There are a few health issues with my brother and mum at the moment and I’m the happily available daughter and sister who can visit, support, cook and clean. I can entertain as well (if you want to be astounded by yet another performance of Lady Macbeth’s famous monologue!!! …some elementary Irish dancing perhaps??? …..a poetry reading? …a Limerick!?!) Anyway, I’m going to be away (on and off) until Christmas and will therefore not continue updating my blog.
Etienne and I would like to thank all of you wonderful followers, visitors, family and friends, in Australia and around the world, for your interest in this amazing journey that we’ve undertaken here in the Northern Rivers. It was a pleasure to share this year with you, the good and the bad. We hope that we’ve managed to convey the essence of our lifestyle and contribute to the chorus of voices creating positive change for our lovely little planet. We love sharing ideas with the amazing, innovative people around us and we’d love to think that we’ve been able to pass on some of these ideas. Perhaps we have planted a little seed in some of you.
Thanks to Irene and Tug, who opened the lines of communication across states and across the world. (I’ll continue to check out your blogs to see how you are going – and, of course, to glean great recipes and helpful gardening tips from you both.)
Etienne’s parents gave us some money last Christmas. We decided to spend some of it on fruit trees. We’ve waited the whole year for spring to arrive (that’s the best time for planting trees.) Last weekend, we went to the market and bought fifteen fruit trees including tea, carob, rollinia, avocado, sabo nut, peanut etc etc. We’re always experimenting with different varieties of trees to try to find species that don’t get attacked by every critter on wing and foot.
I’m off to plant some trees! Remember- from little things big things grow.…..
Pork and veggies cooked in a Mexican slow cooker meal.
This week I only have time for some photos. Quick note: life is busy with watering and weeding and trying to survive 38 degree days; Etienne is now 46, we did a fair bit of socialising this week, the goat has decided that she’s not too keen on being milked anymore (painful), the clutch was fixed on the ute ($1450 – Arrrgh), and Iz was housesitting for our neighbour for the week.
We’ve been madly planting in the new greenhouse and, with all the rain that’s fallen, everything is thriving.
What’s on the menu?
On Thursday, I made bread and peanut butter biscuits, thus maximising the use of the oven. Whilst they were baking, I prepared my own simplified version of kim chi, a Korean spicy, fermented, vegetable side-dish. Then, I made a green salad out of our homegrown veggies (using our own homemade vinegar to make the dressing) and a potato salad using homegrown potato leftover from dinner the night before. We ate the salads with Etienne’s pate on toast (I know that I told you last week how delicious his pate is so I won’t go on about it again).
Veggies for the lunch and dinner. One of the last cauliflower and these are amongst the first of the cucumbers for the season #summer #healthy
biscuits, bread, kimchi, salad #organic
Calendula tea #healthy #organic
Biscuits on the tray ready for baking, also pictured is the bread dough
Delicious lunch: lettuce, cucumber, watercress, cherry tomato and feta (bought at the local Goolmangar store). It was delicious but the salad dressing could have been maybe a bit better- I’m not sure what it was lacking – maybe salt. Also made a potato salad with our own homegrown potato, beetroot, capsicum, shallot and grated carrot, and a sprinkle of parsley – with some of Izzy’s vegan aioli (also from Goolmangar store)
Also, I made calendula tea which is good for the skin. This year of relaxing and regenerating has been good for my skin (people keep telling me) but still, after all these years of gardening under the intense Aussie sun, my skin has suffered! Each night, I go to bed full of the reality that I’m 46 years old. Miraculously, overnight my brain somehow resets and I forget my age entirely. I wake up, yawn, roll out of bed, stretch, go to the toilet and, as I wash my hands in the bathroom sink, I glance up at the mirror and give myself a little fright.
Activities of the week
The Festival of Small Halls function was on at the hall on Friday night. It is part of Woodford and it had that fabulous Woodford vibe. Loved it.
Saturday night, we had dinner with friends and Sunday we had a round of drinks on the veranda with some of our lovely neighbours who came for a game of bow tag which was thwarted by the weather.
Update on the hips – the left one is completely better, the right one has improved but not completely. I’m sleeping like a log and I’m stoked about that.
Today, I had to wait in town for a friend to have her lunch break. I spent some time looking at op shops, I spent some time reading in the library and I spent some time typing up this blog in a new cafe that opened in Lismore. It’s called the Dusty Attic and it’s a lovely space. They have an ethical menu that lists where a lot of their products come from, including all the animal products, which are from local farms that raise animals in ethical conditions. The menu is mainly sandwiches and flat breads so I had a ham, raw mustard, cheese and sauerkraut toastie. It was really simple and tasted great.
Movie review: I, Tonya
This biographical movie portrays the life of the incredible American figure skater, Tonya Harding, who is infamous for her involvement in a plot to maim her main US competitor before the 1994 Winter Olympics. Tonya is portrayed as an extraordinary skater, from a poor dysfunctional family, who was ignored by the US Figure Skating Association because she was not ‘wholesome’ enough to represent the US. The movie starts with an interview of Tonya staring fiercely at the camera saying “most people’s impression of me (is that) I’m a real person.You know, I ain’t never apologised for growing up poor or being a redneck… which is what I am.You know, in a sport where the friggin’ judges want you to be this old-timey version of what a woman is supposed to be… (I was) the first US woman to land a triple axle.So fuck ‘em!” She cuts an enigmatic figure that is brilliantly performed by Margot Robbie.
I enjoyed the movie. I think it achieved it’s difficult aim of arousing empathy for Tonya, a strong personality under a lot of social and economic pressure. The movie was cleverly structured like a documentary with interviews of the people involved, followed by re-enactments that show a potentially more truthful perspective than those given in the interviews. Whilst being respectful of the interviewees, this creates a glimmer of humour in an otherwise incredibly tragic tale of a child prodigy who is abused by everyone: her mother, her boyfriend, the competitive skating judges, the media and even her audiences. I watched the movie a few nights ago and I haven’t been able to get the unforgettable character of Tonya’s overbearing mother out of my head. Allison Janney gives a fantastic performance of an abusive mother who seems as out of place in the figure skating community as a shark amongst the fishes.
The stone fruit, pictured below are coming along very nicely. Unfortunately, they’re all stung by fruit-fly, even the really young unripe ones. Usually, they’re only stung once or twice so we just cut the bad parts out and eat the sweet, juicy parts.
What’s in the garden?
Below are images of the vegetables in the big green house. I have added #organic to their description. We are not certified organic but we don’t use any spray and we avoid treating our animals with chemicals where possible – so the goat manure, which we use on the garden, is chemical free.
Below are the seedlings in the new, unfinished greenhouse. The beetroot and carrot we grew from seed, the lettuce and tomato came from the Seedling House in South Lismore, some yacon and other things were given to us by neighbours and we also picked up some free seedlings from a lady in Lismore who grew so many that she advertised them for free pick up on the Lismore Herb Growers facebook page. One good turn deserves another, so we’ll have extra veggies to give to friends in the coming weeks.
What’s on the menu?
Pictured below is a daily harvest of fruit and veggies that we made into salad and a stir fry.
Below is the rest of the potatoes from the garden. We leave the skin on because we don’t use any chemicals so it’s edible and highly nutritious.
We cooked a lot of potatoes for the coq au vin and used the left over to make a potato salad the next day.
Lunches – Pictured above is a typical lunch at the moment. It’s a potato salad with our own potatos, shallots, watercress, carrot and a very small amount of capsicum (they are only the size of a golf ball at the moment). I used Izzy’s vegan aioli but I am about to make some more. I don’t know if I updated you on the last aioli I made – at first it was really bitter because I made it with 100% virgin olive oil, which is too bitter, but after a week it mellowed and was delicious. This time I’m going to mix it with some macadamia oil that I bought recently (I bought maca oil to make moisturiser with today). The potato salad was really good. I added some boiled fresh beetroot of which I have a large container in the fridge. I love potato salad and beetroot. Also on the plate is a buckwheat crepe with some of Etienne’s pate. That pate is divine! We have shared it with a few neighbours recently and they loved it. One lovely neighbour, Ellen, who came for lunch and loved the food, said how much she appreciates fresh, preservative free, traditional recipes, asked if she could buy some of Etienne’s preserved meats – he has made a few different ones but the pate is my favourite. Pate ingredients are pork mince, pork liver, salt, pepper and fresh herbs from the garden. Altogether that is a great lunch.
Etienne cooked Coq au Vin using a rooster (thanks again, Sunny!) and our home made wine and fresh herbs, potato and carrot as the key ingredients. We invited our neighbours Ina and Lothar for dinner and cards- the loved the dinner and kicked our arse at cards! It’s a sad night when you lose 3 out of 3 games of Belot (each game consists of many smaller games and takes about half and hour). I just want to say that yes, belote is game where there is skill involved (that’s what makes it so much fun) but sometimes your cards just suck!
Oh my god!!! I cooked the most amazing curry recently. I’m going to try to make it into a coherent recipe for you:
2 rooster breasts (thanks for the roosters, Sunny)
Spice paste (these are the only ingredient that weren’t homegrown or home made by us or one of our neighbours) 2 tsp cumin, 2 tsp coriander, 2 tsp curry powder 2 teas salt and some pepper- all mixed in about a dessert spoon of vinegar to make a paste
a small knob of ginger – fresh and grated
a quarter of a salted lemon (thanks Deb, for the jar of preserved salted lemons – this was the key ingredient in this recipe – gave it an awesome zing)
a few garlic cloves
a small knob of fresh grated turmeric
curry leaves if you have them (we harvest them from our neighbours curry bush)
a kilo of mixed chopped vegetables – I used homegrown potato, carrots,
a tablespoon of lard (home made pork lard is the best )
chicken stock (mine was so thick and amazing that it was like jelly)
Marinate the rooster breast in the spice mix, ginger, leek, garlic, salted lemon and turmeric for half and hour. Fry the marinated chicken breast in lard until the chicken is brown or the spices start to stick to the bottom and turn dark brown. Add the stock, curry leaves and vegetables and cook for half and hour. The lemon and ginger were fantastic in this meal.
Activities of the week
Making moisturiser Izzy and I made moisturiser for ourselves. Everyone’s skin is different. I used to make a rich moisturiser for me and a light one for Izzy. Izzy has given me honest feedback over the years so that I’ve been able to make a moisturiser that is not too oily but is really rich. Now I just use the one for the two of us. Izzy helped me this time. We used all natural high quality ingredients: macadamia oil, evening primrose oil, rose hip oil, vitamin E oil, citrus seed extract, carrot infused oil, Olive leaf extract emulsifyer, ylang ylang, geranium and essesntial oil., shea butter, and 100% vegetable based glycerine.
Health In general, I’m healthy and happy. Oh, and I have had bursitis in both hips for the last seven or eight years – a condition where you get inflammation in the form of a little pocket of fluid in your joints. I have a very mild case; I don’t suffer any pain when I exercise or in my daily activities. However, it’s like each of my hips has a little rock in it that makes it uncomfortable for me to sleep on my side. I HAVE to lie on my side because I don’t like lying on my back or my front. So, I have three little pillows (mum gave me about six years ago and it inspired me to sew the other two) that I tuck them around my hip and between the knees when I sleep. Unfortunately, in the night I tend to roll over, and eventually I wake up with no pillows and an aching hip. I then proceed to thrash around in the dark, sighing and swearing, as I search for three of the worlds smallest pillows. It’s annoying for me and it’s super annoying for Etienne. Sometimes he gets tired of being woken and he gets up and goes into his own room (decked out with the essentials – some tools and a queen sized bed) Sometimes, he even suspects that I deliberately shine the torch in his direction or swear just loud enough to wake him up so that he will vacate the bed and I can spread out with all my pillows. I don’t know what he’s talking about…. who would do such a thing??? 😏🤣
So, after all these years, I finally decided to bite the bullet and get a cortisone injection in each hip. The procedure is done using an ultrasound so that the needle can be aimed at the right spot. When I booked the appointment, I asked for a most qualified perso to administer the cortisone (provided there was no difference in the cost) and I was told that I would have to wait an extra two weeks to see the clinical radiologist. I agreed. I think they forgot because during the procedure I asked Mikey about his qualification and he said ‘stenographer’. Regardless, he was brilliant!!! – the injection was almost completely painless despite being a fat needle. There is only a fifty percent chance the cortisone will work. If it does work it might provide relief for a couple of months, a couple of years or maybe even forever. Everyone responds differently so there is no way to tell. I had the injections today. Will keep you posted on the result. Oh, and for all you non-Australians, fight for a decent health care system – I only had to pay $120 of the total cost of $360 because Medicare bulk bill the balance. It’s the right of every Australian.
Some musings about sustainable living
Our journey this year has been testing the theory that less is more. Why bother, you might ask? Because we really care about the environment that our children will inherit and, like most people, we want to contribute to creating a better world. I can’t stress enough that we are happier with less than we were with more. I think it helps to be surrounded by like minded people. The Northern Rivers community, especially our neighbours, have demonstrated to us that if you mix up different levels of some key ingredients – like gardening, being involved with community, bush walking, caring for animals, regenerating the native flora and fauna, making things, mending things, reusing, recycling, being thankful, appreciating nature etc- that you can lead a very fulfilling and enjoyable life whilst making informed decisions about how much impact you have on the environment. No, I’m not surrounded by Buddhist temples; people out here live simple lives and feel content. We’ve gathered here to have a connection with nature, with each other and to simplify our lives (each in our own way).
It seems like this year I’ve a had a lot of time to reflect, analyse, imagine, dream…. and, I’ve discovered a few things: at the most fundamental level, I understand more about myself. All of our personalities are shaped by our genes, circumstances and experiences. Here are a few factors that shaped my personality: I’m a female who was born into a loving family, in a consumer society, in Australia, in 1972, I’m a middle child (that’ a big factor, believe it or not), the daughter of a teacher (this is both nurture and nature –there are many teachers in the family so perhaps it is ‘in the genes’) and a dad who had issues with his family/upbringing, and I’m a little bit on the spectrum (another fabulous family trait!) Over the years, my personality was further shaped by all the positive and negative experiences that fused the neural pathways in my brain to create my particular reality and reinforce behaviours that I’ve developed. All of this has led to ways of thinking, habits and routines that are both conscious and unconscious.
This year, I’ve been lucky enough to have time to look at my patterns of thinking. Some are great, some are harmless and some need throwing out. If I can identify what I don’t want, then I can choose how I want to think, how I want to behave and therefore, how I want to relate to the world. So, I’ve been throwing out the thought patterns that don’t serve me well and bringing in thoughts and actions that I have deliberately chosen by making informed decisions about what will make my life better. For example, over the years, I’ve made some good choices that have led to good situations and I’ve made some bad choices that put me in bad situations (calm down, I’m not talking about anything too dramatic!) Periodically, my old unconscious thought patterns led me to waste time dwelling on bad decisions and feeling terrible. Now, when I can see my mind going down that rabbit hole, I stop… Instead, I choose to laugh and I thank my lucky stars that I was born with the privileges I was born with AND that I had the opportunity to try different actions/jobs/experiences, whatever the outcome. It’s a very freeing perspective.
I’d like to add that I was a Support Planner and tutor in a disability organisation where I knew many people who could have been beaten down by the difficulties of their lives but they weren’t. Instead, they focused on their abilities and on the pleasant experiences in each day.One young man who, among other difficulties, struggles to walk and talk, could easily be defined by his disability, yet he is intelligent, he is great company and he is positive about life. I learnt a lot from him and I’m thankful that I have the privilege to know him and all the other people in my life who have taught me so much.
“There is one spectacle grander than the sea and that is the sky;
Finally the rain has come and now it doesn’t seem to want to stop. Below is a picture of the hail that fell last week.
What’s in the garden?
The greenhouse veggies are growing at a rapid rate due to the huge amount of rain that has fallen in our area.
Summer crop starting to grow #organic #sprayfree #nature
Below is the flowering pomegranate tree.
What’s on the menu?
This is a daily harvest of beetroot, lettuce, celery, carrot and to make a salad for lunch. For dinner we had cauliflower and vegetable soup.
If you’re seeking perfection, then sustainability is not your path. I mean this on multiple levels. On the most basic level, sustainability is involves developing ways to be self-sufficient and that requires you to work with the materials that are available to you. It’s all about compromise. Things may not be exactly the way you want them because you are always having to make choices about what you can make yourself and where you need to spend money. You ask questions like “can I do this myself?” “What is the cost to the earth?” “Is this important to me?” Sometimes you even have to ask “Is this worth the effort?” For example, if you have a repair job that needs immediate attention and you could do it in a very environmentally friendly way but you need to go into town and buy things to be able to do it, you might have to ask the question: “is it worth the environmental cost of burning fossil fuel to go into town to buy this items that I may never have a use for again when I can improvise by recycling another less environmentally friendly item?” Everything is a dilemma, so it is important to be able to let go of perfection and accept the decision that you make even if it doesn’t always suit your principles and/or your budget. In the same way, you can never judge anyone else. People aren’t perfect. You aren’t perfect and I’m not perfect. We need to support each other and try to understand each other’s decisions rather than be judgmental.
Even cooking is about compromise. For most of our meals, we try to stick as much as possible to the ingredients that we have at home. But sometimes, we buy things because they are available or we feel like a change. Usually for our curries and stir frys we fry spices in homemade lard, then add our fresh produce and finally make a sauce with homemade stock. We often make enough that we don’t eat the meal with rice. In this way we make meals entirely out of our own ingredients except for some shop bought spices. We also cook with homegrown herbs- basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, oregano- so sometimes the meal is 100% our own produce.
For my birthday, Kenrick and Maree (founders of Wiccawood, our multiple occupancy) gave me a vase of edible flowers and a jar of homemade Thai curry paste, homemade with ingredients from their farm. (https://www.facebook.com/wiccawoodorganics/) When we did the shopping, we bought coconut cream to make the Thai curry- pictured below. It was delicious.
Thai curry made with Maree’s paste #healthyeating
Vegetables for the Thai curry #organic
We added some of our own lemongrass to the curry #sprayfree
Activities of the week
We had a lovely party on Saturday night and as it was close to my birthday, so some people brought me pressies. There was lots of chatting and laughter as we relaxed on the veranda (and in the carport where we set up couches and coffee tables) while the rain continued to fall quietly on the roof. Ahhhhhhh…..
I absolutely loved the handmade presents – Tink made a home-made hair conditioner that made my hair healthy and shiny.
It’s been raining for over a week, so one cold, miserable day, we hung our washing in the lounge room and lit the fire (pictured above). It was lovely and practical.
The paddocks are lush and green again
Below is the next stage of the greenhouse– the tin is to keep out the bandicoots. We need one more load of gravel the next time we go into town, then a trip to Ballina to get the netting and it will be all finished.
I’ve just spent eight days in Gladstone visiting family and friends. Whilst planning this holiday I had to ask myself – how can I travel safely (no hitching) on a small budget and have an enjoyable albeit inexpensive holiday with family and friends? I’ve just arrived back so I can fill you in on how I went:
Travel: Gladstone is nine hours north of my home. A neighbour of mine, Dennis, travels all the way to Gin Gin (two hours south of Gladstone) for work so that I planned out my travel dates so that I could join him for the drive up to Gin Gin.Fortunately, I had my mum, sister and nephew all wanting to drive down to Gin Gin and collect me. The incentive for collecting me from Gin Gin was two hours of quality one-on-one time with me in the car. I come from a family of talkers and anyone who knows us will tell you that when we are together everyone talks all at once. My nephew, Coop, won the battle and insisted that he pick me up. Despite the distance, Coop and I regularly talk and joke with each other on the phone so we have a strong connection. I have to thank the humble landline for that. Messaging doesn’t cut the mustard.
So, in terms of money, it was a cheap trip up to Gladstone – I insisted on giving $20 petrol money to Dennis and $20 to Cooper, so the whole trip up cost me $40. I travelled back by conventional transport – plane and bus.
