voila! There is always a solution.

Example 2: In the garden, you need to be constantly looking for solutions to problems.  You might put up a fence and start a garden, then you discover that the fence is too low and the wallabies are getting in. You make the fence higher.   You discover that the bandicoots have started getting under the fence.  You put some tin around to prevent them.  The tin doesn’t prevent the rats getting in and eating your sweet potato.   Your crops are doing well and then they get infested with insects.  You are spray free so decide after years of fighting pests that you will build a green house to keep the pesky insects, rodents and marsupials out.  You think the green house will be your salvation. You plant heaps of things in the greenhouse and discover that a) some things are far to big to plant in a greenhouse ie cucumber, pumpkin, etc and b) there are no insects in the green house so the plants are not being pollinated and producing fruit!!!  Next thing you notice that  your crops are being attacked my mice and rats again and that they have chewed holes in the green house…. (Shall I go on?)  THAT, MY FRIEND, IS FARMING!!!  Needless to say, farming is about building knowledge about plants and strategies to grow them.  Most of this knowledge is learned through experience and talking with other farmers.

Thirdly, relax and go with the flow. Focus on the lesson, not the problem.  My false tooth is going to cost me $900.  I could be really upset about that because, consequently, our funds are probably going to run out before December.  But, I’m not upset.  C’est la vie.  That’s life and I accept it.  Instead of feeling frustrated, I’m appreciating the time that I have now.  Feeling frustrated is not going to change anything except the amount of happiness I am feeling right now.  Who knows what might happen between now and December anyway?

Fourthly, swallow your pride and learn to receive.  If someone offers you something, take it.  Perhaps you have something you can offer them.  Or, maybe one day they’ll be in a pickle and need you! Etienne is an expert at giving people a hand with no expectation of anything in return.  Consequently, when he does need a hand, there are lots of blokes happy to offer their help.

What’s missing in our lives???

I’m starving for the Arts.  This year my Arts consumption has consisted of reading, watching movies and volunteering at the Regional Art Gallery on Tuesdays.  But I miss the theatre because plays are my real passion.  Norpa (Northern Rivers Performing Arts) programs a great selection of plays, dance and other performance pieces (from Australia’s leading performance companies) throughout the year and I usually get attend three or four things each year.  But the tickets are expensive ($50-$60) so this year I’m on a severe diet.  My lovely mum gave me $500 for Christmas and I spent the last of it last Friday night going to see Peepshow by Circa at Norpa with Izzy and her friend, Sasha.  Izzy is into circus performances at the moment and this one was acrobatic with a youthful raunchy element to it so the girls loved it.

Circa is a Brisbane based company that perform nationally and internationally.  The cast consisted of three women and three men  performing scenes of acrobatics in which their individual ‘characters’ became known to the audience.  In this way the performance as a whole was kind of telling a story.  In keeping their performance cutting edge, they embraced the contemporary notion of  a wider range of sexual expression (much the same as we observed in the 2017 dance performance by the Australian Dance Company).   It was an enjoyable production that the audience appreciated with lots of gasps and applause.  Izzy and Sasha LOVED it.

Some thoughts:

Heard an interview on the radio – Sarah Williamson, an architect, was talking about how our environment (particularly our built environment) affects how we feel on an emotional level.  Research shows that we are constantly, sub-consciously responding to our environments.  That reminded me about how badly I needed to get out of the hospitals as soon as my daughters were born.  There are many women I know who couldn’t stand to be in the clinical environment of a hospital when birthing their children.  Current research into memory and learning, shows that long-term episodic memories are processed in a section of the brain that we also use for spacial recognition, and place recognition.  So every memory is connected to place.  These memories help to constitute our sense of identity.

Interesting fact: Multiple studies on recovery have shown that if you put patients recovering from operations in a room with a view of nature they will recover 30% more quickly than patients in a room with a view onto a brick wall.

It made me wonder how much of my relaxed sense of self this year can be attributed to being out here in this beautiful valley where I’m subconsciously responding to the natural beauty of the land.  Williamson finished the segment by explaining how you can make any place more pleasing no matter where it is.  You just need to be creative and work out how you can alter the space to suit you.

