Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Our first month completed!

Jake, Lachlan and our farm cat Saxon picking peas (sunflowers behind)

We made it! ... well, through the first month anyway!

It's been an interesting 31 days - lots of lessons learnt, moments of pride, and moments of sheer frustration.

We're sitting at the table - the boys and Katelyn scoffing apricots, and Johan and I still have dirty hands after pulling weeds and spreading compost in the garden... it's pouring outside, and we've even had a some hail (so much for summer!) - so I'm going to seize the moment and ask them all what they think has gone well (and not so well) so far....

Lachlan (aged 5): When asked what he liked and didn't like about the challenge.

The Good: I like eating Tasmanian stuff cos it's yummy, and liked getting toys at Xmas.

The Not so Good: When I have to go to my room....

Jake (aged 5): When asked what he liked and didn't like about the challenge.

The Good: Jake likes having hot chocolate (it's on the cheat sheet!), apricots, nuts and liked going to the Taste of Tasmania food festival.
The Not so Good: Not buying new toys

Katelyn (aged 15):

The Good: First reponse 'I dunno', then - 'everything tastes good and you think about what is here in Tasmania'

The Not so Good: You don't get to go out so much as it's hard to find places that have tasmanian food.

Johan (aged 21 + 21 + 4)

The Good: Jen is cooking some really nice food. I've enjoyed finding other people who are like minded and how our network of people to barter with, and exchange ideas with, is increasing.

The Not so Good: No Coca-Cola! (although I've not minded that much at all...)

And me (Jen):

The Good:

  • Meals shared with friends and family that have been built around our goodies in the garden - especially our new potatoes - pink-eyes and dutch creams.
  • BBQ's by the creek at Johan's place - boys off on bush adventures, a warm campfire to sit by, local beer, and chats with friends.

  • Cuddles with Tinkerbell's piglets - she's the first sow we've had who has let us get near her bubs - their hair is so fine and their skin so soft.

  • Picking peas with the kids - so sweet (the peas and the children), and watching them dig for potatoes with Johan's adult daughter, Lena.

  • The satisfaction of knowing I've stuck to our key goals - no new stuff (although we've bought second hand items from the tip shop and second hand stores), and no non-Tasmanian food has been purchased (although we've consumed it at social gatherings with others). I've yet to tally our energy usage but I'm confident we've cut that significantly...

  • A christmas spent with loved ones - where the focus was on enjoying the gift of each others company rather than the gifts that were bought in shops.

The Not so Good:

  • My main challenges have been around planning and preparation of food. This was made more tricky as I wasn't well for nearly two weeks and didn't feel like being 'superwoman'.

Other than that it's been great... I'm learning loads like:

  • It's going to be weeks before we hit the back of the pantry - even though I was careful not to stock up on things (or hoard!) I still have quite a bit of non-Tasmanian food in the cupboard to use up. I imagine a lot of this food would have gone to waste (or to the pigs) if I were not making a conscious effort to use it up now.

  • That when you've made a choice to not buy new things you become more creative with recycling and reusing that which you have.

  • That we've been very reliant on credit cards to pay for things - using cash only is proving challenging to remember to do.

  • Milking goats twice a day is a major commitment in time and energy - it's not just the milking - it's the sterilisation of the bottles, bowls etc and then doing something with the milk. I am unsure how much longer we will continue.

Plans for the next month:

  • Build a road-side stall for our surplus (fingers crossed we'll have one!)

  • More veggie planting

  • Make a 'cage' for our trailer

  • Laugh, enjoy the journey, and maybe have a couple days exploring our beautiful state!


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Pancakes, hay and travelling goats

A pig and the sheep wandering Dec 08

We're back (in body and spirit) after our Christmas mini-break on Bruny Island.

The largest paddock is looking bare after the hay has been baled, though shortly we'll move the weaned lambs into it to pick at any greenery that will resurface. Moving them up there will be good for us all - a bit of exercise after lounging around eating and drinking....

The Christmas ham was beautiful - prepared by Graham the butcher at Cygnet using traditional hard wood smoking. Served cold with a range of veggies from Mum and Dad's veggie garden - it was a great no-hassle dinner.