Activities: how do you have an enjoyable time on a tight budget? Believe it or not, there are lots of enjoyable activities that allowed us to have meaningful and enjoyable time together for a minimal cost:I walked my sister’s dogs with her, had a go at seniors Thai Chi with my mum, watched a series on Netflix with my niece and sister (whilst eating ice-cream from the supermarket), did basket weaving and op shopping with my other niece, listened to some of my younger nephews music with him, and I had a homemade cocktail night – drinking Blue Lagoons – with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Shaz. My dad, who past away 5 years ago loved to whip up cocktails in the late afternoons and there are still a bunch of bottles at mum’s place that haven’t been touched for years so mum suggested I take some of them to Sharon’s. Most of my time in Gladstone was spent chatting overt a cup of tea, You don’t need to go to a cafe, when you can sit around the kitchen table and have a meaningful conversation. I can remember (back in the day) when I first encountered the cafe culture, after I left home and moved to Rockhampton. An uni friend asked me if I wanted to go to a cafe. and I remember thinking “why would we to go out and pay for a cup of tea when we can drink as much as we like at home virtually for free?” We had a wide set of front steps at our share house and we used to sit on them to chat and drink tea for hours so I couldn’t see any attraction to sitting in a cramped room with a bunch of strangers.
Eating is another great way to spend time with family. I’m a bit of a foodie, so I cherished the meals that we enjoyed together in Gladstone. To show my family how much I appreciated the visit, I cooked a french themed meal one night for my mum and my sister’s family: first course – Escargots a la Bourguignonne -this is a French snail recipe where the snails are cooked in butter, garlic, parsley, shallot, white wine and nutmeg. Second course – Coq au Vin – chicken in red wine sauce. The meals were delicious, my mum, sister and I have loved snails ever since my dad came back from Spain and started cooking them regularly in 1981. My dismayed niece and unadventurous nephews refrained from trying them. That sat in wide eyed silence as they watched us shovelling the mouthwateringly delicious snails into our mouths.
Of course, both dishes were perfect because I was able to follow the recipe exactly and use the precise quantities that the recipe demanded. When we’re cooking on the farm we often improvise with ingredients to suit what we have grown and the quantities vary according to how much we have and what we want to use up – this, in turn, impacts on the cooking times because sometimes we make a bigger or smaller meal. I like this sort of cooking because every meal is different – which often leads to a splendid feast but sometimes can lead to a meal that is tough or lacks flavour. That doesn’t bother us too much because perfection is a myth and sometimes it’s important to eat for health and not just for taste.
Apart from the myriad activities which we did for very little cost, we also went to a restaurant for my birthday – my lovely mother insisted on paying the whole bill for everyone present- all of us being her children and grandchildren. Also, my mum, sister and I went to the cinema and watched an charming movie called Ladies in Black, set in the fifties with a lot of attention paid the wonderful costuming and setting. The story, set in Sydney, dealt with the complicated relationship between unsophisticated, down to earth Aussies and the sophisticated European refugees, who fled from Paris and all over Europe following the devastation of WW2. It’s a wonderfully kindhearted and respectful movie that inverts contemporary ideas about refugees. Lately, I’ve seen a few movies that try too hard to be politically correct which unfortunately leads to a slightly contrived story – Ladies in Black did not have this problem.
One of our neighbours was getting rid of a lot of fencing and mesh. Etienne offered to trade a couple of hours of work in exchange for some of her piles of mesh and fencing. We picked up some of the mesh last week and when we got home Etienne whipped up a little garden for pumpkin, squash and cucumber. We will store the rest of the mesh to use in one project or another. Pictured below is the little garden that Etienne whipped up in about half an hour.
The pumpkin and cucumber vines will run up the sides of the mesh and out onto the grass. At this stage it is crucial that we keep out the bandicoots because they dig up the seedlings when they are digging for worms and grubs in amongst the mulch.
The stone fruit trees (pictured above) are covered in fruit.
The cherry guava is flowering.
The chicken pen is divided in half with the hen house in the middle. They have picked all the weeds out of the left pen so I have closed it off and released them into the right pen. They are enjoying all the fresh greens. I’ll plant pumpkin in the left pen because they have cleaned out all the weeds and fertilised it with their manure.
Chickens enjoying the greens
Chickens amongst the bushes #crueltyfree
Below are pictures of the veggies in the greenhouse. I love the pink tinge on the cauliflower.
Climbing beans #healthy
Potato #vegetable #healthyfood
Pictured below is the new greenhouse going up.
We planted potatoes in the sand where our second hand above ground pool had been standing (before it collapsed earlier this year). I harvested the potatoes under one of the plants.
What’s on the menu?
Homegrown pineapple. It was big and delicious.
We are getting four eggs a day at the moment so ‘m making lots of quiches. They are a great way to use up the leaves of the broccoli and cauliflower. You can finely chop them and lightly fry them in the pan with the onion and garlic before putting them in the quiche. Quiches are really tasty if you add some finely chopped parsley, thyme, basil, oregano, rosemary on top.
Sadly my slow cooker isn’t performing very well. I’m not sure if I’m over filling it (none of my cooking involves sticking to a recipe with set amounts) or if it is just not working. I love using the slow cooker because it uses the solar energy that we produce ourselves.
Activities of the week
We went to a rockabilly fundraiser at the hall. It was fabulous. Everyone dressed up and the hall was decorated so well that you couldn’t help feeling transformed into the 50’s. It was a fabulous night. I downloaded these pics from facebook.
Bee, our oldest daughter flew up from Melbourne this week. It was so lovely to see her.
It’s spring and the air has been full of fireflies. It’s impossible to photograph these amazing creatures so you will have to google them if you want a look. We have also had a little microbat in our kitchen. Unfortunately, he ended up in the sink and looked a bit worse for wear when we extracted him. We put him on the veranda on a tea towel to recover. A few hours later he was gone. Yes, I did photograph him with the flash, despite Izzy’s objections!
Scam phone calls – Australians are continually getting phone calls from overseas companies claiming to be Telstra (the biggest phone service provider in Australia). The caller (who is clearly in a busy call centre environment) tells you that your internet has been hacked, and after proving this by quoting you the service address they inform you about the problems with your internet and by the end of the call, they ask for your credit card details. I’ve had many of these calls and I usually hang up immediately but the other night I didn’t. The caller seemed so genuine, that I felt that I needed to confront her. I said “are you aware that this is a scam?” She said “What?” I said “Are you aware that this is a scam and you are trying to steal money from me. You are not from Telstra and this is a scam.” She said “what?” again. I said “I hope that you are being well paid because you must be very desperate for money. I feel sorry for you. It’s a really bad thing that you’re doing.” She hesitated and then said “goodbye” and hung up. I suspect that she knew. She must be in a difficult situation because anyone with any self-worth or sense of decency would hate that job. Or maybe she has been fed a lot of lies by her employers. She might have been told that all Australians are rich and that they don’t care about anyone in the rest of the world and that they deserve to be cheated out of a couple of bucks. They don’t understand that a lot of people are feeling squeezed by the low wages and high cost of living over here.
It’s an unpleasant situation but it’s also farcical. I mean their scam is to tell you that they are saving you from being scammed.
Simple changes everyone can make to help protect the planet
Don’t expect perfection when you’re purchasing fresh produce.
One government tally in the United States estimated that 60 million tons of produce is wasted by retailers and consumers every year because it does not meet cosmetic standards that consumers place on their fruit and vegetables. People like to blame the supermarkets for this situation because the supermarkets set limits on the fruit they will accept from farmers. But I believe that consumers are also responsible. Before I had my own fruit trees, I could be guilty of picking through the banana’s at the grocery store and choosing the best looking ones. Now I look back and think ‘seriously, was I sooooo perfect that even my bananas had to look perfect for me to eat them.’ When consumers have this attitude, they choose the best fruit and the supermarket is left to bear the cost of all the fruit that people won’t buy. I have heard people at the grocery store saying “those banana’s don’t look any good’ and then when they think about that store they remember the bananas, they think ‘I won’t buy my fruit from there again.’ So the store loses business.
When I look at our odd shaped carrots, I see delicious, nutritious, carrots. In fact they are way more delicious than the carrots that look so perfect in the shops. I’m not suggesting that you buy rotten fruit. Obviously I would be upset it I bought a bag of apples at the supermarket and they were rotten inside. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about expecting fruit and vegetables to be uniform, all the carrots straight, without any deformity.
We can prevent a lot of wastage by simply changing our attitude toward the unrealistic cosmetic standards that we currently apply to fresh produce. Woolworths have jumped on board and they are starting to sell odd shaped produce. That is an important move towards preventing waste and should be supported.
Now that it is raining again, the greenhouse is beginning to show signs of growth. The broccoli and cauliflower that I planted months ago, didn’t produce any heads while it was so mild and dry. But now they are thriving.
Candy finally had her kid, a little buck called Tzatziki and despite some birthing complications, both are doing fine. Tzatziki is very cheeky and prefers the company of Humus (the lamb) rather than his own mum. Candy spends her days following him around gently braying to him while he completely ignores her and frolics with Humus.
What’s on the menu?
Our menu hasn’t changed very much- salad for lunch and meat and veggie for dinner.
Oranges There is always a silver lining. The numerous frosts that killed our grass this year, have made our oranges lovely and sweet. I’m enjoying going down the tree and picking an orange to have with my breakfast. You can’t get fresher than that! So if you’re one of the many people who think “I’d love to produce some of my own food” maybe you can make a small start with an orange tree. Orange trees like slightly acidic, well drained soil. There is lots of information online that can help you prepare the soil and choose the best position for an orange tree. And, don’t forget to plant it with love. (God, I’m a hippy!)
We’ve been living in the Jiggi valley for fifteen years. When we moved here, Bee was 6 and Izzy was 2. Within the broader Jiggi community, we made close connections with the people we met through the local preschool and school that the girls attended. Our kids grew up with a lovely network of families that socialised together. This network wasn’t perfect; all the usual dynamics existed because some people have a natural connection or they have more in common with some than others. But regardless of that, we made ourselves available to support each other and that made it seem natural to ask for help when it was needed. All of this was made easier by the regular face-to-face interaction that we had with each other. Now that our children have grown up some of us don’t see each other that often (some people work long hours now and others moved away from the area) so some of those friendships have slowly changed.
At the moment, I have a strong connection with a group of lovely, independent women who meet regularly to hold a circle; a safe place to talk about daily life and its challenges and to explore the spiritual realm of life. I value the insights that these women bring to my life. We care about each other and support each other. I feel grateful that this has come into my life at this time.
You all know what we eat and what we do in the week so this week I’m going to shake things up and just ramble off some thoughts….
Ok. This may sound strange to city folk who would never dream of having a conversation about toilet systems. But, here in rural Northern Rivers, this is a topic of conversation more often than you would believe. Everyone in our area, for example, is on tank water for household use and has to treat their own sewage and waste water. The most environmentally friendly toilet system is therefore compost toilet. It requires o no water to operate and enables waste to be broken down and easily managed. Last week, a neighbour gave me a tour of her lovely house that she designed herself and built as an owner builder. The raised house consists of four separate areas/rooms linked by a rectangular corridor that surround an open garden in the centre. I poked my head in out of lovely, airy rooms with lots of glass doors and big windows, admiring the way she has used different building materials to give the house a textured feel. When we came to the toilet, she opened the door on a slightly larger than normal room with white walls and a dark wooden framed compost toilet. I oohhhed and aaahhhed at the finish on the wood, the lightness of the room and the complete lack of smell.
Compost toilets have improved immensely in the last twenty years. We bought a one thousand dollar, state-of-the-art compost toilet for our little shed (now mostly known as the granny flat) that we lived in whilst we were building our house. We were assured that the toilet was designed to accommodate a family of four and had the fabulous benefit of turning our waste into useful garden fertiliser. We were a family of three and a half (Ismerie had just turned two when we moved into the shed, and at the time, I would say we were all fairly petite (no offence Etienne!). The toilet came with two large buckets and the idea was that one bucket was used for four months and then it was swapped with the empty bucket. The full bucket had an aerating lid attached and sat in the garden to break down for four months at which time the resulting compost was used on the garden and the procedure was repeated. Unfortunately, we defied all calculations and filled the bucket in two months, which means either they lied, or we are full of shit! Anyway, the system was not good for our family and after endless problems we Etienne had to modify it.
Over the years we’ve seen so many compost toilets. Some of our neighbours constructed cheap and easy ‘wheelie-bin’ compost toilets, which are as effective as any store bought compost toilets! Others bought amazing systems that were incorporated into the design of their house. As the designs of these toilets have improved they have become more easy to manage, almost entirely smell free, and aesthetically pleasing to boot.
I’ve been here on the farm for seventeen years, but this year I’ve felt the most connected. In the past, I looked after my family, I worked hard in my role as a tutor, I cleaned, cooked, tried to stay healthy, tried to save money, took the dogs for their much loved walks, hurried here, hurried there. I felt so zonked at the end of the day that I just wanted to disconnect. Sometimes, I achieved that by having a glass of wine; other times, I just stared at the computer screen in a kind of stupor (we didn’t have a tv but we hired dvd’s and watched them on the computer). I worked a lot on autopilot. I even used to race from my gym dance class, which finished at 6.15pm, to my meditation group, which started at 6.30pm. The irony!
This year, I’m finally understand what the Buddhist concept of conscious awareness means. Conscious awareness just means avoiding doing things on autopilot. It means doing things with thought and it makes me feel good. I feel peaceful and content when I’m keeping my mind on what I’m doing instead of racing ahead trying to solve all the days problems (some are even imaginary and never eventuate anyway) every minute.
This week, I started to think about whether I would be able to find work at the end of the year. I started to doubt whether I should embark on a counselling course. Informal counselling was a part of my tutoring role when I was working with vulnerable people with whom I built trusting, caring relationships. I don’t know where the thoughts and feelings of doubt came from but one morning I woke up and they permeated everything. I think that being consciously aware of what I am doing, I didn’t allow those thoughts to sit in my head. I involved myself in the activities of the day and I felt content. The negative thoughts just drifted away.
So, now I’m back in the headspace that says the world is a good and friendly place, full of love and compassion. Maybe, it will be hard for me to find work. Who knows. But, maybe it won’t.
For many years, we didn’t have a TV so we just watched DVDs on our computer monitor and our girls grew up without being bombarded by advertising. Now, we have ABC iview, SBS On Demand and, most recently, Netflix and Stan (which we share with friends). Etienne and Izzy like the movies on Netflix and Stan. I scroll through them for hours and rarely find one I want to watch. I have a list of movies that I’d like to see but none of them are on Netflix, and if they are, it’s only Netflix in America (not the Australian Netflix range.) Anyway, recently, I randomly chose the movie Paterson (on Netflix). It’s a weird, cute, boring, and wonderful movie about a fairly ordinary, young bus driver who writes love poetry about his wife. There are no great twists and turns of plot, it’s just the story of a man who lives a mundane, repetitive existence who chooses to focus on the one amazing thing in his life: his adoring wife. The story documents a week of his life, his morning routine, the conversations he hears on the bus and the quiet moments he finds time to jot down poems about his experiences with his loving, supportive wife. He’s no Wordsworth, but his poems are heartfelt and his wife is his best audience. I enjoyed it.
Bank balance – $287. On Saturday 1st September, I will pay $400 Community fees for our multiple occupancy (quarterly payment that covers community rates, roads, fencing and machinery) and that will consume the last of our self-sufficiency funds. We survived for exactly eight months on ten thousand dollars. What’s the next step?
As we said in the beginning, this experiment is about seeing if we can live a satisfying, enjoyable, modern lifestyle – complete with electricity, internet, computer and car – but do it in a semi self-sufficient, sustainable way that means we have a smaller environmental footprint and we learn to function on a very small budget. We thought we could live for twelve months on ten thousand dollars. But the self-sufficiency fund is empty so it’s time to make some decisions.
The funny thing is that nothing has changed for Etienne this year; for fifteen years, he’s been perfecting the art of DIY, which is the cornerstone of sustainability. He rarely buys anything in town and if he needs something that he can’t barter for, he waits until a local handyman job comes up and he earns some cash. If I decided not to go back to work, Etienne wouldn’t care. It wouldn’t bother him if we didn’t have a car or if we didn’t have electricity- he would adapt and find a way to make it work. In fact, he would probably love the challenge of finding new solutions!
So, it’s really me who has to decide what I want to do from this point onwards. I’ve decided that I’m not going to go straight back to work. We have savings that we can draw on, so I’d like to see how much money we need to get through to the end of the year. In January 2019, I might enrol in a Diploma of Counselling and do part-time work which will hopefully be tutoring, a role that I find enjoyable and meaningful. But for now, we’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing and I’ll keep recording it for you in this blog.
Just wanted to share a couple of pictures of Etienne’s recent trip to Mongolia:
Etienne spent most of his time at the orphanage doing general building maintenance, constructing a roof on a new building and teaching the older children to drive. Above is a picture of Etienne’s bed in the ger which he shared with other volunteers. Ger is the Mongolian name for yurt (yurt is actually a Russian word).
Above is a picture of the roof Etienne was constructing with some of the kids on it. The older kids were helping with the construction and learning carpentry and building skills.
Etienne went on a couple of trips to see some the sites in Mongolia, He went to visit a thirteenth century Mongolian village that has been recreated as a tourist attraction (pictured above).
In the thirteenth century village you can try on the traditional dress so here is Etienne in a traditional coat.
Etienne really enjoyed his time there. He had good experiences and learned a bit about the history and culture of Mongolia. Mongolia has had a difficult modern history which culminated in it being a satellite state of Russia from 1921 until 1992. Unfortunately, when Russia granted Mongolia independence in 1992, they withdrew financial aid and Mongolia basically collapsed. This has left the country with a lot of social problems, lawlessness, corruption and environmental degradation. Despite all these problems, people are just people wherever you go. Etienne had some interesting experiences and has some funny stories to tell. Despite his despair at the state of the environment, he had a great time and enjoyed the connections that he made with the children and the other people he met over there.
Activities of the week
Etienne is back into the swing of things… extracting honey.
I go in town one day every week. I save up all the jobs that need doing and do them all in one trip. This week I visited: the library to renew the book The Green Intention, the recycling centre, I dropped a skirt to a friend, dropped some unwanted books to St Vinnies, went to Spotlight, the Salvation Army (looking for a lamp-shade for Izzy’s room and some white shirts to dye), the Seedling House, and finally stopped at Baker’s Corner for fuel. I was in town for so long that I was starving and bought chicken inasal at BooCo (Filipino restaurant). It was a really nice treat. I think that I was in a flurry of excitement as I watched the last of our self-sufficiency funds draining away this week. Somehow, that made me spend a lot of money- I bought a coffee in a cafe (with a friend), fuel, seedlings (I’ve been having trouble germinating seeds due to soil temperatures), a bag of organic compost, fabric for making a present, and lots of food. Food – potatoes, onion, cauliflower, dried chickpea, dried coriander, dried red lentils, vegan chocolate coated almonds, and sunflower seeds, and then I bought lunch at a restaurant. I spent over $100 today. But that’s not all… because on the way home from town I decided to spend my voucher. At the Jiggi Fun day, I won a $50 voucher for Goolmangar store, a little shop near Jiggi. So, on my way home from town I stopped in to spend the voucher on cheese, olives, chutney and chocolate. I spent time making well thought out decisions about which products I wanted to buy, I chose local products like olives from Byron Bay, chutney from Nimbin and gourmet cheeses from a bit further down the East Coast. I’m embarrassed to admit that it was pretty exciting. She is a fabulous person and very community minded. I bought an arm load of things to the counter and said “Thanks Kirsten, that should cover it.” She said “no, you’ve still got $14.60 to go.” I chose another cheese and some peanut brittle for Izzy and said “that’s it, I’ve got enough.” She added it up again and said “no, you’ve still got $4.40. Keep looking.” She made me spend every penny. I was a bit gushy when it was all over.
