What’s in the garden?
We have ten lovely hens and one painful hen who keeps getting out and digging up my open garden. None of our chooks are ‘spring chickens.’ All of them (bar Polly) have been given to us by other chicken owners who’d had enough of the responsibility of chicken ownership. From this motley crew of ISA browns, Australorp, silkies etc, we get one egg a day at the moment. This is partly because it’s autumn and partly because of their age.
So far we have never eaten our own hens. They faithfully lay us eggs which we turn into cakes, curried eggs, fried eggs for breakfast and so forth. We get to know their little personalities and they know that we deliver them their daily feed of grain so they are super friendly and enjoy a cuddle or a pat when they see us.
However, the reality is that we’re questioning whether we can justify feeding over a kilo of grain every day to chickens who are not laying eggs. Some of these ladies may have to go in the pot. Only Polly is exempt from this decision because we hand-raised her.
As well as European been hives, Etienne also has a few native honey bee hives (pictured below). Native honey bees are small, black and stingless. They’re not viable for commercial honey because they only produce a small quantity of honey and the honey ferments easily. But, the honey is very delicious- it’s kind of caramelised, and the bees also do a great job of pollinating the fruit trees and veggies so we enjoy having them around.
Below are some pics from around the farm. We are still harvesting kilos of choko at a time. We have boxes of choko that we’re feeding to the pigs and they LOVE it.
The open garden:
Some plants are doing well, like the Brazilian spinach, celery, and parsley. Other things have been destroyed by wallabies, bandicoots, the naughty chicken and insects – like the beans and beetroot pictured below.
Everything in the greenhouse is thriving!!! We still have lots of lettuce, bok choi, silverbeet, carrot, and beans.
Etienne made a hook on the side of a trellis so that we can hang up the greenhouse hose (pictured below).
Pictured below are the seedlings that we have just transplanted into the greenhouse. We grew them all from seed except for the lettuce which came from Southside Nursery.
What’s on the menu?
For breakfast we usually have fruit or porridge. Donnie and Kim, some neighbours who have an abundance of star fruit gave us a box full. Other friends who have a custard apple farm gave us a box full of custard apple, and they offered for us to pick macadamia nuts from under their trees because they can’t eat them anymore. So, we have boxes and boxes of maccas!
Pictured above is my breakfast.
Pictured below is our lunch on Monday. The olives in the salad were given to us by a neighbour (the man who gave us the starfruit, pictured above). He goes to Bali and doesn’t like to see the fruit wasted. Also, he has lots of fruit trees and leaving rotting fruit on the ground attracts the fruit fly so he would rather remove it.
He gave us a big jar of his home-grown olives. I put some in smaller jar of brine and added garlic and a sprig of rosemary. We left it in the fridge for a couple of weeks, They tasted awesome. They are pictured in the bowl of salad below.
Pictured below are my brownies. I’ve adapted a recipe from the internet in which the brownies are made with avocado instead of butter (and we have twenty-seven avocado trees so we eat avocado all day at the moment. Brownies recipe: I blend two large avocados with a hand-held blender, I add half a cup of honey, and two eggs and blend again. Then I stir in about half a cup of cocoa (I usually have raw organic cocoa but at the moment it’s just Dutch-processed cocoa) and about the same amount of flour. Finally, I stir in some chopped macadamia nuts because we have lots of them.
Pictured below is ‘brunch’ on Friday.
I’ve forgotten to take photos of our evening meals. For dinner we’ve been having soups and stir-fry veggies. One night we had fried pork chops, mashed taro (instead of mashed potato) and boiled veggies (squash, beans and silverbeet) seasoned with vinegar, nuttelex (Izzy’s vegan butter), salt and pepper.
Dessert: Etienne juiced prickly pear which produced a vibrant pink juice. He mixed it with honey, coconut and geletine to make the slice pictured below. The colour is incredible.
Absolutely delicious and apparently prickly pear, is a superfood due to the high levels of nutrients. It has other various properties such as lowering cholesterol as well. Prickly pear is a cactus that was a widespread invasive species in QLD in the 1950’s. It was introduced in Australia because of the red colour of the fruit – it’s the food source of the cochineal beetle, from which red dye is made. But it doesn’t spread in this area. And, these days farm land is being looked after differently, no more clearing of huge sections of land so the prickly pear would not be able to invade in the same way that was possible then.
As an added precaution, we cut off the fruit before the birds can eat it and spread the seed.
Activities of the week
I’m knitting a shawl. I recently lost one of my knitting needles so Etienne made me a bamboo replacement with a nut screwed on the top – pictured below beside the shawl.