We also enjoyed vast amounts of the most delicious fresh berries (strawberries and raspberries) thanks to our friends Collete and Chris Griffin who traded some of their crop for some bacon. The resulting fruit salads, raspberry mousse (see recipe below), and strawberry icecream were a hit with everyone.

I had a go making pancakes with the Tassie Flour - in the end I opted to use a half and half mixture (of Tassie wholemeal and some plain white I had left in the cupboard) and added 4 bantam eggs instead on 2 full size chook eggs as I thought we'd get more yolk to bind the recipe) - the result was great - the kids scoffed them down with lemon and sugar.... next time I'll go 100% Tasmanian flour.

As we were away for two nights we took the goats with us to Bruny... they were great companions and enjoyed ridding the neighbour's block of weeds. There was a fair bit of interest on the ferry as we rolled up with Muriel and Fatso in the trailer... I guess most people usually bring things like cray-pots, kayaks, and tents when they visit the island....
Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas!

Raspberry Mousse Recipe

2 cups fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
4 cups whipped cream
1/2 cup sugar

How to do it:

In a small saucepan combine 1 1/2 cups raspberries and sugar. Heat and stir over medium heat until it turns into liquid (it may have some lumpy bits but don't worry!). Stir in gelatin. Remove from heat and scrape into a large bowl. Let cool for 5 minutes. Remove chilled whipped cream from refrigerator. Mix 1 cup of whipped cream into raspberry mixture until well combined. Fold in remaining whipped cream. Pour into wine glasses and chill.

(adapted from

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Merry Christmas

The season is upon us, and we're looking forwarding to packing up the goats (and kids and tents) and heading to Bruny for fun and frivolity with family.

Here's the planned menu my Mum and I are working towards:

Christmas Dinner:

Ham on the bone (homegrown free range)
Vegetables: roly poly carrots, pinkeyes and dutch cream potatoes, fresh peas, local pumpkin


Hazelnut meringue with raspberries - or raspberry mousse?
Stewed rhubarb and cream


Local beer/wine/apple juice

Boxing Day Breakfast:

Fruit Salad and Yoghurt (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, apples and pears)
Bacon (homegrown) and Eggs (from our chooks)
Wholemeal Flat bread buttered toast


Fresh Bruny Island Oysters
Homemade sausages on the BBQ
Salads – Goats cheese, snow peas, butternut lettuce, radishes, strawberries, parsley, chives, olives, baby spinach, and anything else we can find in the garden!
Homemade garlic flatbread

Morning/afternoon tea:

Blueberry teacakes
Savoury Oat Biscuits with local Cheese (probably Bruny Island Cheese Company as it’s just a short walk away!)
Homemade Raspberry Icecream (for the big and little kids!)

Add a dash of beach cricket, a night under the stars, great conversation and company - tis a recipe for a splendid Christmas methinks!

Monday, December 22, 2008


... a time to confess....

On the lead up to beginning our challenge I went seriously overboard on all those yummy foods and drinks that I was concerned about being 'deprived' of during the four months (ie 20 gazillion cups of black tea, chocolate, wines, bread, pasta, and so on). I'm not feeling proud of myself - especially now as I sit here in my too-tight jeans on a warm day carrying at least an extra 6 - 8 kilos for my efforts.

I'm not sure what triggered this famine mentality in me, but the result was what seemed a justifiable denial of self-restraint, backed up with a belief that any extra weight would just drop-off once we got started. I'm sad to report that I received a huge reality check this morning after standing on the scales - after 3 weeks on the challenge I have put on another 2! eek! and we haven't even got through Christmas yet....

Johan has lost weight - not sure how much but he's looking very svelte and happy with himself. He puts it down to no more coke, and healthier lunches.

I'm pretty sure the lesson in this for me is about balance. It's been a hectic couple of months - it's time to settle down, savour what we have, make time to work in the garden and run around with the kids, and be grateful.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The colour of things

I've been thinking about the colour of what we eat a fair bit lately.

It started when I bought some Salmon from my local fishmonger. It was reduced in price by about $11 a kilo - I asked why I was getting such a bargain. Apparently the fish farmer who had produced the salmon hadn't fed the fish the dye that coloured its flesh the bright orange colour that the supermarkets and/or consumers like.