When I arrived home I felt excited but also on the verge of an anxious exhaustion. Life is full of little ironies.
The vegetables in the greenhouse have not grown very much due to the dry weather. I’m watering enough to keep them alive but not enough for them to thrive- I have to be really careful with the water because I don’t know when it will rain. The broccoli and cauliflower plants have grown big leaves but they don’t form heads! None of my seeds are germinating either. The mornings temperatures are too cold for the summer crop seeds to germinate, squash, cucumber etc- early morning temperatures have been down to one degree. But it’s too late in the season to plant winter crops like broccoli and cauliflower – day time temperates are up to twenty-six degrees now.
We have lots of citrus: oranges, lemons, mandarines and grapefruit. We’ve had a few frosts so the oranges are nice and sweet. I’ve been making orange cakes and lemon cakes for the last couple of months.
The native bees have been swarming on and off for the last couple of weeks. I’m not sure if it’s to do with the dry weather. It’s sooooo dry here. A few weeks ago, I put Candy, (the goat) and the ewe (formerly known as Other Lambie – until she gave birth to a lamb of her own) together in the horse paddock. I closed off the goat paddock and gave them the two horse paddocks to roam around in. The ewe has bonded to Candy, but now that Candy is the dominant one in the herd, she is pretty nonchalant about the ewe; the ewe is always calling her but she rarely bothers to answer.
The goat paddock has now had a couple of weeks to regenerate. On Monday, I reopened it and the ewe and her little lamb raced down to search out grass and weeds but Candy stayed stretched out in the sun. Candy didn’t follow them so the ewe called out a few times and then came back to the gate and glared at Candy. She called out a few more times and Candy pricked up her ears but didn’t move. Eventually, the ewe and her little lamb headed off into the long grass to explore on their own. The last couple of days they’ve all spent most of their time down there under the trees.
We haven’t had a drop of rain in months.
We’ve got seven water tanks, and three of them hold twenty-two thousand litres (five thousand gallons). That’s a lot of tanks for a five acre block, but, it’s good to have them when it’s really dry. Our dams are very shallow so they dry up in the winter months which, ironically, is when we need the water. There is no access to town water out here in the bush so we all rely on tank water for our homes and/or farms. Unfortunately, it’s been so dry that some of our friends have had to buy water once, or even twice, in the last couple of months to fill their house tanks. We’ve still got enough water to keep going for now but without all these tanks we wouldn’t have been able to keep the garden going let alone the trees.
It’s so dry that wildlife are coming to the house looking for water. Tonight, Izzy found an echidna on her veranda. Then, when I went to clean my teeth, I found a night tiger with it’s head stuck in the tap. Must have tried to get a drink and got stuck. Either that, or it chased a thirsty cockroach into the tap and it was like Winnie the Poo with the honey pot. I had to gently pull it out- it’s so tiny that I just wrapped one finger around it and gently pulled it’s head free. Poor little thing was distressed and shaking but quickly recovered.
Spring is coming…
The stone-fruit trees are well established and don’t need watering. They’re flowering and looking quite healthy despite the dry weather.
What’s on the menu?
For breakfast we have porridge or toast with home-made orange marmalade. Some mornings, when I haven’t soaked the oats for porridge or made a bread, we have chopped orange or we make an orange smoothie with the blender. Oranges don’t really fill me up so if I have chopped oranges for breakfast, I also chop up some carrot and celery.
Vegetable minestrone: I fried onion and garlic (shop bought), then added home grown cherry tomatoes, carrot, broccoli, shallots, Chinese cabbage, pumpkin, celery and an old potato (that was hiding under the onion – also from the shop). I added home made stock and fresh oregano. The stock and celery gave the soup a really nice depth. I would have used white wine as well but have run out.
The garden is not producing as much at the moment so I searched through the cupboards and found some falafel mix and a small bag of lentils.
Rice is fantastic because we can make risottos and fried rice that are really filling and not require a lot of veggies to make a meal. A five kio bag of jasmine rice cost $11. I can make a meal with less than fifty cents worth of rice.
I did a big shop at Woolworth this week- rice (five kilos), oats, sugar, veggie stock powder, nutalex (for Izzy) toilet paper, nail-files (for me and Izzy) , chocolate, beer (for the slugs) and two bottles of red wine (that were on special when I bought the beer).
On the weekend, I went with my neighbour Bec (with her Thready-Set-Gomarket stall) to the O’Heart festival, a ‘conscious awakening indie folk festival’ held in the small town of Tyalgum. The event webpage explained –
Why “O’Heart”? Well, simply put, the inspiration behind the Festival is to provide a moment of immersion into a culture of “Opening the Heart”, that is, learning to live on the basis of compassion, love, inclusiveness, environmental awareness and consciously making a difference. It is opening our hearts to our remembrance of what we intuit is possible for humanity.
The atmosphere was chilled and the music was uplifting so the festival achieved a relaxed and heartening vibe where people could enjoy the indie music and participate in wellness workshops, sustainability talks, spirituality workshops and so forth; all free and open for anyone.
I Joined the ‘laughter yoga’ workshop, which was great because almost all of the attendees committed to having fun and let themselves be silly. There was only one young person who looked awkward and abandoned the workshop before it finished. Then, I did an interesting dream workshop. In the past, I’ve tried to analyse my crazy dreams and usually some parts of my dreams are recognisable – I see how they have come from things that might have happened during the day before but have been mixed up and turned into ‘Alice in Wonderland’ dreams where things grow or shrink or disappear or transform into something else. In the workshop, the facilitator explained to us how to look for symbols in our dreams. I described a dream that I’d had a few weeks earlier that had haunted me. It was an apocalyptic dream where I was walking in the countryside with my mother and her two sisters. The sky started to fill with a thick stream of aircraft and I was filled with dread and sensed that an unknown force was going to use the aircraft to attack towns and cities. In the dream, I felt like I knew why it was happening (although I didn’t actually acknowledge what it was). I started screaming for my family to run. A helicopter broke away from the others and flew down and exploded beside me. When I woke up, I was convinced that the dream revealed some sort of subconscious fear about capitalism destroying humanity. The facilitator of the workshop asked me “has there been an incident that has blown up in your family?” I instantly knew what the dream was really about, it was about an incident that had happened in my family. It was Jungian! The facilitator gave us other strategies to help us interpret our dreams. One strategy is to pretend that you are explaining your dream to an alien so you have to describe everything in the dream in detail. This can lead you to realise what the dream is about, why you had it and possible there might be some action that you want to take in relation to the message in the dream.
I joined a chanting circle which would have been fabulous except that it was too close to the live music so we had to abandon it after two chants. And finally, I watch a film about intuition which was really interesting. The inspiration for the film happened when the film maker was driving through the city one night approaching an intersection. He had a strong sensation that even though he could see the traffic light was green, he needed to slow down. He slowed down and a semi-trailer (which was hidden from his view by the buildings) didn’t see the red light and ploughed through the intersection. He knew that he probably would have died if he hadn’t followed his gut instinct. He decided to investigate everything currently known about intuition. The film documents his discussions with psychologists, Buddhist monks, Christian priests, neurosurgeons etc who all convey their perception of intuition, where it comes from and what it means. The religious and spiritual leaders all linked intuition to a connection with the divine.
There was live music playing at several locations over the two days. The music was awesome but the audience was content to sit and listen rather than have a dance. I enjoy most types of music and I’m afraid I’ve always found it hard to sit down when I’m listening to music with a nice beat. I tried to dance really low key, disguising it as a kind of swaying, but then my arms kept flying up in the air and swirling around. I just closed my eyes and enjoyed it.
There were lots of great market stalls selling natural, reusable products. I bought some bees wax deodorant to try out.
Eitenne arrived tonight and is in bed recovering from his return flight from Mongolia. Next week, I’ll post some pics from his trip.
Sorry for the delay. I usually start uploading photos on Sunday and I’m ready to publish my post on Wednesday. This week I just didn’t get around to it and now it all feels like ancient history but here it is anyway…
What’s in the garden?
Spring is almost here. Pictured below are the first eggplant and capsicum to grow on the plants that we grew in the greenhouse last summer.
Carrot seeds under an old towel
Pumpkin growing over the aquapond
Spring is almost here. I found out the hard way that it hasn’t arrived yet. I decided last week that it was warm enough to start planting the summer crop and unfortunately, I lost my pumpkin seedlings and a few bush bean seedlings to frost.
Beans damaged by frost
We’ve had a lot of rat and mouse damage in the last couple of months. I set some snap traps and caught about 10 mice earlier in the winter. But now, despite that fact that I’ve scrubbed the traps clean, they seem to be wary of them. My rat traps haven’t caught the pesky rat that is destroying the beetroot and carrot seedlings. It’s getting so hungry now that it’s started to eat the fully grown carrots and the lettuce seedlings. I am persisting with the live rat traps for another week then I’ll have to bring out the big guns and try something else.
Beetroot seedlings start
Carrots eaten by the rat (I think) but could be a mouse
Beetroot seedlings eaten by the rat
The chicken pen
hs, the chickens have been in this side of the pen
We divided the chicken pen in half and put the coop at the front with access to both pens through two little doors at the back. That means that we can let them eat all the grass and weeds on one side and then close off their access to that side and let them into the other side to eat the insects, weeds and grass there. They’ve done a good job of cleaning up the left side so I’m going to swap them over in the next couple of weeks.
The banana’s are still green but the king parrots are eating them so I’ve cut them down and I’ll string them up in the kitchen to finish ripening.
What’s on the menu?
Slow cooked lamb stuffed with rosemary and garlic, pumpkin, sweet potato, onion, carrot, broccoli, stock. My lovely neighbour Bec came over and enjoyed this delicious meal with me.
We love vegetarian dinners and often prepare vegetarian pasta, stir-fry, soups and curries etc. This year, however, we are eating more of a paleo diet with a lot of meat because it’s healthy and it’s filling when you aren’t eating much grain.
At the end of last year, I bought Izzy a bunch of tins of baked beans. She was talking about becoming a vegan and she had eaten baked beans at someones house and said that she liked them. So I bought some cans and then Etienne had the same idea and he bought some cans. We ended up with about six cans. Then she realised that they were not a good meal to eat in the morning before school (for well documented reasons.) So they sat in the cupboard all year. In the last few weeks, I have been making gourmet baked beans. First I fry onion and garlic. Then I add cherry tomatoes (which have grown right through the winter) capsicum, celery, carrot, a dash of homemade sweet chili sauce, a dash of homemade red wine vinegar and lots of fresh herbs from the garden. I simmer this for about ten minutes and then I add the can of baked beans. Simple and delicious.
Slow cooked pork and veggies #organic #crueltyfree #delicious
Oregano and thyme #organic
Veggies for the slow cooked pork and veggie recipe #organic #natural
Pork and veggies
Another slow cooked miracle. This time it’s pork with lots of thyme, oregano, white wine, stock and vegetables. I used a shop bought stock powder that I keep in the cupboard for times when I don’t have home made stock. Winter is a great time for making stock because we can boil it for hours on the top of the combustion heater.
Activities of the week
I’ve been dyeing shirts using avocado pits. The colour is an awesome dusty pink. I soak the shirts in soy milk, which acts as a mordant, then I boil them in the avocado pit water on the combustion heater for a few hours. The end result is a great colour that lasts for years.
Dusty pink shirt I dyed last week
Avocado pits in the dye solution (The eucalypus leaves were dropped in after I finished a less successful dyeing project)
The lack of rainfall is effecting the local wildlife. We’re seeing a lot of wallabies on our driveway and down near the orchard, looking for greener pastures. When we’re driving into town, we see wallabies and birds gathering on the sides of the roads eating the green grass that grows in the shade cast by the trees. Over the years, people in our valley have brought us injured wallabies that been hit by cars and if their injuries are treatable we call WIRES, a wildlife rescue service that has a couple of volunteers in our valley, or sometimes we take them into Keen St Vet (depending on the seriousness of the injury). If their injuries are too extensive, Etienne euthanises them. Now, hypothetically, there was a time in the past when we may or may not have consumed roadkill ourselves. I can’t comment on this because there are licensing rules in regards to the possession or consumption of native animals. We support these rules because they’re necessary and important for the protection of wildlife. However, it seems like a shame to waste fresh, sustainable, organic, free range meat when the animal is already dead! Now days, if we have a dead animal we might cook it for the dogs or bury them under the banana trees providing a good source of blood and bone for the plants. What I can tell you, is that Etienne’s barbecued organic, free range non-native cane toad legs taste similar to chicken kebabs.
All my life, I’ve been aware of the environmental consequences of mass consumption, so I’ve never been a big consumer. That being said, I’ve always loved a good op shop bargain. I get a lot of value out of my possessions; my camera, laptop, shoes etc. But this year, I’ve found more happiness without buying anything (ok, you all know that’s a lie – I was super excited when I bought a block of cheese recently, but that’s not what I’m talking about.) In fact, this whole consumer lifestyle is a bit of a trick. It assumes that you buy a new dress and that will make you happy, But what I’ve found is that the new dress only stays new for a short period of time and then I’m on the hunt again. This year, I changed my mindset and just didn’t think about things and whether or not I needed them. It’s been eight months and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. I just changed my thought pattern and instead I found that this simple life is rich in personal time, health, and happiness. That being said, we are not minimalists because we need a lot of paraphernalia to be semi self-sufficient. There are specific tools and equipment that are needed when you are making things rather than buying the finished product. So, we tend store things that we use periodically and also things that are given to us that will be useful in our quest to live frugally with as little impact on the planet as possible i.e. honey extractor, sewing machine, mechanical tools, brush cutter, rope, glue gun… Our neighbours laugh when they see how Etienne has reused things that they were throwing away. For example. one neighbour gave us a bunch of old steel bed frames which have become the gates on the goat stable.
$933 left in the self-sufficiency fund.
I purchased four new tyres for the ute in the last month so the total cost was around $440 (bought two tyres and then two more a couple of weeks later).
We haven’t received the bill from the equine vet yet, but it’s expected to be around $300. Madi, our old horse who died, was buried for free by a neighbour, Christan. He buried Madi with his excavator and in exchange, I’m giving his lovely son some free maths tutoring.
We paid for Izzy’s Year 11 ski trip with the FTB money that we’ve been receiving this year. We put it in a separate account so that it didn’t get mixed up with the self-sufficiency money and only spent it on Izzy when she needed it (we didn’t want her to miss out on the Year 11 ski trip with all her friends, just because we want a year off.)
Fuel is expensive so we are hardly using the car at all.
$933 left – It seems the end of our little experiment is near. It’s been a fantastic journey and I’m going to try to make this last bit of money get us through until mid September, if possible. But soon, I’ll have to make a decision about whether we dip into more of our savings or whether to get back on the treadmill of life… Whatever happens, I’m very grateful that I’ve had all this time for a deep and lengthy contemplation of this wonderful life I’ve been blessed enough to live. I feel calm, relaxed and connected to nature and to other people. That feeling of connection is immeasurable and invaluable. So, lovely people, if you want some kind of advice based on the lessons I’ve supposedly learned this year, I would say: wherever you are and whatever you are doing, take time to recognise all your blessings, and make time to cherish your family and friends.
Etienne is in Mongolia for a month and Izzy is on her Year 11 snow excursion so, with both of them away, I’m up every morning at 7am to let the dogs out of their bedroom – which is our bathroom, and make my own cup of tea (usually Etienne brings me a cup of tea in bed in the mornings). By 7.30, the animals are making a racket, waiting to be fed. I try to relax and drink my tea in bed but once Candy sees that the dogs have been let out onto the veranda, she starts her usual ritual of screaming ‘MMMMAAAAAAAAAA’ at the top of her lungs constantly. The sheep, who has decided that Candy is in her flock, then realises breakfast must be coming and jumps on the bandwagon, adding her loud low-pitched “BBBAAAAA” to the chorus. The chickens, who are housed at the front of our house, soon add to the din, squarking for their breakie. So, I sit in bed, frowning and trying to concentrate on my book which I am intent on reading while I drink my morning cup of tea. By 8am, I’m all rugged up and out in the paddock, talking to the animals like a crazy woman. “Good morning ladies, are you ready for breakfast?”
What’s in the garden?
Peas, Chinese cabbage, small lettuce, shallots, onions, celery #organic
We’ve got lots of veggies in the garden, but not a lot of fruit: we pick a couple of strawberries everyday, but there aren’t enough to make anything with them. We’ve got lots and lots of oranges and mandarines. I like mandarines but they aren’t filling so I’m having porridge or toast for breakfast at the moment, followed by a mandarine.
Strawberries (not enough to make a pie) #fresh #healthy
Jicama #healthy #organicfarming
Carrots #sustainable #foodismedicine
Jicama don’t usually grow that big. That is a really, really big bulb. I thought it might be old and brown but it was young and crisp. I boiled some, roasted some and put some in the casseroles.
What’s on the menu?
I’m posting meals from the last two weeks.
I made this pork casserole twice last week because the first time I made it, I put too much of our homemade apple cider vinegar which is really strong. The second time, I put a third of the amount and it tasted really good.
Left over gratin with roast pumpkin salad #fresh #healthy #delicious
Gratin (French potato bake) #organic #crueltyfree
Gratin (pictured above) is usually prepared by putting sliced potato, sliced onion, and diced garlic on an oven tray, adding a cup of milk and popping it in the oven for an hour (stirring a few times). Remove from oven, add some eggs (depending on how many potatoes were used) and salt and pepper, stirring through and grating gruyere cheese (tasty cheese) on top. The bake is popped back in the oven for twenty minutes and once the cheese is starting to brown it is finished cooking. We don’t have potatoes, milk or cheese so I used pumpkin, sweet potato and vegetable stock. I used in a lot of garlic and it was delicious even without the dairy. Izzy loved it.
Home made aioli
lunch- coleslaw with homemade aioli
Veggies to make coleslaw
I made aioli using a recipe from the internet. It required a cup of olive oil. I used a cup of 100% cold pressed olive oil. It was very bitter. I was quite disappointed but after twenty-four hours the bitterness has softened enough to be able to use a little bit at a time. I have been experimenting with adding to salads after I put on the dressing. It’s not too bad because it adds a garlicky flavour but it isn’t great.
Made marmalade, lovely and light, not quite set but good enough.
Sprigs of oregano and thyme #healthyfood
Barbacoa recipe from Irene #delicious
This was probably the most amazing dish I’ve made this year. A fellow blogger, Irene, who grew up in Mexico but lives in Canada, published a Mexican recipe on her blog. I adapted the idea to our ingredients and made my own version: In the bottom of the slow cooker, I placed a cup of chickpea, lots of carrots, some pumpkin, six bay leaves and lots of sprigs of oregano and thyme (as pictured above). I covered it with a cup of water and half a cup of white wine. On top of that I placed some pork pieces. I sprinkled on a pinch of salt and some pepper. I put on the slow cooker and left it. When I checked it in the afternoon I decided to cover the top in diced pumpkin. It was mouthwatering. A friend, Kel, came over for a wine in the afternoon, and when she stuck her head in the door she said “oh my God, what are you cooking?”
Chocolate brownies. I used honey, cocoa, vegan butter, eggs, stoneground organic plain flour, stoneground organic wholemeal flour and rice flour. The texture was really good.
Roast pork pieces, jicama, pumpkin and sweet potato with rosemary, salt and pepper and a little bit of olive oil (not much because there is a lot of fat in the meat. Delicious.
Activities of the week
Shopping week 30: organic, stoneground wholemeal and plain flour, rice flour, tea, onions, garlic, sweet potato (69c/kg at Farmer Charlies how could I say no!!!), apples ($1.69 per kg), 2 tins of diced tomato.