Tuesday – I went to town and had a cup of tea with a Mitch whom I worked with at RED Inc. We worked in a team that focused on supporting young people with disabilities who had employment goals. My role in the team was to organise and supply tutoring for young people who were studying. Mitch organised work placements to give young people a taste of work in their chosen field. We had a great team prior to the NDIS roll out. It was lovely to hear from Mitch that, due to the effort and dedication of the staff, everything is now running smoothly, despite the challenges that RED Inc and all the other disability organisations have faced. I miss my RED Inc family so it was also nice to hear that I am missed too!
I had my annual lunch with a lovely quirky young person that I supported at RED Inc many years ago. It was lovely to hear how he is going in his life. We have agreed that next time we can only catch up for a coffee because sadly, ‘lunch in town’ is not in my budget anymore.
Whilst in town, I did a number of jobs and managed to spend about $50. I did the shopping: chocolate almonds and dishwasher powder (which we hardly use the dishwasher now because Etienne does most of the dishes and he always hand washes) which came to a total of $11. I bought lunch $17. I bought a couple of things that I’m using to make a present for my nephew, $7. There was also a $20 item that shall not be named.
Wednesday -Basket making with Jillian (pictured above). If you click on the pictures of us you can see Jillian’s amazing basket that she is weaving out of kangaroo grass. We had salad for lunch. She thought it was very tasty and asked for the recipe for the buckwheat pancakes.
Etienne’s materials for basket making are pictured below. It’s a weed called cat’s claw.
Thursday – I volunteered in the canteen at RRHS. In the evening, Kelly came for a few glasses of wine and to workshop a little project that she has in mind.
Friday – Etienne worked on a neighbouring farm. For those of you who are wondering how this will affect our year of self-sufficiency – he is working one or two days a week on a neighbouring farm and we are putting his wages in a separate account -maybe we’ll need them at the end of the year if we don’t make it through to December. I’ll keep you posted. In the evening we went to the hall for games night. Deb and Jillian put on a sausage sizzle. I played scrabble and lost.
Saturday morning we had our Jiggi Dark Moon Women’s circle. It’s always a beautiful feeling to be surrounded by such emotionally intelligent and grounded women. Some of these women are a lot younger than me but they’re so wise. It’s a privilege to be able share my experiences, thoughts and feelings with them.
Sunday: Mother’s day – went to the Channon Markets with Izzy. It is a huge, outdoor market, absolutely beautiful. We laughed and chatted all morning. Around lunchtime, I was tired and ready to head home but we ended up staying and seeing a band called The Babe Rainbow. Their music is really positive reflecting the fact that all of their parents were part of the original green change hippy movement of the 1970’s. They were raised in loving communities in this area and they ooze peace, love and harmony. A couple of us audience members couldn’t resist dancing to the funky tunes and we started dancing in front of the stage. The music was so upbeat and contagious that, by the end of their session, there were a lot of dancers. The thing I enjoyed the most in the whole day, was having a dance with Izzy and her friend Flynn. It’s not often that I get to have a dance with my sixteen year old daughter these days.
On Mother’s day, Etienne cut down an old wattle tree that was in flower so I put some small branches in a vase on the table.
In the colder months, I shower every couple of days. But every morning I have a ‘bird bath.’ I use a washer to wash my face and under my arms. I deodorise using a lump of crystal that I purchased about ten years ago at Fundies. It’s a crystal of potassium alum that I wet and rub under my arm. The principle is that it leaves a salt layer on the skin that prevents the odor-forming bacteria from multiplying. I still sweat, but the sweat doesn’t have any smell. The advantages of the crystal are that it is entirely natural and it doesn’t use any nasty chemicals. The negatives are that in summer I still get a ring of sweat on my shirt.
So, every morning I wash under my arms, I apply the crystal and then I spray myself with a spray that I made out of rose essence and water.
As part of my bird bath, I wash my face with warm water and a washer. I use a home-made toner of water mixed with organic apple cider vinegar (I’ve almost run out and then I’ll trial using my own red wine vinegar). It balances the Ph of my skin without using any harsh chemicals. Afterwards, I apply some of my home-made moisturiser, consisting of almond oil, evening primrose oil, rose hip oil. vitamin E oil. and carrot oil and other ingredients used to emulsify and preserve. I use very rich ingredients because my skin has been damaged over the years. I keep this moisturiser in the fridge because the organic olive leaf extract emulsifier isn’t as good as the petrochemical ones that don’t need refrigeration, sadly it can go mouldy if left on the shelf.
What do we do with our waste?