I was horrified - I had no idea that salmon were given some kind of substance designed to alter their colour - I have no idea what the makeup of the dye would be but it doesn't sound right to me. The piece of 'natural' salmon I bought looked great to me (and was very tasty) but according to the fishmonger just didn't look how most people liked it to look....

Another colour issue I've been pondering is why commercial mayonnaise is white - I've been making homemade mayonnaise a fair bit lately (to go into potato salad amongst other things) and I can't quite figure out how a substance that has eggs as one of its key ingredients can end up snow white in colour - as opposed to the mellow yellow that I produce with our own eggs & olive oil. Hmmnnnn....

In the latest Earth Garden magazine a letter writer made some very interesting points (I thought) - that 'In today's world people have been conditioned to evaluate their foods by sight rather than smell or taste', and 'Who hasn't anticipated the pleasure of biting into a good-looking fruit only to spit out the first mouthful and throw the offending fruit away? No amount of publicity will convince kids that lousy tasting fruits are good for you' (Frank Schenk, Osborne Park, WA).

I can relate to what he is saying - I rarely buy fruits, or buy very small amounts, as they look great on a shelf but too often are hard, sour and very unpalatable when we try to eat them... and kids aren't silly - they don't care how much that apricot cost - they just know it tastes awful.

Well I'm happy to report that what we've been harvesting from our little plot lately has been kind on the eye and the tongue - the photo above shows one of the massixe strawberries the boys and I picked. They looked beautiful and were quite tasty - but nothing compared to the smaller ones though that were petite packages of berry bliss!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Melbourne Moments

Katelyn and I have just returned from a very enjoyable overnight stay in Melbourne. I felt quite conflicted about going - being week 2 of our challenge - but it was deemed necessary for work so we made the most of the opportunity.

A highlight was finding the 'Greenhouse' installation in Federation Square - a fully functioning eco-friendly cafe and event centre that has been designed to remain for 3 months on the site. It was inspiring (and delicious) - lots of ideas about building sustainably using steel and straw, as well as great creative recycled objects - chairs made from processed shipping crates, lighting features built from ring-lock wire (and I just took my last lot to the tip - damn!), walls of strawberries (must have been 5 metres high), and jam jars for tea and coffee.

We enjoyed muffins and hot tea for breakfast there and felt mighty proud of ourselves for finding a clean green way to eat in Melbourne. We followed that with a Veggie Curry at the Hare Krishna canteen in Swanston Street for lunch. We thought this was another good food choice in the big city, and I was feeling fairly smug about our success.

I was happily humbled however after window shopping in the arcades (but no buying! we stuck to our pledge to not buy anything new!), when we snuck into a chocolatiers for a decadent chocolatey afternoon tea...very naughty, but divine....

The lessons I learnt from this experience:
  • that eating locally is really challenging without local knowledge, and having done your research.
  • that being in Melbourne with a 'no-shopping' rule is very liberating - I noticed that as we went through the arcades I was focussing more on the fascinating architecture and design, rather than seeing what was in the shops, and that we sought out new experiences rather than things to remind us of our visit (such as the zoo and the night markets).
  • that walking through a DFO is a very depressing experience.
  • and that when the airline captain says prepare for landing into Hobart when we're still over Launceston there is no need to panic :)

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Out thriving 'Kennebec' potato plants

Potato Salad - I love it! We collected and boiled some of the season's new potatoes, to which I added chives, parsley, onions, some homemade mayonnaise (which included some left-over seeded mustard I found in the fridge), and fried bacon. It was delicious, and disappeared too quickly!

I'm looking forward to a summer of yummy potato-ey delights as we've three different culitvars planted - pink eyes, dutch creams and kennebecs. We suffered some mild frost damage, and it appears some of the leaves are being eaten by unknown critters, but I'm optimistic that we'll get a decent crop.

Here's some history of the spud in Tasmania - apparently Lieutenant Bowen first planted them in 1803 when he created the settlement at Risdon Cove, and from the mid-1820's they've been grown as a commercial crop. The Department of Primary Industries and Water have a certified seed program which includes 26 cultivars, of which I only recognise about 1/2 dozen types. Some I'd like to try - just because their names sound cool - are nooksack, granola (sounds like muesli to me...), nadine and nicola (did romantic farmers name their spuds after their wives?).