Shopping week 31 – jar of mustard, washing powder, kitchen brush. On Saturday after I dropped Izzy at the bus, I bought a block of Nimbin tasty cheese.
Self sufficiency tips
Soak the grain. Every morning when I feed the animals, I refill their buckets and cover the grain in water. The grain absorbs the water and begins to sprout which means that a lot of the goodness (i.e. the amino acids) becomes more bio-digestible. From a financial perspective, it takes a lot less grain to fill them up. So I am giving the chickens one and half kilos of grain, but I start with less than a kilo of pre-soaked dry grain.
It is important to restore calcium to the chickens if they need it. Chickens lose a lot of calcium through laying eggs. Most of that calcium is in the eggshell. If your eggshells are really thin, crush the eggshells and put them in the scrap dish to feed back to the chickens. A couple of months ago our chooks had a rest from laying eggs. When they started to lay again, the shells were very fragile and brittle. As I used them, I crushed the shells into powder and put them in the chicken scraps to feed back to the chickens. Over the following weeks the eggshells got stronger and stronger. Even though they are completely normal now, I still crush the shells for the chooks to avoid them ensure they maintain a good intake of calcium.
Speaking of grain, as you know, we bought twenty-five bags of farmer hobby mix (mixed grain) to feed the animals this year. Well, all of the animals get some grain every day so we’ve almost used up all the bags. We’ve only got three bags left. I opened one last week and it had some mould growing on the top portion of grain. I’m not sure if the other two bags will be edible.
More about heating: Well, we have the wood fire stove but the key to comfortable indoor temperatures is actually in the ergonomic design of the house. Summer and winter, I’m always appreciative of the great insulation provided by strawbale walls. In winter, the high windows which run the whole length of the house, let in a lot of warmth. The strawbale walls are excellent insulation and capture the heat of the day to make the house warm. In summer, the position of the sun is different so that it doesn’t shine in the windows, and the bales capture the cool in the house so that for most of the day it is a few degrees cooler inside the house than outside.
The above video was supposed to be a commentary about the ergonomic features of the house, but just became a tour of the lounge room. LOL (My kids are going to watch this clip and make fun of me. Brit, Izzy and I looooove teasing each other- and let’s face it, there’s some good material in that video!)
I’m enjoying being home by myself. Like most mums, my family is the most important thing in the world to me. My life is devoted to their happiness. I prioritise them above myself. I compromise myself to make sure they get what they want and need. I put all my energy into looking after them and I feel like I don’t have a lot of energy left for myself. So, now that I’m here alone, I’m enjoying the freedom to do what I want, when I want to do it. Living a frugal, semi-self-sustaining lifestyle means preparing food from scratch (as scratch as it gets, people!) and that is very time consuming. But, with everyone away, I don’t have to cook or clean up after other people. I don’t have to do anything for anyone else. I read a whole book on Sunday. Heaven! That being said, I’ve had loads of lovely visitors making sure I’m not lonely so I’ve been making lots of cups of tea and enjoying some good wine time.
Etienne and I have always valued our periods of separation from each other. It sounds strange but we pretty much make sure that most years one of us goes somewhere for at least a month. There are two main benefits to this:
It seems to me that we have become ‘Cathienne.’ Sometimes, I don’t know where I end and he begins. We’ve spent so much time together that we have literally grown together – we share a lot of the same values and have identical opinions on lots of things. So when we’re apart, we get the chance to reconnect with ourselves, to remember who we are as individuals. We both love that.
It’s like a honeymoon when we reconnect, refreshed and eager to spend time together. We have new discoveries to share with each other and that leads to lots of quality time spent together listening to each other -really listening! Sounds great, but it’s not all marshmallows and roses. There’s often a settling-in period where we have to practice compromising and old issues bubble to the surface. We basically have to find our rhythm together again.
Tiger Man by Eka Kurniawan
Tiger Man won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize. My theory is that the Man Booker International Award is not just designed to reward the best writers around the world. The prize is about exposing authors who write amazing stories that allow us to inhabit an unfamiliar world- often another culture. The authors can be non-English speaking and from cultures that are unique and complex. Sometimes the authors are mainstream westerners who are exploring alternative aspects of our own culture such as people who are misunderstood or represent difference. These novels are not necessarily heavy with eloquent, intoxicating prose but rather they are books that make you think, books that tell us something about our humanity. These are the sorts of books that I can get engrossed in.
Tiger Man tells the story of Margio, a young man living in a small village in Indonesia, who believes he is inhabited by a tiger that forces him to kill his neighbour. The story begins at the end and then goes back to explore the life histories of all the characters involved until it slowly leads to the inevitable conclusion. It is a story about violence, in particular domestic violence, in a community that condones it. It’s a sad and beautiful tale that I devoured in almost one sitting.
An hour after I made that last sad post, Other Lambie had a little lamb! I made this video about twenty minutes after the lamb was born. In the video, the lamb has it’s first feed. Candy wanders over to investigate the new occupant of the paddock and Other Lambie was protective but she let Candy have a little sniff.
I can’t begin to tell you how depressing the last week has been. First, our sweet old mare, Madi, lay down for a rest in the warm winter sun and discovered that she couldn’t get up again. She didn’t look sick at all, she just looked like a horse resting in the sun. But every time she tried to get her legs back underneath her, to push herself up she just flopped over. I called the equine vet and described the problem. He said he would come but he warned me that the prognosis is not good for a twenty-five year old horse that can’t get up. I was heartbroken. I waited with her. I took her water and set up a shade sail for her because it was a weirdly hot day. The vet came and diagnosed heart failure associated with old age. He said it had probably started around Christmas time and that it was a slow process, but there was nothing he could do. He said there could have been a number of triggers, so we’ll never know the exact cause but it’s very common in horses her age. He had a professional but empathetic approach and it seemed to me that he really didn’t want to do it. He kept patting her and saying “you don’t want to go, do you old girl?” He apologised to her repeatedly, saying “sorry old girl, there’s nothing else I can do for you.” I just scratched her neck, weeping quietly. She wasn’t scared while he was examining her. But as soon as he went to the truck to get the equipment for the fatal injection, I burst into tears and she started to tremble. She trembled the whole time, and I thought, she knows.
The unicorn without a horn…
Bee with Madi in the stable
Bee on Madi the day we bought her
This photo was taken the day Madi came to our place.
When Bee was twelve we decided that she was ready for the responsibility of a horse of her own. She’d had lots of lessons and was a confident rider. We bought Madi from a local horse riding school. She was a sweet, spirited horse who was always ready for an adventure. Madi was not a spring chicken when we bought her but she was very healthy. She had just completed her last race as an endurance racehorse, she was sixteen years old and she came third in an eighty kilometre race against much younger horses.
Madi in the paddock in winter- you can see how dry it is.
This photo was taken when Izzy first inherited Madi from Bee
That is a bareback saddle that Bee bought
Izzy riding bareback with no helmut! tut tut
She was Bee’s beloved first horse, and then, when Bee outgrew her, she became Izzy’s horse. Izzy rode her until the last couple of years when she started to spend more time in town with her high school friends, and Madi started to prefer a quiet life in the paddock.
Maddi was part of our family for nine years and we will miss her gentle presence.
So, that all happened on Thursday, and Pattie the goat started to go downhill on the same day. Up until Thursday, Pattie had been eating and drinking normally but still scouring. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I spent hours with her patting her and keeping her hydrated, consulting with the vet in Lismore, worming her and administering anti-biotics. She started to improve on the morning that she started the antibiotics. I was so pleased. I called my neighbour, Noel (who has had many goats and came over a few time to give me advice) to let him know that she was getting better. She was nibbling on chaff and grass, her stools had improved and she was drinking water and electrolyte mix. Unfortunately, that night she went into labour and died sometime through the night. Maybe she was too weak to push. I feel sad, drained and angry all at the same time.
Throughout this whole episode, I missed Etienne’s pragmatism. He would have handled it all a lot more objectively. He would have wormed her, made her a bed of straw, hydrated her, and then, knowing there was nothing else he could do, he would have said “she’ll either make it or she won’t,” at which point he would have got on with the business of running the farm. That’s not how I operate. I was completely consumed by trying to care for her. I could hardly even bring myself to eat. Izzy was very helpful with cleaning and meals while I spent hours cross-legged beside her fragile frame, with her head resting on feebly on my knee, gently patting her.
Now that she is gone, I’ve put Candy in with Other Lambie so that both pregnant mummas can be together. That’s all I can manage for this week’s post. xx
The greenhouse is powering along. We have lots of peas, carrots, lettuce, Chinese cabbage, shallots, and broccoli. We still have a lot of black radish but it has become a bit bitter so I’m going to feed it to the pig.
Patty is sick again!! (if you don’t want to hear the gory details, don’t read this segment)
Last week, Pattie developed diarrhoea. Two days later, she was better. I was very relieved. This week, she is sick again. The pattern of the illness suggests it’s not worms. Even though their paddock is huge, they’ve decimated most of the weeds that were growing in there. That is compounded by the fact that it’s dry and cold so the grass is turning brown. I think Pattie is eating something that she shouldn’t eat. That would also explain why Candy isn’t sick. As a solution, I’ve been taking them out everyday and tethering them to trees for a few hours in the early morning. They love having access to the low branches of the trees as well as all the weeds that are growing amongst the grass.
It’s upsetting to have a sick animal. The last time Pattie was sick, the vet was not very helpful (at the level that we can afford) so this time I’m just going to keep up the water and keep an eye on her.
What’s on the menu?
The freezer is full. This week we cooked a roast that we ate over a period of days.
Roast lamb and vegetables #organic #homegrown
Roast dinner #crueltyfree
Pictured below, is a bulb of jicama. Etienne planted jicama (pronounced HIC-a-ma) in January and I’ve just started to harvest it. I put three bulbs in the roast dinner. It’s like potato but a bit crunchier. It’s easy to grow and tastes great – it’s better than roast arrowroot.
Also pictured below is Etienne’s raw food cake. He was inspired by our neighbour Maree, who makes a jelly out of grapefruit juice and some kind of plant gelatine. Etienne made a jelly out of orange juice and agar. The base was made out of date and coconut. It was delicious but not quite set enough so it was a bit runny. It’s really hard to get these things right when you don’t have a recipe and you’re just testing an idea. Next one will be perfect.
Lunches this week:
Lunch is probably my favourite meal of the day. We all love salads in this family. Sadly, I ruined two salads this week before I realised that I needed to taste the salad dressing before pouring it all over the salad. Etienne’s ‘accidental’ apple cider vinegar is more concentrated than commercial vinegar so I’ve had to experiment. It has taken me a couple of goes to perfect the quantity of home made apple cider vinegar needed to make a good salad dressing.
Salad, fermented choko and rillettes on buckwheat pancakes
Making the salad. The carrots are very tasty when they are fresh out of the garden.
Aunty Marion, Uncle Ernie and Grandma Jessie sharing lunch
Etienne made rillettes. If you enjoy pate, you would love rillettes. We’ve been spreading it on buckwheat pancakes.
Pictured above is our version of a crunchy asian salad: Chinese cabbage, lettuce, pecan, carrot, celery and a soy sauce based dressing. Izzy made the humus.
Passionfruit Jam cooking on the combustion heater. In the other pot I’m sterilising the jars.
I made passionfruit and lemon jam using the combustion heater as a stove top (utilising the free power). I sterilised the jam jars there as well. The jam boiled for a bit too long so it has started to caramelise. Tastes good but would have been better if cooked less. I’m going to do marmalade this week so I’ll keep a closer eye on it.
Activities of the week
Etienne is in Mongolia helping with some construction work in an orphanage. Mongolia was granted independence from Russia (it was a satellite state) twenty years ago and effectively collapsed after Russia withdraw it’s financial aid. There is no government funding for the orphanages and no support for teenagers who are street kids. So, part of Etienne’s role is to train some of the teenagers who might like to become carpenters or builders. I’m pretty sure this experience will give him the opportunity to further develop his capacity for patience (believe me, I’ve worked with him and patience is a virtue that he could definitely work on).
I think this is a really positive thing for Etienne to do. As you’ve all probably worked out, I don’t think ‘life is like a box of chocolates‘ for many people around the world. So, if you’ve got a talent or gift that you can share in this unequal, global society, go for it!
It’s summer in Mongolia so the weather is similar to what we are experiencing here on the Northern Rivers. If he sends me some photos, I post them on the blog.
Aunty Marion and Uncle Ernie (my dad’s sister and her husband) and my ninety-eight year old grandmother came to visit on the day Etienne left for Mongolia. Grandma Jessie is healthy and happy and full of stories about growing up on her parent’s farm.
The week that I was away, Etienne bought: dental floss, gelatine, dates, toothpaste (natural)
This week we bought: toilet paper, 1 kilo (wholemeal and white mix) of organic stoneground wheat flour (should have got a couple of kilos), soy milk for dying fabric, and Izzy (who usually gets a couple of things for herself each week) put in an order for a carton of coconut milk and a tub of nutalex.
Peter and Lucille invited us to pickup macadamia nuts at their place. We collected a lot of nuts – could probably eat maccas every day for the rest of the year.
I made presents for people in Brisbane and Melbourne. I bought the fabrics and the zips for the cushions when there was a sale at Spotlight. I stuffed Bee’s cushions with pillow stuffing because it was cheaper than buying cushions. Despite trying to do it cheaply, I spent too much money to make these presents. But cost aside, sewing and weaving allow me to express, calmly and creatively (I know, a cushion is just a square, but hey…), my joy, and my love for people. I always have performance anxiety before I start any project, but once I get going, I can almost smell the good intention in the air.
The basket pictured below used fabric recycled from men’s ties.
Etienne made a really nice basket that I gave to Bec and Carl as a wedding gift. Of course he didn’t spend a cent to make it. He used Cat’s claw, a terrible weed that grows along the creek. Show off!!
The bank balance
Having ten days away reminded me about how differently we all live. I absolutely loved being in Melbourne; the atmosphere is infused with culture. There are so many exciting things to see and do, but a lot of them involve spending money. Best of all, I got to see that Bee is happy and comfortable in her new surroundings. She’s doing well but life has it’s little challenges. Sometimes, I wish that we middle-aged people, could magically transfer all our life-lessons onto the younger generations. But, I guess that would be cheating. It would be like stealing part of their journeys from them. I don’t know that it would be helpful anyway because their life-lessons will be different from ours. But imagine the pain and anguish we could save them.
But after all that travelling and visiting, I am pleased to be back on Wiccawood with Etienne and Izzy and all the animals. I’m very grateful to have this nice, peaceful relaxing time while I’m young and healthy enough to enjoy it… however long it lasts…. $1731 left in the self-sufficiency fund. Yikes! Anybody got a job for me??? I’ve got skills!! I can pat goats, walk dogs, read books.
I’ve just had ten days away – starting with a wedding in Brisbane, flight to Melbourne to see Bee (oldest daughter), back to Brisbane for an eighteenth birthday party and then home.
I drove up to Brisbane for a lovely school friend’s wedding on Tambourine Mountain. The whole experience was beautiful: Bec looked beautiful, Carl looked beautiful, they were glowing. In the chapel, I sat beside my old school friend, Leigh. Leigh and I rode our bikes to school together in high school. I remember that we used to giggle a lot, although I have no idea what we were laughing at.
On Monday, I flew from Brisbane to Melbourne to spend a week with Bee. Bee was born in Melbourne and I haven’t been back since she was one year old. As I sat, bored and tired in the Brisbane airport, waiting for my 7am flight, images of Melbourne started to float to the surface of my consciousness: trams clacking, cold stone streets, little block houses, with no yards, running down each side of the street. I wondered if twenty years of ‘progress’ would have changed the surface of Melbourne. As the plane flew out of Brisbane airport, I saw the city at sunrise: tall, straight buildings and a tidy pattern of streets in squares and neat semicircles, with patches of green throughout. As we rose, the hazy, shiny city was encompassed by emerald mountain ranges stretching into the distance. Quickly, the city fell behind and suddenly, there was nothing, just green forested mountains and vast brown treeless plains marked with the sharp lines of boundary fences. It was impossible not to notice how the rocky mountainous terrain has survived the onslaught of modern agriculture, in all it’s greedy manifestations, due to it’s sheer inaccessibility.
The city of Melbourne was wonderful. It had the same stylish, heritage (slightly gloomy) feel, the same crisp morning air, trams were clacking, cold streets with stone curbs. The noticeable differences in the suburbs were newer, renovated houses, and nice cars. I stayed in Bee’s share house and spent time with her and her lovely interesting friends and flatmates. It’s so nice to know that she has a great support network in Melbourne. We rode the tram, walked through the city, visited art galleries and museums. We saw the Gandhi exhibition at the Immigration Museum where I very quietly shed a few tears of idolatry. We saw the Museum of Modern Art Exhibition which included very famous works of contemporary art from the last 130 years. Amongst the collection were a self portrait of Freida Karlo, Salvador Dali’s clocks (loved it), Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe etc.
Sadly I missed my return flight to Brisbane. I thought the flight was at 12.30 – it was 12.15. I arrived at the airport and took fifteen minutes to find the Tigerair departures area. They closed the flight two minutes before I got there. I had to take a flight a couple of hours later.
On Saturday night I went to Elian’s 18th birthday party (son of a dear school friend). It was lovely to see Naomi and her family and Kathryn (another school friend) and be part of that special occasion.
Sunday night I stayed with other friends in Brisbane and I arrived back home on Monday, exhausted. Today, I got up, cleaned the goat stable and the chook pen (neither were cleaned whilst I was away (tut tut…. Etienne), watered the parched plants (Etienne!!??!!), cuddled the chickens, put the horse out in a temporary paddock….. it’s lovely to be home, sigh!
I love peas so I have about twenty plants in the garden. I planted a lot more but the rat in the green house keeps digging them up and eating them before they get a chance to grow.
Italian broccoli #organic
Broccoli – we’ve got four varieties on the go this winter. Regular broccoli and three Italian varieties of broccoli (pictured above right) that we raised from seeds given to us by our neighbours Kenrick and Maree.
Young lettuce #organic
Chinese cabbage and onions #organic
Carrots and shallots #organic
Broccoli seedings #organic
Lettuce and cauliflower seedlings #organic
Chinese cabbage (the outside leaves are ravaged by slugs but the heart looks good) #organic
Lettuce carrot and beetroot #organic
Beetroot seedlings #organic
We’ve still got lots of lettuce at various stages of growth. Lots of carrots, shallots, chinese cabbage and black raddish. The onions and cauliflour are still very small.
Great news – more chickens are on the lay. We’re collecting about 3 eggs a day now. We love eggs because they’re integral to a lot of meals that we like to eat – buckwheat pancakes, fried eggs, quiche, gratin dauphinois (French version of potato bake), fried rice, cake, creme brulee etc. When we don’t have meat, we like boiled eggs with our lunch.
Laying boxes in the chicken coop
Believe it or not, chickens are more than just walking stomachs that eat all day and repay the favour by laying eggs. They have personalities and relationships with each other. One of my favourite sounds is the racket they make every afternoon on dusk, as they gather, one-by-one, inside the chicken coop to hop up onto the perches to go to sleep. They are like a little family, some happy, some cranky, chatting and squabbling, kicking others out of the way as they find their perfect spot. They’re so funny and predictable.
What’s on the menu?
Fresh vegetables #organic
Vegetable curry #delicious
Veggies and curry made from veggies.
Avocado from the communal avocado grove #organic
marmalade made by a neighbour #organic
Toast for breakfast.
Mutton in the frezer
butcherint the ram
Butchering the ram
We emptied the freezer, cleaned it out, and filled it with mutton from little Rammy, who sadly is no more. His little friend, Other Lambie, cried all morning after Etienne permanently removed her friend from the paddock. Now, Other Lambie is ‘besties’ with the horse again.