This is a big question. Firstly, we have introduced measures to reduce our waste:
- We try to avoid as much single use packaging as possible. For example, I have a cloth bag (a pillowslip with the top cut off) that I use when I buy chickpeas or rice at bulk food. I have small recyclable containers that I use for things like peanut butter. At bulk food you can buy everything by the kilo including the peanut butter, which is dispensed by a commercial peanut butter machine. You simply set the dial at somewhere between at crunchy or smooth or somewhere in-between, you pull the lever and you watch the peanuts swirl into the crushing mechanism and out the other end comes peanut butter. So, we can take our own container when we buy peanut butter.
- We buy reusable/rechargeable items where possible. For example, all our batteries are rechargeable. We have three reusable food wraps that I bought at Spiritfest many years ago. They can be used instead of cling wrap and are simple and easy to clean.
- Useful items that we don’t want are passed onto friends or we donate them to St Vinnies.
- We try to recycle broken items where possible. Etienne came home with four broken wooden chairs. He cut the tops off and upholstered the bottoms to make stools. He used the top parts to make raised bed for the potato plant (as pictured above)
- We don’t double up on cleaning products. There are two main cleaning products we use. We buy dishwashing liquid and use it to clean everything. Or we use vinegar in warm water.
Household waste is an issue. These are some of the things we do:
- Food scraps go to the chickens and pigs.
- Animal manure and garden clippings go into a compost pile that ends up on the garden
- We recycle all recyclable items
- We decided that we needed a bin service so we discussed it with our neighbours and organised a fortnightly bin collection service that we share between us. We only have a small bag of rubbish but it’s very convenient to able to dispose of it straight away. For many years we had to store our rubbish and drive it to the tip where we had to pay to dispose of it. Unfortunately, the rubbish attracted rats and often by the time we were ready to take it to the tip the bags had been chewed and when we tried to move them, all the rubbish fell out. It was a horrible job.
- We have a septic tank for waste water.
I don’t know what else we do but it’s late so I’ll add more to this post tomorrow.
The return of the simple life
Last Christmas my mum came to visit. She commented that our salad dressing is always great because we make it freshly with each salad. As I was making the dressing out of oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, I explained to mum that everyone in France makes their own dressing because it’s so easy. Mum said “I know it’s easy, Your Grandma used to make salad dressing at lunch time when I was a child.” I was shocked. “Really?” I replied. “Of course,” said mum. “You couldn’t buy it in the shops then. But, when you kids were born you could buy everything ready-made. It was good for me because I was working full-time so it was convenient. But fresh salad dressing definitely tastes better.”
It occurred to me that many skills for a simple life were lost in just a couple of generations. I started to think about my grandmother. My grandmother made salad dressing, she had a fruit trees (mango, macadamia, mulberry and lemon), she sewed, she made batches of one hundred Anzac biscuits – so many that we had to freeze most of them. Almost all of the furniture in my grandmother’s house was bought when she got married and had children. She owned most of it from when she was married in her twenties until she went into the nursing home when she was in her eighties. For sixty years she slept in the same bed that she had shared with her husband (I never knew him because he died before I was born). The same cupboards, chairs, dressing tables… She had the same glass top dining table that we never used because it was too good so we always ate in the kitchen. Imagine that!
I love our little planet soooooo much. I wish we could return to a time when we valued things that lasted instead of things that are new and improved. How can we care for our lovely planet in the present culture?
I was listening to a podcast about an experiment in 1991 where scientists built a biosphere called Biosphere 2. Basically they created a miniature earth inside a glass terrarium, completely sealed off from the outside. It was an experiment to see if it would be possible to build a biosphere on Mars if the earth was destroyed. Inside the biosphere was a three acre farm, a savannah, a beach, and a human habitat. The experiment asked the question: “Can you take the biosphere and jam it into a bottle and survive?”
So what did they find? One of the scientists explained it very well:
“My most profound experience was not only being completely dependent on my biosphere, but being absolutely a part of my biosphere in a very literal way. As I walked through the biosphere I was incredibly conscious of the fact that the plants around me were providing me with the oxygen that I needed to breathe. And that I was providing them with the co2 that they needed to grow. When I breathed out my co2 fed the sweet potatoes that I was growing. We ate an awful lot of the sweet potatoes. And those sweet potatoes became part of me. In fact, we ate so many sweet potatoes, that I became orange.”
As well as being very entertaining for tourists who came to peer through the biosphere, complex scientific data was collected throughout the experiment. At one stage, they actually started to run out of oxygen. The scientists would wake up continually through the night gasping for breath. Prior to the start of the experiment they had calculated how much oxygen the plants would produce so they were surprised that such a large amount of oxygen was missing. They discovered that the cement on which it was constructed was absorbing huge quantities of oxygen. These were the world’s leading scientists and they made a simple miscalculation!
There’s some food for thought!
One last thing
A big shout out to all our great neighbours who drop us their scraps and excess fruit and veggies for our pigs. We are very grateful and hope to share some pork or other produce with you in the future 🙂