I’m going to do some ranting now so if you’re not up for it, abandon ship now….

I keep hearing the a new maxim: “Forget the past.  Let it go and move forward.”   On a personal and social level, I agree.  In certain situations, it is more constructive to forgive and forget past issues in order to move forward. For example, this could apply in difficult relationships with friends, family, workmates etc. Otherwise, we get stuck in the past. However, there has been some disturbing rhetoric in Western culture and politics the last few years proposing that as a global society we should forget the past and focus on the future in order to build a positive global society.  It kind of sounds appealing when you first hear it.  I’m worried, however, that the intention behind this push is not as altruistic as it first seems (I like to think of myself as skeptical not cynical) but rather that Western countries can continue to push their own agenda and not feel responsible for the predicament of developing countries.

I heard an Indian history professor on the radio one day saying that India had forgiven Britain for the enslavement of it’s people, for the murders and famines, and for stealing of all it’s wealth.  “We have forgiven,” he said, “however, we are very angry that Britain wants to forget.”  He said that in Britain today a student can pass through the entire education system and not learn about colonisation unless they choose history in their senior years.  British people of Indian descent are horrified that Britain has virtually wiped colonisation from the curriculum.  The British prided themselves on the fact that the sun never set on the British Empire and now that this fact invokes repulsive images of colonisation, they want everyone to conveniently forget it.

My worry is that it suits conservative Western governments to forget the past because the West benefited so much from colonisation.  In today’s global society, we all  know that we should attempt to make the world an equal playing field (ie I wouldn’t work for $1 a day because that would be f@#ked!  So why would I think that it is ok for someone in another country to earn $1 a day) just because they had the unfortunate bad luck to be born in the wrong county.  Conservative Western governments don’t want equality  because resources are finite.  One thing I find particularly disturbing is the system of giving developing countries foreign aid and yet the G20 meet regularly to discuss how to help each other to stay wealthy.  Did you know that the G20 account for 86% of the world economy.  Sound fair??? Why do we need to have a G20?? The point of the G20 is to preserve the status quo.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the World Bank.  You think it’s there to serve everyone ie everyone in the world.  Here’s an unbelievable fact for you.. the full official title of The World Bank is The World Bank for the Reconstruction and Development of Europe  (because, at one stage, Europe thought it was the world).  Need I go on?

Fifteen years ago, I read a book by Bob Ellis, in which he examined wealth and demographics in Australia.  He explained how the wealthy are getting richer but the working class are feeling squeezed with huge increases in the price of living but small increases in wages.  He noted the tendency of conservative Australian governments/ media/ power-brokers  to convince everyday Australians that it was the fault of the ‘burgeoning welfare system’ and illegal refugees rather than a financial system that favours the rich in terms of such things as tax evasion, legal and banking loopholes, inherited trusts, bonds, negative gearing etc. Now I can see that he was right.  It will be very difficult for my children to own their own house.  My parents paid their house off in a few years.  Yet, my children will need to secure a position in a mining company or they will have a forty year mortgage.

Ellis said “we now live in a global society and the biggest issue facing that society is the refugee crisis.”I thought he was mad.  What refugee crisis?  A few asylum seekers trying to reach Australian waters by boat?  I thought there were much bigger problems in the world: diseases, cancer,  climate change, nuclear waste, high housing prices etc. Of course he was right.  Politicians win elections when they talk about immigrants stealing our jobs and exploiting our welfare system.

Phew, rant over.  I would like to say that I feel better but I don’t.  My apologies for breaking my promise to keep politics out of the blog.

The big snake was behind the baby chicks cage again this week.





2 thoughts on “Week 12

  1. I love your blog updates Cathie because there’s always something new and surprising going on at your place. That snake – wow!! I’m also totally in awe of your homegrown vegies.

    Dental work is so expensive, isn’t it?! Sigh. I paid almost a grand a few years back to get my wisdom teeth removed (in two goes – bottom two then top two six months later). Great strategy to shop around before committing. I got a much better price for my second two wisdom teeth and regretted not having shopped around for the first two.

    Liked by 1 person

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