In winter, we often light the wood fired combustion heater and cook our dinner on the top using it like a stove top. This is the first time I’ve used it as an oven. I decided to have a go at baking bread in the coals once the fire has died down. I let the coals die down then put a paver in on top of the coals and cooked the bread in a cake tin. It was really good bread.
Mutton casserole – mutton, arrowroot, radish, pumpkin, carrot, green beans, squash, apple, thyme, bay leaf, salt, pepper, white wine and stock. (The ingredients that were from our property are green.)
The following day, we had leftover mutton casserole accompanied by boiled Chinese cabbage from the garden. The cabbage was fresh and young. I chopped it, boiled it for a few minutes, then drizzled a bit of Etienne’s apple cider vinegar over it, and seasoned it with salt and pepper. It was soooo sweet and delicious (would have been even better with butter).
A friend came for morning tea and brought blue-vein cheese from Nimbin diary. I had some wrapped in a buckwheat pancake for lunch, accompanied by a salad that was made entirely from our own produce. Thanks Deb, the cheese was delicious.
Vegetable curry #delicious
Fresh vegetables #organic
Above is a picture of an afternoon harvest and the subsequent curry that was cooked with the vegetables. We still have lots of fresh coriander so I love making curries.
Activities of the week
Animal husbandry – I have to admit that the animals are hard work at the moment. The goats keep jumping over the fences. They have to be tethered so they need to be watched all day incase they get tangled up around a tree. The chickens are all jumping the fences even though they have a big green fenced area full of grass and weeds. They dig up gardens and the mulch that we put around the trees. They decimate the seedlings, eating their leaves, pulling or digging them up. So, at the moment, I spend half my day supervising animals. In the long run, we need better fences. Sigh!
Shopping this week consisted of a trip to bulk food to buy flour and peanut butter (pictured above) That jar of peanut butter holds about a kilo. At bulk food you can take your own containers and fill them. We also bought desiccated coconut and chocolate coated honeycomb from Farmer Charlies. Shopping cost $14.
Thursday we went to a farewell dinner for our friend going to Mongolia.
On Saturday night, we met up with friends at a local restaurant, 20000 Cows, where we ate an extravagant feast of vegan cuisine. I highly recommend it for anyone, you don’t need to be vegan to appreciate their cooking. It’s called 20000 cows because that is how many cows have not been killed and served in that restaurant.
Sunday morning, I went to the local maker’s circle and we did basket weaving with Jillian. It’s on once a month and there’s a different workshop each time.
We have a lovely friend, Peter, who is an apiarist with a lot of bee hives. Etienne traded a day’s work for 20 kilos of local organic honey (as you know, our bees didn’t produce much in the last couple of months so it wasn’t worth trying to harvest it.)
In our house, we rarely reach for the sugar tin unless we’re preserving fresh food by making pickles, marmalade, jam or chutney. If we want to sweeten our food or drinks, we generally use honey so we’ve been missing the honey since we ran out.
Reusing as much as possible is good for the environment and also the wallet. It’s tempting to throw some things away in the name of hygiene. Sometimes I find it hard to judge whether an item has become unhygienic. As an example, I’d like to nominate our humble kitchen spongy thing. We’ve had it since last year and it’s still going. It gets rinsed out every time the dishes are done and placed in it’s little bucket. It’s over six months old. It doesn’t have any odour and it’s very effective.
Spogy thig’s bucet
The sink. Etienne made that big rack so that we had more space to dry the dishes.
We also have a couple of chux cloths left over from last year. We use them for wiping bench tops and chopping boards. We started the year with about five of them and we still have three. We wash them and store them on a rack inside the door of the sink cupboard. They also have no odour and still do a good job although they don’t look bright and new anymore.
How am I going? Firstly, I feel like this year has given me an opportunity to explore, express and even embrace my true self, the person I am underneath layers of conditioning and layers of past experience. In a way, it means that what I’m doing and feeling is more in my control and less a reaction to circumstances and events that are going on around me.
Secondly, I want to say that I’m enjoying appreciating all the free time we have. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I feel relaxed and peaceful. There is no external pressure of work deadlines or trying to decide what we need or want or if we ‘should’ be doing something etc. I spend time with the goats, walk the dogs, have a cuppa tea, read my book or I type away on the computer. But, my mood sometimes fluctuates due to a hormonal imbalance (ladies over forty years old, you know what I’m talking about! – becoming the crone is both positive and negative!) I might be having a perfectly lovely day and then I walk in the kitchen and think “I am the only one who sweeps the f#$king floor.” Sometimes, I think my mind just likes to invent problems to create drama. At these times, I try to remember to be grateful and to appreciate the richness of the life I have and the people who are in it.
$2300 left in the bank. Where has all the money gone??? I’ve spent a lot this week. I’ve just spent $300 on a plane ticket to go and see Bee in Melbourne. That’s put a real hole in the budget, but she’s my baby – I have to go! My mum offered to pay for my plane ticket to Melbourne. She’s always trying to pay for things. I’m not good at receiving so, of course, I said ‘no thanks’. She then kindly insisted on paying for me and Bee to go out for dinner while I’m in Melbourne so I’ve happily accepted that offer. Thanks Ma-dogg, very generous!
We spent $110 on dinner Saturday night and we’ve spent heaps on fuel over the last months. Fuel is very expensive here at the moment, $1.50 per litre. The YOSS (Year of Self-Sufficiency) budget is dwindling rapidly. It’s always me who does the spending – well I pay all the bills ie phone, rates etc. Etienne never spends a cent. Oh, except for a PLANE TICKET TO MONGOLIA!!! I’ve been going in town every Monday and working in Izzy’s school canteen. The main reason that I decided to do canteen on Mondays was so that I could do the shopping and Izzy could drive home. She needs to do 120 driving hours to get a provisional licence. Oh, well, c’est la vie…..
Finished a little basket that I started making months ago –it’s made out of recycled men’s ties.
Pictured above is my lunch. The salad ingredients (including the avocado, pecans) and bacon are all from our farm. We bought the powdered falafel mix a few months ago when Etienne was making fish balls with smoked carp. It’s been in the cupboard for ages so I mixed it with water and also added fresh parsley, coriandar and shallots from the garden to give it some extra flavour.
Veggies -carrot, shallot, celery, raddish, and beans
Pictured above are some veggies that I made into an Italian vegetable soup. For this meal, I also harvested some bok choi, tomato, bay leaf, a lemon and fresh oregano. I fried an onion and then added all the other ingredients plus some water. I boiled the soup for half an hour and then added lemon, salt and pepper. The only ingredients that were not from our garden were the oil, onion and salt and pepper. We all enjoyed the soup. We ate it as a chunky vegetable soup – it was really good.
Oranges, grapefruit and lemons in a basket that Etienne made with old bits of wood
This orange cake was made by boiling two oranges on top of the combustion heater for two hours. Then I blended the oranges with a stick blender and added some flour, butter (I used Izzy’s vegan butter), and sugar. It ended up being a bit dense (according to Etienne who is not a fan of my super dense cakes.) But the taste was great and Izzy and I looove that texture.
Izzy and I have porridge most mornings, especially now that it’s winter. Pictured above is breakfast with passionfruit mixed in. I have to use powdered milk for my porridge because the goats have stopped producing milk. I reckon the powdered milk will last a month because Etienne and Izzy don’t drink cow’s milk so it’s really just for my tea and porridge. Occasionally I use milk in cakes, but that annoys Izzy, because then she can’t eat it.
Veggies for lunch- lettuce, rocket and broccoli
This is the salad that Etienne made with the veggies
Etienne made a delicious salad, pictured above. He harvested lettuce, rocket, tomato, broccoli. He cooked the broccoli with some Bangalow palm heart and made the whole lot into a delicious salad. We threw in some cold rice left over from the previous dinner and I added some mung beans. It was very tasty. The bangalow palm didn’t have a lot of taste but it absorbed the flavours of the fresh salad dressing – yum.
Activities of the week
Patty has been sick. She had diarrhoea for seven days. That’s a really long time for a goat to lose all the nutrition that it consumes. When she first got sick we wormed her. Etienne said that he spilt some of the worming solution so the next day when she still had diarrhoea, I wormed her again. I made a homemade electrolyte drink which gave her a lot of strength but she still had diarrhoea. The following day, she was still sick. I called the Keen st Vet and the nurse said they needed a poo sample and she said to keep giving her the electrolyte drink. The next day, I took the sample to the vet – the results were that Patty still had some worms in her system but not many. The vet was unsure whether it was worms or something else that made her sick. He said that we could pay for another (much more expensive) round of tests or we could wait and see if she got better. The vet also said that I shouldn’t have given her the second dose of worming fluid because it is quite strong.
For the whole week, we watched and waited and worried while she got thinner and thinner and even thinner until on Sunday…. she started to improve! I’m both thankful and surprised that she has survived. She is such a darling and such a sweet natured goat.
We had a lovely social weekend with people coming and going.
Unfortunately, when Etienne and I made plans for Saturday night, I didn’t realise we would miss the Lismore Lantern Parade. Izzy went and she said she enjoyed seeing all the different lanterns. We’ve marched in the parade at different times in the past to support the Koalas or the Girl Guides or something or other. The parade has a great community atmosphere and it’s a spectacular event. Some of the lanterns are gigantic. And, my favourite part of the night is the burning of the effigy. One year, they lit a huge lantern of a bird as it was flown across the Richmond River. It was a beautiful image of fire and water, life and death.
On Sunday, I made a mutton casserole and some of our neighbours came for lunch. We filled our bellies and then had a game of bow tag where I earned the nickname “the archer” from the kids. (Ha ha I’m not that good, but I’m a lot better than kids who’ve never played before)
Sending emails to Pollies
During my working life, I’ve direct debited money to organisations that I think are working toward creating a more equal society or caring for the planet. This year, I cancelled all my direct debits except for UNHCR. I can’t afford to donate financially so instead, I write letters. I read about domestic and global issues on the internet, then look up the politicians who are in a position to act in the benefit of everyday people and the planet, and send them a little email. An easy way to email politicians is through Get-up, a left-wing lobby group – all you have to do is follow the links, type in your email and they send a generic email to the politicians on your behalf. I prefer to personalise my emails, though. This week, I heard that the Turnbull govt was proposing more English language testing for migrants. I also heard that the govt are investing more to prop up the coal industry rather than invest in renewables. I whipped off a couple of quick heart-felt emails. Here is one of them:
I am contacting you to express my deep disappointment at your proposal for an additional English language test for migrants. I feel that this testing will unfairly discriminate against people who bring much needed diversity to this country. I’d like to share with you some of my own experiences with people from diverse backgrounds.
I have first hand experience in my personal life. My husband is French and emigrated to Australia in 2001. He is a hard worker who has brought an interesting perspective to our little part of NSW. Most importantly, he has a strong sense of community spirit and he has worked hard to bring our community together. However, writing in a foreign language has been a challenge for him. So, if a white European who learned English in school, can struggle with grammar, I can’t imagine how much harder it would be for some people around the world to achieve your proposed standard of English grammar.
In my professional life, I have been employed as a tutor for young adults with disabilities who were engaged in TAFE or university studies. My students were often hard workers and fantastic people in general, but they struggled with basic literacy. It seems to me that your policy suggests that they are less valuable Australians than the general public simply due to poor grammar.
I encourage you, Minister, to examine your motives for this ‘white Australila’ policy. Consider the inherent message that this policy sends to people here in Australia and in the wider global community. Ask yourself if this policy is moving us towards a fairer and more just society?
Yours sincerely, CD
Ok, that particular email probably isn’t the best example but there it is. It doesn’t take long to write an email and it makes me feel like I’m participating in the system. So, reader, I encourage you, if you’ve ever heard about an issue and felt powerless to do anything about it – pick up a pen or better still, grab your laptop and get clicking….
Etienne has been fruit picking local farm for the past couple of months. Unfortunately, king parrots attacked the crop and did a lot of damage so Etienne and the other picker finished work this week. It’s a bit heartbreaking for the lovely farmers who put so much time and effort into practicing sustainable farming only to lose a huge amount of fruit to king parrot damage.
We put Etienne’s fruit picking earnings into a separate savings account for next year. However, Etienne has now decided to use his earning to go to Mongolia to help a lovely man, Maha, do some construction work in an orphanage. Maha has volunteered in the orphanage before and has built relationships with the Australian nun who runs it and with the children.
Let me tell you about Maha – I first met Maha at the Bentley blockade where he was working with a team of protesters who were ‘locking on’ to cement installations that were preventing the trucks from entering a property where they planned to drill a well for coal seam gas. Etienne and I spent quite a bit of time at the blockade and it wasn’t long before I had my own chain and padlock. (I have soooo many stories about that incredible journey but for now just google ‘Bentley blockade NSW’ and click images and you’ll get a glimpse of the amazing experience that was Bentley). Maha is also the father of one of Izzy’s high school friends so he invited us all to a retreat that him and his partner, Krsna organise every year. Bee was not interested in coming but Izzy, Etienne and I started attending Spiritfest and found it to be an uplifting experience. It’s hard to find words to describe the feeling of being surrounded by people who seem to be the most humble, switched-on, compassionate human beings – but that’s Spiritfest. The whole weekend is devoted to meditation, kiirtan, yoga, discussions about spirituality, love and how to live a good life etc. It’s like a holiday from the real world. We love it.
The greenhouse is going really well. We’ve also got lots of passionfruit on the vine near the chook pen.
What’s on the menu?
Passionfruit cake. Ingredients from the farm: passionfruit, honey and banana. Shop ingredients: Izzy’s nutellex vegan butter, sugar, stone ground organic wheat flour, baking powder. Instructions: I didn’t measure anything but basically I put about half a cup of nutellex and about the same amount of sugar in the bottom of a small pot and boiled it until they caramelised. I added about four passion fruit to the mixture and poured it into the bottom of the cake tin to make a glaze on the cake. In a bowl, I mixed some butter (probably just under half a cup) and some sugar and the last little bit of honey scraped out of the big honey storage container. I mixed in one and half cups of flour. I measured the flour because sometimes I don’t put enough and I end up with more glaze than cake. I mixed some baking powder into the flour. I mixed all that together and it was very dry so I kept adding little bits of water until it was moist enough to stir properly. I didn’t have any eggs so it became an eggless cake. I added some mashed banana and mixed it all together. I scraped the cake mix into the cake tin, on top of the glaze and baked it. When I took it out I turned it upside down and the passionfruit glaze ran down the sides. The glaze had penetrated the cake to it was really rich, sweet and moist on the edges. It was really light but still moist and the banana must have helped to bind it because you couldn’t tell there was no egg in it. I shared it with some friends on Sunday morning and we all enjoyed it. My friend Zena was there and she said it was really good – which is great to hear from one of those people who makes amazing cakes and desserts.
Pictured below is a vegetable curry consisting of the following home grown ingredients – ginger, shallots, pumpkin, black radish, bok choi, squash, silver beet, green beans, climbing beans and tomato. I fried the aforementioned veggies in some indian spices – cumin, cinnamon, coriander, with one onion. I added a small amount of water and some veggie stock powder, salt and pepper. I added some home made sweet chili sauce and home grown fresh coriander just before serving. It was delicious. I bought the veggie stock powder last year. I find that it is great for when I don’t have home made stock on hand.
Fried rice pictured below. Ingredients from the farm: Etienne’s home made bacon, ginger, capsicum, broccoli, squash, beans, carrot, bok choi and shallots. I fried this in oil with some of Kenrick and Maree’s garlic chives and two teaspoons of soy sauce. Delicious.
I made it into a fried rice by adding some leftover rice and some sweet chili sauce. The finished result is pictured below.
I’ve made a few veggie bakes in the oven this week. Ingredients from the farm: thinly sliced pumpkin, taro, black radish, carrot, choko and/or arrowroot. I thinly sliced the veggies plus one onion (or sometimes I just use shallots from the garden) and loads of chopped rosemary and pop them in the a baking tray in one cup of milk and one cup of water (or stock). I bake this, stirring occasionally, for about an hour. I stir in as many eggs as I can get my hands on and bake for a further 20 mins so that it sets like a quiche. The rosemary is the key to this dish – it tastes as good as any quiche or potato bake I’ve had in a cafe. I forgot to take photos. Izzy won’t eat it because of milk, so I bake it when she’s away galavanting around town.
I like to flavour my tea with lemon myrtle leaves. I find regular black tea is too bitter and I need to sweeten it, but if I put a few lemon myrtle leaves in my tea, it has a nice sweet lemony flavour that doesn’t require sweetening.
Activities of the weekend:
Friday night was curry feast night at the hall.
Saturday we had a weed day – our community gets together a couple of times a year to remove noxious weeds from the property. We’re an organic property so we don’t use any chemical sprays. It’s a much bigger job to physically remove the weeds but we feel strongly that chemicals are worse than the weeds.
Saturday lunchtime we had our community meeting, during which we examined and changed parts of our constitution and some of the by-laws, such that they reflect current practices. We haven’t looked at any of that stuff for fifteen years so it was interesting to see what the original ideas were and to compare that to how we have evolved as a community. After the meeting, we had lunch together.
Saturday evening we went across to our neighbours house for a party. It was a really lovely bunch of people.
Sunday I went to the dark moon circle gathering. Afterwards, I felt refreshed and nourished. Ladies out there, if you possible get the chance – join a dark moon circle!
Some musings about a great dog ♥♥♥
Although this happened last weekend, I wasn’t ready to talk about it until now. Last weekend, while I was in Brisbane, Etienne had to put Scruffy down. He was fifteen years old. On Thursday he lay down and he just couldn’t get up anymore. Etienne called me Saturday morning and said that he was going to have to put Scruff down because was very close to the end and he howled if you tried to move him. Izzy stayed with him for his last hours. She said, “Mum, every time I got up to answer the phone, he whined until I came back.” What a sad, but special moment she shared with him! She’s had him since she was one year old so he’s been there for her whole life.This is a picture I took in December of him on his bed in the bathroom. This was his favourite spot for the last few years that he was alive.
Scruffy was a very obedient, loyal and loving dog. When we first moved here in 2003, he was a puppy. Etienne used to get up at 5am most mornings and take him for a two hour walk somewhere around the neighbourhood. That would normally be enough to tire any dog, but not Scruffy. Every time you would walk to the front door, he would leap up. He would tremble with excitement (which we always felt as a pressure to take him for a walk) just in case you were going to take him somewhere.
For the first five years (or so) that we had him, every time we hopped in the car, Scruffy came with us. Even in the middle of summer, if we went to town, he would come with us and sit in the car whilst we did the shopping and went to Bunnings etc. He was great with other dogs so we could always take him anywhere, visiting or to parties. Once, we went home from a party at 3am and realised that we’d forgotten Scruffy. Etienne, who was Jiggi’s version of a designated driver that night, had to drive all the way back and get him.
In the last couple of years, Scruffy changed. He’d always been an obedient outside dog. But once he lost his hearing, he decided that meant he could do whatever he liked because he couldn’t hear any of our instructions. He taught himself to open the front door so that he could come in whenever he liked. When Etienne was home, he would try to kick Scruffy out. Etienne would stand in the doorway yelling and gesticulating for him to get out. Scruffy just looked Etienne right in the eye, then he walked inside and lay down. That was it. So we figured that, in his old age, he could pretty much come and go as he liked.
There was only one place Scruffy was absolutely not allowed to lie and that was on the pure wool rug in the lounge room. He wasn’t allowed on the rug because he would spend five minutes digging at it before he lay down. We paid a lot for the rug so we didn’t want it to be damaged. Guess where Scruffy’s favourite spot in the whole house was? Yep, the wool rug! He would open the front door himself, come inside, scratch, scratch, scratch the rug, then curl up on it and fall into a deep slumber. When someone clomped down the hall into the lounge room he would leap up in fright (a very slow process at his age) and guiltily take himself outside. Hilarious!