Friday, December 5, 2008

Garlic Girls

We're part of 'Garlic Girls', a collective of small growers of organic garlic. 'Collective' sounds a tad more impressive than the reality - it was originally made up of myself and Collette, then my father expressed an interest in getting involved (after we'd come up with the name!). I've a suspicion I'm the weak link in this particular chain having seen their gorgeously abundent patches.

All the rain we've been having has meant there's a danger of them rotting in the ground so many have had to be taken out over the weekend. I'm already looking forward to sampling the elephant garlic (roasted whole as they are not a strong tasting variety - similar to leeks in flavour apparently), and figuring out how to make a garlic bread with our Tassie ingredients.

I've been doing a bit of www research about garlic as I was keen to see what other varieties we may be able to plant next season - didn't find out much about that, but discovered the following facts:

  • Stinky garlic breath is caused when garlic's strong smelling sulfur compounds are metabolized forming allyl methyl sulfide.

  • Garlic can thin the blood similar to the effect of aspirin.

  • Garlic is good for pest control in the garden, particularly aphids. Soak it with some hot chillies in water for two weeks, then strain it, and apply it as a spray. Can be planted as a companion plant with roses, cabbages, eggplants, tomatoes and fruit trees.
    (sources: wikipedia, and

    We'll be selling our surplus at the Rare Food stall at Salamanca (near the Fresh Fruit Market and Knopwoods).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Challenge has begun - Week 1

I'd love to report that our first few days of our 'Challenge' have been a massive success, that the months of planning and preparation resulted into a seamless transition into a self-sustainable locavore lifestyle.... if only....

To be honest - it's all been a bit of a schamozzle.

Work commitments, family commitments, and general bog-standard life commitments intervened and suddenly it got a bit too hard to proceed in the spirit we had planned. We have sullen teenager upset about the departure of some pigs to deal with (ironically that was a catalyst for me, at her age, to become vegetarian for 16 years...) who appears to be opting out, an overstretched father juggling a few too many things, and two 5 year olds who had a birthday party to throw.

We have, however, managed to re-group and begin again....
  • Our energy usage continues to decline, though we haven't reached grid neutral yet.
  • Due to lots of spring rain our veggie garden is growing at a rapid rate, and we can pick silverbeet, lettuces, radishes, spinach, peas, and a range of herbs to cook with.
  • Eggs are a bit of an issue -as many of our hens are either going clucky or are being fabulous mothers to chicks.
  • I have designed the 'Challenge Biscuit' - elgaar farm organic rolled oats and butter, tassie honey, our own eggs, midlands flour, and a bit of Australian organic raw sugar (it's on our cheat list!). It got the seal of approval from my two sticky fingered little ones.
  • We sold 4 and a 1/2 pigs to Matthew Evans (who has the Rare Food stall at Salamanca market). We'll get a ham and bacon back for Christmas.
  • We have created a cash jar - with the idea that we'll only spend cash we have on hand from the sale of our surplus. Also started a log book to record income and expenditure.
  • I found some new Tasmanian products that we're trying - Meander Valley Double Cream (the boys had bowls of it to dip strawberries in at their party - yum), and Taverner's Tasmanian Honey Nectar Concentrate. The Honey Nectar is a bit like cordial that you water down - very nice as an iced treat methinks. The labels indicate they are 100% Tasmanian - will investigate further to ensure they are.

There's more rain forecast which should make the swampier parts around here even swampier. The gaps between the rain are divine, and the rainbows magic.

Tinkerbell is due to have her piglets any moment - she can barely get up she's so huge. I had hoped she'd have them by tomorrow as we have a photographer coming to take photos but it's not something we can hurry (although I have had conversations with her in which I have encouraged her to do so if that's what she'd like to do).

I've been asked to travel to Melbourne next week for a business meeting (typical - I plan a local food challenge and then get summoned to go interstate). I've paid my extra $$$'s to offset the carbon emissions but it doesn't seem enough somehow... I'll have to put some thought into what else I can do. It's an overnight stay and we're still considering the best way to continue the challenge interstate... any ideas appreciated!