In the mornings, we harvest the vegetables that we need for lunch. Pictured above is a typical morning harvest that will be made into bean salad and green salad. Bean salad-beans, capsicum, shallot, tomato and celery. Green salad”lettuce, rocket (I don’t pick the rocket until lunch-time because it tends to wilt), tomato, avocado (already in the food safe) and pecans.
In the afternoon, we decide what we’re having for dinner and we get the ingredients we need fresh from the garden.
What’s on the menu?
We’re consuming the last of the meat in the big freezer to make room for the next lot: the ram. He used to be a lovely lamb but now every time you turn your back on him he butts you. It doesn’t really hurt, but it gives you a fright and I don’t think the jolting from a surprise attack is very good for my neck. Plus, he’s twelve months old so it’s time.
Izzy took this photo while I was away in Brisbane.
Salad, fermented choko, cheese with tomato, and ro.
I spent 4 days in Brisbane this week. Even though our home grown meals are awesome, it was really nice to eat something different. I made carbonara at my brother’s house, using a recipe that my friend, Naomi, gave me. Naomi was hilarious! She took me shopping for the ingredients (just the usual – cream, onion, bacon, milk and parmesan), explained the recipe and then before she left, she gave detailed (albiet very simple) instructions. I said, indignantly, “I know how to make carbonara.” But, holy shit, we all agreed it was the best carbonara we’ve ever eaten. The trick, people, is that you fry the onion, garlic and bacon, then you add the cream and an equal amount of milk. You simmer it until it turns caramel, then add the parmesan and voila it’s very rich and cheesy. It simmered for about an hour and needed to be stirred the whole time. Labour intensive but very tasty.
Etienne made the bacon, pictured above, last year. We froze it in small bundles that we defrost now and again. We like to use small amounts of bacon to flavour our meals.
Activities of the week
Right at this moment, I’m sitting on veranda enjoying a hot cup of chai. Beside me is my flowering zygote (pictured above). Something that I’m really enjoying about this year is the appreciation of small things, like the gentle winter sun on my back and a hot chai sweetened with golden honey from our own bees. There is so much going on around us for our senses to take in, and it’s nice to have the time to appreciate it.
I travelled to Brisbane on Thursday, to support my sister who had an operation on her neck (which was successful BTW). My mum, sister and myself, stayed with my brother and his partner in Brisbane. It was good for us all to see each other even though we weren’t really there to socialise.
I took homemade birthday presents for my sister and my niece and nephew, pictured below. My sister loves dogs so I sewed big, plump cushions with the dog fabric pictured above. She loves them. I used a free online photo editing website to make the photo montage of my nephew. The words at the bottom say ‘If this is reality, I’m not interested.’ (He’s sixteen!) The prayer flags I sewed for my lovely niece. They are cut out of Bee’s favourite old dress that was torn and couldn’t be repaired. The dress was originally made out of old saris so there was a fair bit of recycling going on with that fabric.
On the way up to Brisbane, I picked up a hitch-hiker, a man a few years older than me (he told me his name when he got in the ute but I instantly forgot it – damn old age!) who was going to Tugun. He has been around this area with no car for a number of years so he shared some funny stories about getting lifts and I told him my top three favourite stories about hitch-hikers.
This one is my favourite hitch-hiker story: I promised the girls that I would never pick up a hitch-hiker when they were in the car with me. But one time, we were coming back from Brisbane and there was a man on the side the road in the middle of nowhere (past Murwillumbah). The sky had clouded over and it was starting to spit. I slowed down. Bee, who was about eight years old, said “no, mum.” I said “we can’t let him walk in the rain.” He jumped in. I said “hey, how are ya?” He turned and fixed me with a steeling stare, saying “I just got out of hospital. They tell me I’m angry.” I looked in the review mirror at Bee, who had her eyebrows raised and her head cocked to one side with a disapproving ‘I told you so, and now what the hell are you going to do?’ look on her face. We drove a couple of hundred metres down the road while he talked non stop about his difficult life and how everyone he knew had betrayed him. I saw a road of to the left and said “actually, we’re going this way.” He said “OK, I’ll jump out here ’cause I’m goin’ ta Nimbin.” As soon as he jumped out, we zoomed off toward Nimbin. Poor dude. It was very tense at the time, but now it’s just a funny story!
Another one of my favourite stories: Years after the above mentioned hitch-hiker disaster , we picked up another hitch-hiker whilst driving up to Brisbane (again – it was raining so we couldn’t drive past). Bee hopped in the back with her sister and he hopped in the front with me. I said “Where are you going?” He said “Brisbane.” I said “Cool, we’re staying in Brisbane tonight.” I was hoping for some interesting conversation but instead, I was faced with a sad soul who spent the entire trip going “Look out, missus, there’s a car coming up behind you. Watch out. Oh, it’s alright. Missus, Missus, there’s a truck on your left. She coming up fast. Look out Missus. Nope, she slowed down now. You just keep goin’. Look out, Missus there’s a car coming up…..”All the way to Brisbane. I’d been driving for twenty years by this time, so I was both annoyed and majorly offended. No matter how many times I protested that I was a good driver, he never stopped. When we dropped him off in Roma St (Brisbane) he asked me “Where are you going tomorrow?” I said “Maryborough” He said “I’ll come with ya. I know some fellas in Maryborough.” We exchanged phone numbers. The next morning, Bee said “don’t ring him Mum, yesterday was terrible.” But I’m too soft. I rang his number. I didn’t let the phone ring for too long and I hung up, saying to myself “well, I tried.” That was truly the last time I picked up a hitch-hiker with the girls in the car. I can now safely drive past, even in the pouring rain! Of course, if I’m by myself, that’s a different story. I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. I’ve had some dodgy people in my car, but I’ve met lots and lots of great people too.
Lots!!! The greenhouse is overflowing with broccoli, beans, radish, lettuce, bok choy, carrot, beetroot, silverbeet, celery, rocket, lettuce, taro, and choko. We also have lots of pumpkin stored away.
We plant sequentially so that we have a continuous supply of ripe vegetables. I recently planted beans, peas, beetroot and fennel seed. I put the seedling trays in the greenhouse and watered them each afternoon. One day, all the un-sprouted seeds had been dug up and eaten by mice. I moved the trays to the nursery and replanted the peas. A few days later, all the peas were dug up and eaten again. I think the mice prefer to eat them just after they start to sprout.
I’ve now moved the seedling trays up onto our veranda and covered them with a little mouse proof cage Etienne made years ago.
Pictured above is our first custard apple from our custard apple tree.
What’s on the menu?
Etienne cooks directly from the garden. We grew everything in the meal pictured above except for the rice.
Last week, my mum travelled on the Great Ocean Road, with her sister, Bet, and Bet’s husband, John. Mum sent us a parcel of cheeses and chocolates from the twelve apostles gourmet trail. Mum loved the experience of meeting the artisans who produce these ‘paddock to plate’ award winning products on small, unassuming farms tucked away in the countryside.
Etienne fried manioc patties, pictured above. Manioc, also known as cassava, comes from South America and is a staple in Africa and Southeast Asia. It grows easily in the Northern Rivers so it’s a great survival food. Manioc needs to be processed to be consumed by humans. Etienne grates it, soaks it and then fries it in patties. The textures is great – a bit crunchy. He doesn’t add any herbs or spices so they are delicious when eaten with home made chutney (or home made sweet chili sauce) and salad. I’d like to have a go at preparing them – I’d mix in some finely chopped oregano or rosemary and maybe some garlic.
Pictured above is an absolutely delicious goat stew. The flavour of the meat permeates the veggies. Etienne doesn’t add any herbs or spices – not even garlic and onion. It is sooooo simple and delicious. Goat stew is Izzy’s favourite meal at the moment.
Lunch, pictured above. includes some washed rind whey cheese that came in Mum’s parcel.
When I cook, I tend to make veggie curries. Pictured above is a veggie curry using veggies from the garden. I flavoured it with cumin, coriandar, locally grown garlic and home grown ginger. I made the sauce with homegrown tomato and veggie stock.
Activities of the week
In the mornings, I have a my ‘cuppatea’ in bed and read a something about Buddhism (I’ve got a few books). I get up and have a good stretch. I feed the chooks and Etienne feeds the pigs. We take the goats out and tether them to the trees. Then we do some planting or watering etc. We are usually finished the essential tasks by around 10am. That being said, we spend a lot of time in the kitchen preparing meals, a lot longer than the average family. All our meals require effort. Taro, for example, is a great substitute for potato but it needs to be dug up, peeled and soaked.
There are loads of other farm jobs that need doing so we pick and choose how we will spend the rest of the day. These jobs include tasks like: preparing for the new greenhouse, clearing gutters before rain, collecting kindling for the fire, cutting firewood, collecting choko and weeds for the pigs, harvesting avocados and pecans (we do this once a week), mulching the trees, mowing, fixing and mending. It sound’s like a lot but don’t worry, we don’t overdo it. There’s usually lots of time in the afternoon for relaxing.
Etienne has bought his ticket to Mongolia. He goes over on the 22nd July to help construct dwellings in an orphanage run by an Australian nun. He’s paying for his ticket from his custard apple packing wages.
Etienne and I were rostered on to host the Sunday lunch at the Jiggi hall this weekend. We used the Sunday lunch funds to buy all the ingredients. We bought meat, halloumi and veggie patties. We made three different salads and a vegan raw food cake dessert. We set up the BBQ, tables and chairs and chopped up fruit as an extra dessert. There was a lovely turnout of maybe fifty people, with lots of little kids running around and playing on the playground. It was a lovely afternoon.
Shopping this week consisted of rice and oil (when Etienne does the shopping there is never very much). Later in the week, our neighbour picked up some flour for me. She also bought me a block of cheese because she’s been reading this blog (very, very kind, thanks). A couple of other friends have confessed to having similar ideas of buying me some cheese or something sweet (you’re all so lovely!). BUT, there’s no need, people. This is our experiment and it’s all part of the experience of self-sufficiency. We’re loving it!
Oh, and Izzy bought shampoo and conditioner too.
We have mice in the house again. Some people in our rural neighbourhood find that a yearly pest control treatment helps to prevent the yearly invasion of field mice during the winter. Possibly because the poisoned insects are consumed by the mice which are, in turn, poisoned. We aren’t big on chemicals because products considered ‘safe for humans’ can be very questionable. We prefer to trap the mice. Every night we set a couple of snap traps and every morning they have mice in them. The mice become a protein snack for the chickens who require adequate amounts of protein for egg production. The main source of protein for the chicken are insects and the mice are a bonus in winter when the insect activity has decreased.
We’ve also got a live mouse trap which effectively catches the mouse without harm so it can be released somewhere in the paddock.
A new daily activity is tethering the goats. They’ve eaten all the weeds out of their paddock and started jumping the fence. Whilst I’m not sure what the long term solution will be, at present we walk them to a patch of weeds and tie them to the nearest tree. They love it. They’re so easy going. The only downside is that it’s an extra job that needs to be done.
We’re swapping chook enclosures this week because they’ve eaten all the weeds out of the one they are currently in, pictured below.
The girls are good. Izzy is incredibly flexible with diet, fuel shortages etc. She’s amazing.
How am I going? What can I say…. my hormones are doing interesting things. I feel strong and positive and well balanced but I suspect my fuse is a bit shorter these days.
Etienne is Etienne. When he does something, he does it 100%. He doesn’t spend any money. I, on the other hand, still visit op shops, spotlight etc. I’ve been pretty good this year. I’ve hardly bought anything for myself. Four pairs of undies, a couple of op shop items, some books and some fabric to make presents for people. This week I went nuts and got a small tattoo. Remaining funds are not looking as good as I’d hoped- $3900 (and it’s only the beginning of June!) Damn
Have a joyous and peaceful week everyone….
Life is such a greatadventure!! A real page turner. What will happen next??!?
Bad news….. The bees haven’t produced enough honey for Etienne to extract and we’re on our last jar! The chickens are only laying one egg a day! And, the goats are only producing a cup of milk a day now! In the famous accent of Jon Snow “Winter is coming…..”
On the upside, due to our semi-sustainable lifestyle, I can only tolerate small amounts of sugar now so I don’t have the kinds of cravings for sweet things that I had in the past. But on the downside, we NEED dairy and honey in our diet! And, I love baking! It would be dreadful if I couldn’t make a mango smoothie or a cake when I felt like it. No honey in our tea or porridge, no honey on toast, no delicious goat cheese infused with fresh herbs in our lunch salad. This is disastrous!
I’m going to milk the goats twice a day to build their supply. I’m also giving the chooks more scraps so that they have more variety in their diet to see if that helps.
Pictured below is the start of the new greenhouse.
This is the site of the new greenhouse. We’ve started making the pathways using the old pool lining to make a weed mat. #recycling
This is the pool site. #recycling #sustainable
The ripped pool lining is being recycled as a weed mat for the pathways of the new greenhouse. We pulled it down and cut it into strips that we’ll cover in gravel. Having two greenhouses is going to be great.
What’s on the menu?
This week we had: rich vegetable curries cooked in coconut milk using a tin of coconut milk that Bee left behind when she went to Melbourne; spicy pumpkin soup made with home-grown pumpkin and home grown ginger (Izzy loved it); roast vegetable quiche; and finally a risotto flavoured with our home grown basil and goat cheese – it was lovely but I think that using goat stock as well as goat cheese made the goat flavour a bit strong. It was nice, but next time I’d use veggie stock instead.
Vegetable curry WITH COCONUT MILK (because Bee is here so it’s a special occasion) #organicfarming
The kids kindly agreed to let me post this photo #foodismedicine #healthy #delicious
Vegetable curry with Izzy, Bee and Josh pictured above.
Salad’s for lunch #delicious
Vegetable risotto with goat cheese
Vegetables chopped up for the risotto #fresh #organic
Lunches haven’t changed: green salad (lettuce, avocado, pecan, capsicum, tomato – all from the garden; bean salad (beans, tomato, carrot and capsicum – all home grown; and goat cheese infused with herbs and salt, covered with a thin layer of oil. With the salads we usually have boiled eggs, or buckwheat pancakes or bread. The bread pictured above spread out on the pan so it came out flat like a big pancake.
I decided that if I was going to use the oven that I would fill it up so that I could make the maximum use of it while it was turned on. I made a bread, a passionfruit cake and I roasted some vegetables in rosemary, oil and salt. Lastly, I then mixed the vegetables into a quiche which was the last thing to go in the oven. So for about two hours I was popping things in and out.
The results were great. The roast vegetable quiche was ‘really good’ in the words of Bee, who doesn’t usually like quiche. The bread rose up nice and plump. Best of all was the cake. I used the same recipe that I was using when I made the five finger fruit upside down cake and I just substituted passionfruit instead of fivefinger fruit in the sauce.
On the lasts night that Bee and Josh were here, we cooked rice from a packet of brown rice that had been stored in the silky oak cabinet for a few months. Unfortunately, it had cupboard moth caterpillars in it. Some of us chose to push the rice aside and just eat the vegetable curry, but others stoically picked them out and ate their dinner without reservation (well done, I say, although I was an abstainer). The rest of the rice is now pig food so nothing is wasted.
Activities of the week
Wood fire stove
Wood stacked in the wood shed at the house #sustainability
We’ve filled the wood shed at the house with cut wood for the combustion stove. Etienne traded some farm work for the stove nine years ago from our neighbours (who no longer wanted a wood fire stove). It’s a great little stove.
Bee is home for the week so we’ve been playing card games, including the contentious Cards Against Humanity (which Bee loves but I have very mixed feelings about!!)
Did some mending with Izzy.
Sunday – Some local people organised a Lismore Council funded event for the Living out of Town website launch. It was lovely. There was a free sausage sizzle (with yummy vegetable patties and fresh coleslaw), music, school choirs, raffles, jumping castle and market stalls. There was a good crowd from about midday until 2.30pm. I sold one of Etienne’s baskets to a lady called Renita. I told her the basket was priced at $45 but she insisted on paying $50 and said it was worth more than that – thanks Renita. The highlight of the day for me was listening to Bart Stenhouse (look him up) and his friend, Dominic, who was on violin. Unfortunately, they were rostered to start at 2.30 and most of the crowd had left by then. At one stage, Etienne and I were the only people sitting with our hands on each other’s laps and our eyes closed and listening to an amazing live performance. It was like a world class gypsy-jazz concert just for us – unbelievably wonderful!
I reread my post from last week. Mmmmmm….. There’s a distinct hippy vibe to the whole thing, but I think it captures my post festival euphoria pretty accurately.
Australians, do you feel apathetic about politics? Do you think that you, on your own, can’t make a jot of bloody difference? Well, if you haven’t heard of Get-up, get your butt into gear, join Get-up, and sign some damn petitions. Put your tiny little voice alongside a million other passionate Aussies and become part of a huge choir, singing for justice and fairness for all Australians. Minimal effort, maximum result! Love it!
Ok, Get-up isn’t perfect. They wrote an email to their members in which they basically claimed credit for the killing of the TTP from Australia when actually Trump was the key factor in Australia’s hesitation to sign. I wrote to Get-up and explained that it didn’t help their cause to send propaganda to their membership, most of whom follow politics at some level and were therefore aware of the situation. They wrote back stating that they’d had numerous complaints and the campaign team were addressing all the collated feedback immediately. Good on them.
Now I need to go for a walk to harvest some avocados. Walking clears my mind and fills me with positivity. The dogs love it. Plus, we get avocados. Tick, tick, tick.
One thing I really love about the blogging community is that everyone is so supportive of each other. On that note, I’ve been nominated for a blogger recognition award by A Slice of Mexico blogger, Irene. Lovely Irene was born in Mexico and as a young woman moved all the way to Canada. Irene uses her blog to share her culinary experiences and her unique blend of traditions with her readers.
So here are the Rules for participating in the award:
1. Write a post to show your award
2. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
3. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
4. Give two pieces of advice for new bloggers.
5. Select other bloggers you want to give this award to.
6. Comment on each blog, let them know you have nominated them, and provide the link to the post you created.
I started this blog to document my family’s journey during our year of living sustainably. We are a small family with the central goal of feeding ourselves from our garden for twelve months. We’re trying to live an environmentally sustainable yet modern lifestyle on a severely limited budget. In my blog, I post weekly updates about our progress.
One of the interesting things about blogging for me, has been the opportunity to read about the amazing things that other people are doing in the world. That leads me to my three nominations for the Blogger Recognition Award:
Simple Life Experiment Lisa is a minimalist and I totally recommend her blog for anyone who is interested in enjoying a simple life. Lisa is a wise young person who is happy to share her journey and her thoughts, honestly and courageously.
Eye on Environment This is Laurie MacBride’s photo blog. Laurie’s photos capture and share the unique beauty of each flower, animal and landscape that she focuses her lens on.
Watching the Daisies Brigid has experienced some life changing experiences that have allowed her to learn and to grow. In her blog she shares the knowledge and wisdom she has gained through her life’s journey. Brigid advises people to find ways slow down and appreciate life more fully.
Advice for new bloggers:
Firstly, work out the style of blog that suits you. There are many ways to write a blog so don’t limit yourself. Play around and see what works for you. For me, my posts have become an interesting record of my thoughts, much like keeping a diary. I enjoy looking back over them and seeing how my story is evolving.
Secondly, enjoy the process. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to share your thoughts and experiences with other people. Don’t stress about how many followers and visitors come to your site. Just enjoy the creative aspect of it and I promise that readers will find YOU!
In the mornings, we harvest the amount of veggies that we need to make breakfast, lunch and dinner for that day. We prefer to take veggies fresh from the garden each day rather than harvest a lot and store it in the fridge.
Some of the veggies that went in the curry #organic
We’ve got strawberries ripening now.
What’s on the menu?
I made a big effort to take photos of our evening meals this week. We enjoyed vegetable curry, goat curry, goat stew, and pumpkin soup.
The vegetable curry is basically veggies fried in ginger, onion, garlic, and cumin, with chopped tomato and vegetable stock to make a sauce. All of the ingredients come from the farm except for the onion, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper. I used pumpkin, arrowroot, taro, carrot, beans, choko, and silverbeet. I love all the colour. We fried the veggies in lard that Etienne made and stored in jars in the fridge.
Goat curry made with a goat yogurt and tomato sauce
The goat curry pictured above was fantastic with fresh coriander from the garden.
Etienne makes great pumpkin soup, thick and creamy. This pumpkin soup was not up to his usual standard because he added a bit too much black radish and taro and he didn’t use any herbs or spices. It was nice but he’s made much better ones.
Etienne and I are enjoying our daily routines, spending time together. We’ve got similar views about most topics of discussion. Although, we definitely have different interests. Etienne loves to tell me about new discoveries that have been made in science and technology (yawn..where I’m more interested in news, politics and books . One thing that I love is that we both laugh at each other’s jokes!
Bee has settled into a share house in Melbourne with nice flatmates. She tells me she is loving city life, particularly spending time with her lovely friends.
Izzy is studying hard and working hard and socialising a lot. Last weekend she spent three days on the Gold Coast with a group of friends. They stayed in an amazing house beside a lake, where they went kayaking. She’s grabbing life by the horns in typical Izzy style.
Mullum Renew Fest
On 19th and 20th May, I was in Mullumbimby for the Renew Fest. The full title of the Festival is – Australia’s Festival of Ecological Renewal: Collaboration, Celebration, Action, Local Change, Global Impact. It totally lived up to it’s name. Basically, there were lots of presentations, panel discussions and jam sessions focusing on a new approach to living that benefits all people and our lovely planet. I saw a few presentations that revolved around the importance of building community through developing and maintaining healthy relationships and living a good, sustainable lifestyle. Another panel discussed how to revive Australia’s current version of democratic participation in a flawed political system where politicians are only concerned with short term goals and are heavily influenced by big business. One discussion, called Ethical Economics, talked about redefining the ‘economy’ and infusing it with higher values that reflect fairness for all people and environmental sustainability for the planet. Thus, creating an economy that works for people (rather than people working for the economy). There was a jam session about ‘consciously creating cultural fabric.’ One speaker in the session, talked about the need to celebrate and recognise differences without judging. Another speaker talked about human capital, organising ourselves within our communities to achieve goals that serve our local needs. Lots of the talks focused on how we can make local changes that will spread and hopefully become a global phenomenon.
By the end of the festival, I felt refreshed, joyous and empowered. I’ve coined the term ‘the lotus feeling’ and it’s characterised by a deep sense of peace, compassion and joy. I’m going to hang on to that feeling and make sure that it’s always present in my life. It doesn’t come from feeling special or owning things, it comes from sharing and giving and feeling a sense of belonging. Long ago, I read a book called A Purpose Driven Life in which the author believed that each and every person is important. Take out the Christianity, and he had a great message. He declared that “You were born for a reason. You’re life is important. You have important work to do.” So I say to you, dear readers, that if you feel like you are living in an environmentally destructive, individualistic, technology-driven, soulless culture. Then, you’ve found your purpose: change it!
I had a free ticket to the festival because I was helping my neighbour, Bec, with her market stall, Thready Set, Go. I took some of Etienne’s baskets to sell too. Lots of people stopped to admire them or to talk about how they were made but most of the patrons were the kind of people who make their own things so sales were very low. In fact, some of the stall holders didn’t even come close to covering their stall fee of $240 (which is not much when you consider that some festivals charge thousands of dollars in stall fees).
But, the highlight of the festival for me, was to meet some amazing people. In particular, we met an amazing pair, Derek and Jane, who had the market stall beside ours. Derek was aware that we were a bit stuck for accommodation because the camping situation at the festival was a bit difficult. He approached me and offered for us to camp at his place even though he didn’t know me and I didn’t know him. I talked to Bec and we accepted. I had no idea, at this stage, that he was such a wonderful human being. Derek and Jane opened their home and their hearts to us and it was lovely to have a wine with Derek and hear about his life journey from humble beginnings in England to his involvement in running parenting programs in disadvantaged communities in Australia. Derek and Jane have written several books on eco parenting. I’ve looked them up online because there might be people out there who are interested in “growing greener children” so their website is: http://www.ecoparenting.net/
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.
Brazilian Spinach, celery and a plant with edible leaves (can’t remember the name)
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.
Lettuce, bean and Chinese cabage
Onion and Chinese cabage
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.
Capsicum, avocado, eggs, and lettuce going into the salads.
Marinated olives in the top of the salad.
Buckwheat pancakes in the pan
Lunch: salads eggs and buckwheat pancakes covered with goat cheese and fresh herbs.
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 🙂
We share twenty seven communal avocado trees on our multiple occupancy so we have lots of avocados at the moment.
Our neighbours, Kenrick and Maree, are the founders of our multiple occupancy. They have cultivated an unbelievably beautiful organic herb farm on Wiccawood. They’re very intelligent, generous people, always happy to share their knowledge about regeneration and organic farming, always giving us produce or seeds or something. Pictured below are the coriander seedlings that I grew from seeds that Maree gave me a few weeks ago when Etienne and I went to their place for lunch.
The pigs, pictured below, have eaten every blade of grass in the pig pen. The last couple of months have been wet so the pig pen turned into a mud bath. They seemed to love it but I’m glad it has dried up because it’s starting to get colder in the evenings now.
What’s on the menu?
We all love SALAD! We have salad for lunch every day. Etienne and I could eat salad for lunch everyday and never tire of it.
Pictured below are two jars of fermented choko. I love fermenting food. Sometimes it takes great, like a good sauerkraut or japanese fermented cucumbers. But other times, it doesn’t taste great and I eat it for the health benefits only. There are so many chokos at the moment so I decided to ferment them with garlic, bay leaf, chili and peppercorns. I didn’t have high expectations in terms of taste. After three days of fermenting on the cupboard (growing the first stage of the probiotic bactieria, lactobacillus) I cautiously opened the jar and was very excited to discover that, not only do they taste GREAT, but they are really crispy!
Fermented Choko with garlic, peppercorns, fresh chili and a bay leaf
Dinner: Etienne made a simple pumpkin soup for dinner, using lots of pumpkin so that it was really thick. He added other veggies and flavoured it with salt and pepper. It was nice and nourishing. He made a lot so it lasted two nights.
This week we also enjoyed roast goat and veggies for dinner. I stuffed the goat leg with slices of garlic and covered it with chopped rosemary. The meat absorbed the flavours of the garlic and rosemary. I surrounded the meat with chuncks of arrowroot and pumpkin which I sprinkled with salt and rosemary. Mmmmmmm……… so good!
Potato, slippery jacks, salad
slippery jacks in parsley and garlic
Slippery Jack mushrooms
Pictured above is the lunch that cooked using slippery jack mushrooms that I harvested from under a friend’s pine trees. The mushrooms were delicious, but I ate a huge plateful and had an upset stomach afterwards.
Etienne made chocolate balls with bunya nut, date, coconut and cocoa powder. They are sugarless but really tasty. Izzy takes them to school for her vegan friends.
Activities of the week
We have a combustion heater. It’s great. Firstly, it heats our house at no cost because we have an abundance of fallen trees and branches in our woodlot that we can cut up for fire wood. Secondly, we can cook on it rather than use the gas stove. It’s particularly good for things that take hours to cook, like marmalade.
Etienne, stores the big pieces of wood over in the wood shed at the end of the driveway, pictured below. At the start of winter, Etienne uses the log splitter to break the wood into pieces that fit in the combustion heater. Then we put the smaller pieces in the ute and take them down to the garage where we stack them. My job is to stack the wood.
Some days we don’t feel like doing much. On these days, we stick to the necessary jobs: feeding, milking and watering. We can get it all done in half an hour and then we have the rest of the day free. What do we do on such glorious days as these? There’s always something to do. Usually, we go and visit our neighbours around the valley or we go into town and spend the day doing all the town jobs.
We did lots of socialising this week with cups of tea and bottles of red wine. Good company, good conversation… good wine….
Shopping on Monday:
Bulk food: peanut butter, buckwheat, spelt flour $15.60
Farmer Charlies: original potato chips, soy milk, dishwashing liquid, white vinegar, onions $23.05
Ladies underwear from Best and Less $10 for 3 pairs of cotton undies
Fuel and gas $82
Here is a funny story: The reason that I bought potato chips this week is because, every Friday, Etienne puts on a games night at the hall and people bring food to share: lovely cheeses, dried fruit and nuts, sandwiches and chips. We haven’t bought chips all year, so when a deliciously salty packet of chips is placed in front of me, I find it hard to control myself. A couple of times, I guzzled more than my share! How embarrassing!!?! So, this week I was pleased to provide the packet of chips on Friday night.
Sunday 6th of May
I volunteered with Lock the Gate at the car boot market in Lismore on Sunday. Lock the Gate is a grassroots organisation that formed in order to protect communities, land and water from the invasive gas mining industry in Australia. Paul, an old friend, was rostered on with me so we spent time swapping stories and chatting with concerned citizens who wanted an update on the situation in the Northern Territory and in the Pilliga.
I love the Lock the Gate community. Like so many other groups who are on a mission to save the planet, they are dedicated, resourceful, and compassionate people. LTG have been supporting communities for years as they have struggled against companies and governments. They find it very hard to understand how, with the wealth of knowledge we have about the destructive nature of fracking, so many Australians can be complacent about gas mining. I’m afraid, it doesn’t surprise me that people are complacent. We’ve all got Facebook! There are so many issues on the table, it’s hard to know how to prioritise them. It’s easier to throw your hands in the air and ask, “what difference can I make?” Personally, I think it’s great if there is some little thing that you can do to create a good change in the world. I’m money poor but time rich so I volunteer for Lock the Gate.
After finishing my shift at the market, Izzy and I raced out to Jiggi for the Sunday lunch. The Sunday lunch is a shared lunch held is on the first Sunday of the month. We have an annual roster so that a different set of people organise the food each time. A lot of the people who attend the Sunday lunch have been in the valley and known each other for many, many years. I enjoy the atmosphere and I love the salads. People make the most amazing salads for the Sunday lunch. Colleen B makes a bean and almond salad that is incredible. Max and Gisela always make something unique and delicious. Pat, Roz and Kate made an amazing potato salad (I think Kate was responsible for the potato salad). I could go on and on….
After the Sunday lunch, our neighbour Phil dropped around and we played a French card game called Belote. Etienne won.
Many people around the world are really switched-on to what is happening to our planet and are making changes in their lives: using reusable bags instead of plastic bags, trying to be less wasteful, researching what they’re eating, etc. Jiggites (people of the Jiggi valley) are really good at this. In the valley people car pool, socialise together, make their own necessities, look after their land, build amazing alternative houses, grow their own food etc. Etienne and I have learned so much from these amazing people. Etienne listens to what people say so that he can learn about techniques and then he does his own experiment based on all the information he has compiled.
I’d like to relate two stories that typify Jiggi for me:
Tav: Hey Etienne, I heard you were looking for a ride-on lawn mower. I’m selling mine. Do you want to buy it?
Etienne: It’s a great mower. How much do you want for it?
Tav: For you, mate $1000.
Etienne: No way, Tav. It’s worth at least $2000.
Tav: OK, how about $1200? It’s a few years old and I don’t want it anymore.
Etienne: Yeah but it’s in great condition. It’s got to be worth at least $1700.
Tav: All right, Etienne. I guess I could take $1500.
Etienne: Are you sure, mate?
Tav: $1500 that’s it! Etienne: OKIf you insist, I’ll take it.
I couldn’t stop laughing, listening to Jiggi’s brand of reverse bargaining.
In Jiggi, you don’t ‘keep up with the Joneses’. You keep down with the Joneses. I was at a party years ago and we were talking about our toilets:
Person A: We’ve got a flush toilet and we’ve just invested in a reed bed to purify the water.
Person B: We’ve rigged our toilet so that it only has a half-flush.
Person C: We’ve got a compost toilet.
Person D: We’ve got a compost toilet that we made ourselves out of an old wheelie bin.
Person E: I don’t have a toilet at all.
Everyone was very impressed by the total lack of toilet.
Money, money, money…
At this point, I would to acknowledge that, by undertaking this semi self-sufficiency journey, we have given up the ability to financial help our out-of-home child. Bee does not like to ask us for money, but like all young people, there are times when she needs some help. This year, I can only offer her a loan! 😦 On the one hand, it makes me sad that I can’t help her the way I could before. But on the other hand, it means that she has to learn to balance her budget more effectively.
I’ve finally finished reading The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, written by Robert Tressell, which is an examination of early nineteenth century society through a socialist lens. The novel focuses on the lives of a group of working class men and their families who struggle to survive in a society where they live in abject poverty with very few rights. Whilst it can now be read as a historical novel, at the time it was written, Tressell was merely documenting the appalling poverty of the working classes of England. At the same time he details that corrupt and selfish actions of the town council and the wealthy ’employer’ class that essentially exploit the workers and at the same time manipulate the press to convince them that the capitalist system benefits all.
The central character, Owen, spends the novel trying to explain to his fellow workers how capitalism keeps them in poverty and concentrates wealth in the hands of a few men who, rather than work hard and earn their wealth, have inherited it. These wealthy, influential men sit on the town council conniving to use their political power to increase their wealth. And of course they own the local newspaper so they can control how they are represented to the workers.
This is a time before unions were common. The conditions that the working classes endure in the novel are dramatic. They are underfed, dressed in patched-up rags, poorly educated (because children worked for HOURS before and after school, doing odd jobs) and desperate to do whatever the boss wants to avoid being sacked. There were no protections for workers so they could be sacked for any reason. And, there were so many willing workers that they were constantly competing with each other to get the available jobs. They agreed to work for very little money to ensure they remained employed and if they lost their job they found themselves quickly headed to the workhouse. Throughout the novel, Owen, reminds his fellow workers that they were better off under the feudal system because the Lord had to ensure his serfs didn’t starve so that they could till his soil and make him money, as opposed to the capitalist system, where the employers can simply replace workers if they starve.
It is an important novel, but it’s looooong and repetitive. I found the narrative voice to be too negative. The narrator sympathises with the plight of the workers, and constantly explains that it is their life conditions (lack of education and lack of any refinement) that make them easy to “decieve, bluff and rob.” But, the over excessive use of sarcasm (that is designed to highlight the ridiculousness of the situation) results in the narrator seeming to be angered and jaded by the stupidity of the workers, whom the narrator repeatedly describes in the harshest terms such as “savages” “brutes” “dull and stupid,” “beasts of burden” or “intellectually like little children.”
Overall, I think it is a clever novel and an important political text. Tressell was not an author, he was a tradesmen (like Owen the central character) and researchers have found that events in the novel accurately portray events in Tressells’ town of Hastings, in England. As the novel’s full title proclaims The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists: Being the Story of Twelve Months in Hell, Told by One of the Damned, and Written Down by Robert Tressell.” The novel is an amazing achievement and a great socialist text.
Here is one of my favourite quotes where Owen attempts to explain the causes of poverty:
Poverty “is caused by Private Monopoly. That is the present system. They have monopolized everything that it is possible to monopolize; they have got the whole earth, the minerals in the earth and the streams that water the earth. The only reason they have not monopolized the daylight and the air is that it is not possible to do it. If it were possible to construct huge gasometers and to draw together and compress within them the whole of the atmosphere, it would have been done long ago, and we should have been compelled to work for them in order to get money to buy air to breathe. And if that seemingly impossible thing were accomplished tomorrow, you would see thousands of people dying for want of air – or of the money to buy it – even as now thousands are dying for want of the other necessities of life. You would see people going about gasping for breath, and telling each other that the likes of them could not expect to have air to breathe unless the had the money to pay for it. Most of you here, for instance, would think and say so. Even as you think at present that it’s right for so few people to own the Earth, the Minerals and the Water, which are all just as necessary as is the air. In exactly the same spirit as you now say: “It’s Their Land,” “It’s Their Water,” “It’s Their Coal,” “It’s Their Iron,” so you would say “It’s Their Air,” “These are their gasometers, and what right have the likes of us to expect them to allow us to breathe for nothing?” And even while he is doing this the air monopolist will be preaching sermons on the Brotherhood of Man; he will be dispensing advice on “Christian Duty” in the Sunday magazines; he will give utterance to numerous more or less moral maxims for the guidance of the young. And meantime, all around, people will be dying for want of some of the air that he will have bottled up in his gasometers. And when you are all dragging out a miserable existence, gasping for breath or dying for want of air, if one of your number suggests smashing a hole in the side of one of th gasometers, you will all fall upon him in the name of law and order, and after doing your best to tear him limb from limb, you’ll drag him, covered with blood, in triumph to the nearest Police Station and deliver him up to “justice” in the hope of being given a few half-pounds of air for your trouble.”
This week I transplanted the seedlings into the garden beds in the green house: spring onion, onion, beans, peas, broccoli, and Chinese cabbage.
For our meals, we are harvesting avocado, pecans, lettuce, rocket, mizuna, squash, zucchini, beans, tomato, choko, carrots, silverbeet, eggplant, taro and arrowroot.
What’s on the menu?
I had some left over ratatouille so I blended it and made pizza sauce. I made a bread dough and flattened it with a rolling pin to make a pizza base. Pizza topping: pizza sauce with goat cheese, olives (our neighbour Donnie grew them and gave us a bottle which I flavoured with garlic and rosemary), and avocado. I baked the pizza and a pecan pie in the oven. We had pizza and salad for lunch, and saved the pecan pie for our dinner dessert because it was too hot to eat. The pizza was great, even though the dough was puffy and we all prefer thin and crispy.
The pecan pie was made with our own pecans, honey, eggs and goat cheese. I used organis stone-ground wheat flour and some of Izzy’s nuttelex for the pastry. It was delicious and it set perfectly, despite using honey.
Sunday dinner: Etienne’s amazing goat curry. Ingredients: goat, beans, pumpkin, olives, and our neighbour’s home made spicy mango sauce.
Monday dinner: I made a vegetable curry using a can of coconut cream that our neighbour Bec gave us. Bec read my blog and decided that she needed to give me some coconut cream. We invited her to join us for dinner: vegetable curry, home made wine and pecan pie. She brought whipped cream to have with the pie. It was sensational! Izzy’s friend, Jess, was also there for dinner.
FYI, Izzy and I were exceptionally excited about the pecan pie. Sometimes, during the afternoon, I lifted the tea towel that was covering the pie and just inhaled the aroma. Mmmmm…
Tuesday lunch: salad (all from the garden) and fresh bread.
Saturday 28th April, lunch: chick pea falafel on buckwheat pancake, salad, avocado, home made pickle and boiled choko. I love adding choko to my meals but Izzy and Etienne won’t eat it unless it’s incorporated into the meal. I bought the falafel mix months ago because Etienne makes great fish balls using freshly caught carp and falafel mix. He hasn’t been fishing lately so I decided it was time to cook up some falafels. I added fresh herbs from the garden to the falafel mix.
Sunday dinner: Izzy’s friend, Bridie, stayed over and they let me take their picture! We had goat curry with vegetables. Etienne didn’t add any herbs or spices. The meal was flavoured by the meat and the vegetables. It was soupy and absolutely delicious.
Activities of the week
Working class man
Etienne has been offered a job picking fruit on a local farm, for one or two days a week. We want to stick to our original budget to see if we can survive for twelve months on ten thousand dollars, so we’ve set up a separate bank account for Etienne’s wages. Etienne is planning a trip to Mongolia soon, so the money can be used for his ticket. He worked his first day this week.
We bought one item: mustard powder, $1.50. We need vinegar, buckwheat, flour and toilet paper but it will have to wait until next week.
On ANZAC day, I attended the fantastic Remembering and Healing ceremony in Lismore known as RAH. RAH is organised by Lismore community members who saw a need for a multi-cultural, multi-faith commemorative event on ANAC day that was inclusive of all people affected by war, and was impelled by a strong commitment to peace. ON their website it says:
Remembering and Healing organises Anzac Day events that model how commemorations of wars can be inclusive, remembering all who have suffered through war, on all sides, civilian and military, without any glorification of war and at the same time committing to a peaceful future.
Speakers a the commemoration event included a Catholic Bishop, the President of the Muslim society, a Buddhist monk, and an author/academic. All the speakers were fabulous. First, they recognised the fallen heroes and voiced their respect for the families who still celebrate ANZAC day. But then, they brought a multitude of other perspectives to the table. The most inspirational speaker was the Catholic Bishop who pointed out that we each need to find our own peace before we demand it of others. It is easy for people to say “why did that person/country overreact? That issue could have been solved peacefully.” But what we do in our own lives when we are faced with conflict? Conflict in our jobs, in our communities, in our homes, in our own hearts? Do we look for peaceful solutions? Do we truly understand what peace is?
The academic was also brilliant. She focused on the political issues surrounding the huge emphasis that Australia puts on Anzac day and the ANZAC legend. She discussed issued such as the social implications of the huge emphasis that Australia puts on the ANZAC celebrations, the inappropriate influence of powerful companies selling military equipment (profiting from war and death), the incredible political power of the RSL, and two key political issues: Firstly, the fact that the Prime Minister has the power to send troops to war without any consultation or discussion with anyone. We need to implement reforms that prevent Prime Ministers having this power. Secondly, she detailed the amount of money that is spent on glorification of the ANZAC legend. For example, the war museum just asked for money to upgrade and they could receive $500 million (I had to fact check this because I heard conflicting amounts but here is the evidence – http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-07/underground-war-memorial-expansion-tipped-to-top-500-million/9627910 ).
In between speakers, a choir sang beautiful songs of peace. After the speeches, we were all invited to come to the front where a huge world map was raised. We each marked on the map the countries where our ancestors originated. The atmosphere was up-lifting. Afterwards, I chatted with folks from Jiggi, folks from Bentley and folks that I’d met around Lismore or at retreats. It was one of those special occasions that fill your heart and make you feel connected to your community.
My neighbour had a steampunk doof party so Saturday night a bunch of us dressed up and for a night of dancing. It was awesome- nice people and pumping music.
Two weeks ago I spent $24 on chlorine. This week the pool split. Adios amigos. Any one need any chlorine?
It’s been a wet Autumn. In fact, we’ve had so much rain in this area that everyone is sick of the rain! Our tanks are overflowing, the ground is muddy and we can’t get anything dry. With all this water, I treated myself to the first bath of the year. I put a big spoon of honey in the water. It’s a natural humectant that promotes moisture retention and it makes my skin feel soft.
I’ve been using tobacco leaf as toilet paper since 2014, after attending a festival that provided only tobacco leaf for toilet paper. The leaf of the wild tobacco tree (not the tobacco you smoke) is very soft but also strong and hairy so it removes moisture. However, tobacco leaf is only good for a pee pee in the bushes. It can’t be used in the toilet because it can’t be flushed. Therefore, we still need a small amount of toilet paper.
Last year, when I first started telling work colleagues that I was planning to take a year off work to live self-sufficiently on a limited budget, there was one question that often seemed to crop up: “what are you going to do for toilet paper?” I would respond, “tobacco leaf!” Some people would look look me in the eye, frowning with deep concern, and say “what about when you have visitors?” I would say “tobacco leaf. It’s awesome!”
On my last day at RED Inc, I received lovely cards and heartfelt hugs and staff came to the pub with me after work to wish me well on my year off. The next week, I attended the Christmas party and, in front of all the staff, my colleague, Mitch, made a speech and handed me a very large present. It contained a huge 36 roll pack of toilet paper and a box of roses chocolates (everyone was also very concerned about the chocolate situation).
Those 36 rolls of toilet paper lasted us four months, we ran out this week! Pictured above is me holding the empty packet.
This week, we watched the movie the Accountant, starring Ben Afflick as Christian Wolff, an autistic accountant who specialises in managing the books for the mafia and other criminals. Wolff is portrayed as an incredible fighter, he is also Rain Man brilliant with all things mathmatical, he is kind to his neighbours, he defends the helpless female character who he cares about. He is a likeable character, an hero with incredible abilities, yet comically, a complete lack of social skills. I wish I could turn off my critical analysis and just enjoy a movie but I can’t. This movie annoyed me. It basically asks you to overlook the fact that this man is a murderer who works for the bad guys, helping them to get away with their criminal enterprises and selfishly making himself millions of dollars that ultimately come from people who were robbed by the mafia. He even has a collection of stolen art in his possession. In the movie, the FBI operative, a character who represents law and order, clearly admires Wolff, describing him as “having his own moral compass.” As if that makes it ok for him to be a killer, working for the mob. I can’t help worrying about the messages that these morally confused movies convey to our youth.
What’s in the news?
1. The federal government is pressuring AGL to sell its Liddell coal power station to Alinta! AGL wants to close the plant, but the government are pressuring them to sell it so that it can continue to operate. Why can’t they just invest in renewables!?!
2. The Murray Darling Basin is still in crisis! The Government’s $13 billion plan is failing to restore the Basin to health. Why is this river system so important? The Murray Darling Basin provides water to farms, residents and towns in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia. In fact, two out of every five farms in Australia get their water from the Basin. It also feeds sixteen internationally significant wetlands. $8 Billion has been spent on the river system so far, but it has done little to protect these wetlands. As part of the Basin Plan, water is purchased with tax payer money to be set aside for the environment. Yet, below is a news article from June 2017:
Billions of litres of water purchased by taxpayers to save Australia’s inland rivers are instead being harvested by some irrigators to boost cotton-growing operations, in a policy failure that threatens to undermine the $13 billion Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
The pumping of this environmental water means taxpayers have in some cases been effectively subsidising already wealthy agricultural interests, including those of Webster Limited, a publicly-traded company which holds a $300 million water portfolio — the largest Australian-owned private holding in the country.
The environmental effects of this issue are becoming clear. For example, in the Coorong, a system of lakes and wetlands where different species of migratory birds rest and recuperate before their long journeys to countries such as Siberia, China, Korea and Japan. Every year, hundreds of thousands of migratory birds rested and refuelled in the wetlands at Coorong, until now. So much water has been stripped from the basin that it doesn’t wash through the Coorong, and as a result, the salinity of the water has risen, killing plants that birds rely on for nutrition and causing irreversible damage to the river systems. Despite the fact that Australia has signed international agreements protecting these birds, the problem is being ignored. There is a record low in the numbers of birds migratory birds in the Coorong this year. The scientist who counts the birds said he has observed many birds starve to death. It’s heart-breaking!
I decided that, despite budget concerns, I wanted to catch up with friends and family in Brisbane. Rather than driving up the coast, I took the inland, scenic route which takes the same amount of time but, unfortunately, the roads aren’t as good as the coastal highway so it’s a bit rough on the car. It’s a beautiful drive and I couldn’t resist stopping to take photos along the way.
Pictured Above is the view of Mount Warning from the Murwillumbah Art Gallery. The gallery is lined with windows of all shapes and sizes that frame the most incredible view of Mount Warning. It’s like looking at a landscape painting.
Pictured above is a photo of the Tweed River at Murwillumbah taken from the bridge. The sun was so bright that day that I couldn’t really see what I was photographing. I’m surprised at how lovely the photos turned out.
Pictured above is the old bridge across the Tweed River at Murwillumbah.
Sphinx Rock Cafe
Amazing coffee from Sphinx Rock Cafe
Houses, gates, letterboxes and me at Sphinx Rock Cafe. There is also a picture of rubbish that someone has dumped on the side of the road.
At Sphinx’s Rock Café, I met a woman with a young daughter and twin babies. We chatted for a while and she talked about how people in her community were upset when she wouldn’t let them help her with the twins. When her babies were born, she felt that she had to learn to do everything herself and she actually became ‘over-competent’ and didn’t need anyone to help her. She said that people in her community felt rejected when they offered help and she declined them. I guess we’re all different and it’s important that we can be our authentic selves and not feel pressure to anticipate how our decisions will make other people feel. We can never hope to please everyone anyway. We can only be honest and tactful in our communication. We are a diverse bunch of individuals with all our own motivations and intentions. Perhaps we can all practice truly listening to each other. If her community members had really listened to her they would have seen that she didn’t mean to rebuke them, she simply didn’t need the help. That’s easy for me to say, but not so easy to do! Etienne is always accusing me of not listening to him. I say “Rubbish! Give me an example.” Sadly, he usually can.
At the Tweed River, I called out “nice van” to a man, about my age, who was perched in the door of his van. He had long sandy blond hair and a toothy, endearing smile. He chatted about his international travels and his recent adventures, living in his van and travelling around Australia for the past three years. He was very lovely and open, radiating a positive aura. A born traveller! I realise it might seem odd that I randomly called out to a stranger with a van. But, in my defence, I live in a very friendly area, and for the last seven years, I have been a woman with a van, and we van folk talk.
In Brisbane, I caught up with my oldest friend, whom I’ve known since primary school. We rarely talk on the phone but we know each other inside out and when we see each other it’s as though we’ve never been apart. We had some good discussions about life, people and human potential. Then, I stayed with my brother and his partner for a night of alcohol-fuelled political discussion and debate. My last night was spent with dear friends that Bee and I made long ago, when we lived in Brisbane, before I met Etienne. On the way out of Brisbane I visited the Art Gallery at South Bank. Art is so amazing and inspiring, and I love the social commentary and the way it makes me question things.
The trip was not so much a holiday as a visit to connect with loved ones. I bought presents for everyone in the form of home grown and made produce: honey, pickles, wine, eggs and fresh veggies. I spent less than $100 during the whole five days that I was away: including fuel, a bottle of wine, one meal, a few half-strength coffees, and parking at South Bank (to visit the art gallery). BTW, did anyone notice that the price of fuel has sky-rocketed?
Above are photos of Nimbin Rocks, Blue Knob and the Border Rangers taken on the return trip from Brisbane.
What’s in the garden?
The veggies in the greenhouse are thriving.
We’ve been harvesting pecans from our trees.
Avocados in the food safe.
What’s on the table?
From the garden: lettuce, pumpkin, avocado, pecan, mizuna
Most days our lunch involves a salad that comes entirely from the garden. We use home-made red wine vinegar combined with olive oil and salt and pepper to make a salad dressing. We’re almost out of olive oil which is an item that we have to purchase – we haven’t had to buy any yet this year but the time has come. We can buy locally made olive oil at the market in Lismore.
For dinner we have been having ratatouille: zucchini, eggplant, capsicum and tomato simmered with fresh herbs, particularly oregano, rosemary and thyme. To cook ratatouille, you fry onion and garlic, add the herbs and veggies, add some water and let it simmer for about 20 mins.
What’s been going on this week?
Food shopping: last week Etienne spent approximately $20 on oats, sugar, flour, ? (there was something else but I can’t remember) and peanut butter and I spent $25 on chlorine for the pool. This week we didn’t do any food shopping at all, but Etienne spent money on fuel for the mower etc.
We have new fruit trees (very small)
Jean and Francoise, Etienne’s parents gave us money for Christmas and we decided to buy fruit trees. We decided to wait until autumn to purchase them so that we wouldn’t need to struggle to keep them alive in the heat of summer. Etienne bought some coffee, pomegranate, feijoa, and some gravillea (which attract lots of birds) and planted them in front of the horse stable, goat stable and a few other spots that we want to keep the weeds down.
Pomegranate and coffee trees planted in front of the completed section of the goat stable, there is another room that will be added to the side.
Pomegranate, coffee and taro planted between the green house and the nursery.
The soap situation
Soap on the sink
Last year, Etienne made soap. The brown soap is made of olive oil, coconut oil and caustic soda. Some are scented with cinnamon and orange and others with vanilla. The pink soap has food colouring. The food colouring was an experiment. Unfortunately, it didn’t mix in, which is why the top of the soap is brightly coloured and makes your hands pink. I think we’ll still use it because we find it really hard to throw things out.
A caterpillar on our orange tree.
Jiggi Feast Night at Jiggi Hall
Every Friday night at the Jiggi Hall we have Family Games Night. The third Friday of the month is Friday Feast Night with a local lady, Zena putting on a dinner for the community. This Friday, the community was treated to a Mexican cuisine followed by a showing of the documentary Sacrifice Zone, organised by community members to support the anti CSG movement.The film was about the government’s plan to allow the land in and around the Pilliga to become vast gaslands for the benefit of Santos (who often employ the ministers/politicians who granted them their mining licences once they retire from politics. Hello????) The state and federal governments want this project to go ahead but the affected communities don’t. Amongst those ‘sacrificed,’ will be farmers, farm lands and farming communities, local wildlife and the Pilliga National Park. It was a sad film loaded with information and images demonstrating the damage already done by this invasive industry in other parts of Australia.
We, the people of the Northern Rivers stopped Metgasco from drilling wells at Bentley, and the community of Gloucester stopped AGL from proceeding with it’s plans to drill 300 wells in their back yards. It can be done, people!
FYI – for those of you who don’t know my family, you are probably thinking that it’s strange that most of the ‘people shots’ in this blog are of me. Unfortunately, the other characters in this little saga are a tad camera shy, so, despite my amazing skills of persuasion, it’s been very difficult for me to coerce them into letting me post photos of them.
This week, I wanted to give you an update on areas of deprivation. The things I miss the most are:
melted cheese. I haven’t had cheese melted on anything for four months. Pizza with melted cheese, pasta with melted cheese, risotto with melted cheese, melted cheese, melted cheese etc
having a good mobile phone and a good phone plan. I don’t have mobile reception on the farm so I only use my mobile when I go to town. This year, I’m using a prepaid card from Aldi – $15 worth of credit lasted me from mid January to mid March months. When I was in Brisbane however, I used $15 credit in five days. It was really annoying to have to be conscious of the length of calls, data usage etc. I felt like a penniless beggar when I called people and said “I can’t talk for long because I don’t have enough credit.” It was a bit humiliating.
going to the theatre, to retreats etc
That’s all the deprivation I can come up with at the moment. (Actually, subconsciously, I think I really just wanted to tell the world how much I miss melted cheese!)
At my friend’s place in Brisbane, I hesitantly plucked a Noam Chomsky text from the bookshelf and decided to see how far I would get. (Years ago, I borrowed a Noam Chomsky book from the library and found that it made me overwhelmingly angry and depressed, so I deposited it back where it had been hiding, largely reviled and ignored, and went on with my life.) This time I fared no better. Chomsky makes the mistake of being too specific. If only he would explain the calculated efforts of powerful Western countries to control, manipulate and destroy developing countries in general terms then I could be outraged but still distance myself from the realities. But he doesn’t! He quotes presidents, and political strategists, he names policies and explains their effects and identifies who benefited from them. I read two pages about how France and America turned Haiti from a resource rich country into terrifying wasteland over the period of 1842 until the present, then I cried for about half and hour. I don’t believe we should bury our heads in the sand but I just can’t read Chomsky!
When I was in my mid 30’s, I started to notice that my skin was suffering from lack of care. I decided to use moisturiser as a starting point. I’ve been making good quality, natural moisturiser ever since thanks to an amazing book I purchased at Traditional Medicinal in Lismore. This week, I made a rich moisturiser for myself, Izzy, Kel and Bec. It consisted of almond oil, jojoba oil, rose hip oil, evening primrose oil, vitamin E oil, carrot oil, and organic olive leaf emulsifier. I used citrus oil and glycerine as preservatives. I would have added 20 drops of frankincense essential oil but I had run out. The moisturisers that I make are rich and replenishing but the ingredients are expensive. I’ll need to simplify my recipes this year (but not until I run out of the ingredients that I have).
A big zucchini
Pictured above is me taking moisturiser and veggies, including a very large zucchini, to trade with my neighbour, Bec. Above right is a weird little caterpillar on an ornage tree.
I decided to trade some moisturiser for reusable, cloth make-up removal wipes made my my neighbour, Bec. Bec has a business called Thready Set Go. She makes reusable products out of fabric so that customers can avoid using environmentally damaging single use products and instead enjoy the benefits of reusable products such as fabric pads, make-up removal wipes and breast pads (for breastfeeding women). They are environmentally friendly and less expensive in the long run. I swapped some moisturiser for ten fabric make-up removal wipes that I gave to my friend in Brisbane as a birthday present. She was very impressed.
Years ago, there were so many things I thought I needed to have. Now I realise that I need very little. Because what I do have is time, and a feeling of contentment. I love being with my family. I love walking my dogs. I love literature. I love gardening and being with the animals (especially the dogs and the goats because they are so affectionate), I really love spending time in this community of amazing people that has given me great company and taught me so much. But most of all, I love having the space in my life to love myself. I’m sure that sounds selfish, but I think it’s important for all of us to have ‘me time,’ to do whatever nourishes us; to reflect, to read, to create… whatever!
That being said, it’s always good to have a break! After five days in Brisbane, it was nice to come home and see the farm with fresh eyes.
This week we’ve started harvesting taro (pictured below wrapped in Etienne’s shirt). Taro is a starchy tuber similar to potato in appearance and taste, except that it is a bit sweeter and a bit softer once it’s cooked. On the internet people describe it as being similar to a sweet potato.
We’re still harvesting cucumbers but some of them have a mosaic pattern on their skins because the plants are old and weak and the aphids have invaded them and transferred the mosaic disease to them. Those cucumbers pictured below were harvested for pig food. We have lots of big, delicious passionfruit. The bean production has slowed and now we harvest a handful or two every day. Needless to say, there are millions of choko. Below is a picture of our harvest on April 12 (thank god my camera keeps a record of the date).
What’s on the menu?
Our little goat family of three has been reduced to a duo because we decided it was time to dispatch the buck. He was a big, sweet boy who loved to press his face flat onto my thigh so that I would give him a scratch between the horns. I think the little bugger actively conditioned me: he pressed his face on my thigh, I scratched him, and then he would reward me by twisting his face around so that I could watch the blissful expression spread across his face as his eyelids slowly dropped and he lapsed into some kind of semi-conscious relaxed state.
However cute he was with me, he was terrible with the two does. When he reached puberty he started harassing them, trying to mate with them (even his own mother and she really wasn’t into it). So, last Tuesday, while I was milking the does, Etienne led the buck out and quickly and calmly did the deed. Mumma Patty, his mother, cried all morning when she realised he was gone. She stalked up and down the fence lines calling for him. Suddenly, midmorning, she gave up and went out into the paddock to nibble on the grass. That was it. In the afternoon, I spent some time patting her. Instead of snuggling up to me, as she usually does, she stood in the open doorway of the stable staring out into the bush. It made me sad and immensely grateful that I’m not a goat (and therefore I get to keep my babies). One positive outcome from this (other than a full freezer), is that the relationship between the does has noticeably improved. Patty who is the alpha female, would normally butt Candy quite viciously if she was too close to her, but now she is being unusually tolerant and friendly.
Izzy is partly vegan. By that, I mean that she is opposed to some of the cruel and heartless aspects of factory farming so she’s chosen to avoid eating any animal products that don’t come from our farm. She eats our stuff because she’s happy with how our animals are treated. This week, I cooked a few different goat curries with spices and home grown herbs in tomato and goat yogurt based sauces. Apart from the onion and Indian spices, all the ingredients came from the garden (at the moment we are cooking in our own lard). The curries were delicious and I think that Izzy and I both need the iron in our diet. I enjoyed one meal in particular that was inspired by a Jamaican goat curry recipe that combines Indian spices with oregano and bay leaf. Bay leaves are great and the bay tree/bush is easy to grow here.