Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Link to Newspaper Article about Us!

Here’s the link:

The article is by Elaine Reeves from the Mercury, titled 'Feast a Fitting Finale'

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Piggy Porridge

I have been enjoying making porridgy concoctions for both the pigs and chooks lately. I’m hoping it’ll be warming, sustaining food as the weather gets cooler. Tinkerbell (the pig) especially needs something to improve her condition as she regroups after being mother of nine.

I have a 25 kilo bag of roughly rolled oats by the backdoor, and I fill two big stainless steel bowls half-full before pouring a kettle full of boiling hot water over them. I put a plate over them and leave for a few hours, before adding any extras.

Extra goodies have included: chopped garlic, powdered milk, seaweed meal (for trace minerals and vitamins), polenta, even some left over yoghurt. Plus the occasional extra special treat like stale cake and bread, crumbled up into bite size portions.

If I’ve timed it well the bowl is still warm when I bring it out for a late afternoon tea....

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Challenge is Over - or is it?

I wonder why I always smile when I go into the garden???

Our challenge is officially over, though the end seems a little fuzzy to me.

I've been trying to write a shopping list for our first supermarket shop since October last year. I'm struggling to come up with anything we really need (or even want!)... The five year old's have been consulted and the only thing they contributed was that they wanted a dog - and if that's not at the supermarket they're not really interested. They are keen to get into the local mega-store to cruise the toy aisle though....

Johan's 'need' was fairly predictable - cocoa, but we can source that from our local organic supplier.

We've agreed to aim to shop at the supermarket every three months only, for a few key items, and Johan's keen to extend the challenge rules - creating shopping guidelines that favour Australian foods and goods only, as a way of supporting local producers nationally.

In the next few weeks I hope to spend some time updating this blog with highlights from March before they evaporate from my memory - so much has happened and we've learnt so much - I've just got to remeber what that was! :)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

February Update

Certain parts of my veggie garden and this blog page elicit the same emotional response from me at the moment.... I'm a bit overwhelmed as a result of neglecting to put the time and effort needed to keep them weeded, planted and, in the case of the blog page, up-to-date.

At least the rains are here so I don't need to think about watering for a while...

So here's an update on the high's, low's and adventures of February - a big month for us during our summer challenge!

The garden has served us very well - we've enjoyed an adundance of all sorts of greens, peas, strawberries, and potatoes. The fruit from the orchard included my favourite, greengages, as well as many other varieties of plum and cherry. The only problem with the greengages is that the time between them achieving that extraordinary sweetness and the time when the birds make away with them seems to get shorter each year!

On the livestock front, four more pigs left for the abbatoir in February, including the one we cooked on the spitroast for our party. I also rehomed 5 of Tinkerbells piglets - leaving 4 here to grow out. They're all fine, strong, and independent little characters. Today they're in the orchard scrounging windfall apples.

Our chook breeding has resulted in lots of birds in the yard - I started counting today but lost count at around 50... many of these are young birds who will be rehomed in the next few weeks. I'm particularly fond of the Brahmas I hatched from eggs sent from Victoria at the moment.

Johan and I made a decision prior to the big party on the 21st Feb that we would no longer continue on a 100% Tasmanian locavore diet after that date - it was to be a celebration all foods Taswegian, and a last hurrah.

There were two key reasons we made that decision. The first was that I was struggling with the bread making,and cooking in general, due to nausea. I had morning sickness (amazing what happens when you watch less TV!) and couldn't stand the smell or sight of the yeast, any meat, and anything that had a strong smell (which seemed to be most things according to my nose!). The second reason was that I was going to have to go up North to work for a contract - meaning that the practical day-to-day work arounf the farm was likely to get a bit out of balance and potentially make the challenge more of a chore than a joy for us.

Ironically - after announcing our intention to finish that night, the following week both these reasons ceased to be an issue. The pregnancy ended, and the job ceased to exist as well... So - we're still scratching our heads about that and trying to make sense of it all!

In the meantime we're still sticking to our other goals - no supermarket shopping, and focussing on developing sustainability in our daily lives.

Some highlights in February - Jake and Lachlan starting school, beautiful and kind people who came into our lives and helped us when things were tough, being involved in filming a documentary about self sufficency in relation to the pigs,and learning about that creative process, Collette's apricot jam, lemon cake - all crumbly and moist, the boys egging each other on to swing higher on their tarzan swing, my gorgeous fella being so loving and supportive.

I am a lucky girl!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Party time at Parami

Produce from our garden artfully displayed on the feasting table by our friend Chris

On the 21st we were joined by about 50 family and friends for a massive party to celebrate our Summer Challenge.

All our guests were invited to bring something Tasmanian to add to the table - we were lucky enough to get home-made preserves, cheese from the Bruny Island Chesse Factory (brought by the cheesemaker himself), cordials, oodles of wine, salads, and a local salmon.

Our major contribution was a spit-roasted pig. The pig weighed in at 60 kilos - too large for the spit-roaster really.... somehow Johan and his mate David managed to keep the machine working, and the pig on the spit (it fell off a few times!) long enough to produce a dinner everyone was happy to rave about.... I'm not a big fan of pork, but even I was impressed...

My father, Bob and David ,carving the spitroast, while Jake tries to get some of the crackling before it gets to the table

The crackling was amazing - I'd never had it before but I was told it was impressive by those in the know. At the beginning of the day (we started at about 9am!) I scored the skin of the pig with a knife, rubbed it with a Tasmanian Olive Oil, and then rubbed some salt over it... it worked a treat - though I got very nervous during the day as everytime I saw Johan or David they were chomping on a piece of crackling - I was concerned we may not have any left for those coming in the evening! Thankfully we did...

It was a wonderful evening - I felt very grateful to be surrounded by so many of the people in our lives that have been great supporters of what we're doing on our little farm.

I so appreciated the efforts they made to bring something local, and in many cases home-made - including Chris' homemade cider which he served with frozen raspberries (lush!), Silja's beautiful beetroot and walnut salad, Elaines strawberries with balsamic vinegar (a revelation!), Matthew's silverbeet with garlic and butter, home dug potato salads, and many more which have slipped my memory right now. It really was a feast!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A little tour of Tassie

'That'll teach you for saying 'Are we there yet?' for the 2000th time!"

We decided to have ourselves a little mini-break over the Australia Day Long Weekend.

We headed North to explore the area that produces so much of the delicious dairy and vegetables we enjoy. It seemed a long way (especially with a chorus of 'Are we there yets' from the back seat...)

The Ashgrove Farm Cheese Shop proved a huge hit with the 5 year olds - they'd declared recently that they didn't care much for, and would not be eating any type of Tasmanian Cheese... but having tried about a dozen types at the shop they decided that Creamy Lancashire and Rubicon Red were acceptable exceptions to this rule.

We did a bit of pre-planning and bought an Eski full of goodies with us to help out should we have difficulty sourcing local food. We enjoyed home-cooked meals the first few days in our self contained accomommodation, which was a lovingly restored shearers hut near Clarendon Estate in Evandale. Johan made the most delicious homemade bread rolls with eggs, ham, and relish...

... and there was no hassle on days 3 & 4 as Johan's daughter (and soon-to-be son in law) made us a scrummy meal in Burnie, and we were able to find a great Fish & Chip shop with local produce. We did choose to deviate from our self-imposed rules by indulging in some Valhalla Tasmanian-made icecreams (it was hot, and they were so delicious!!!) much to the delight of the younger travellers.

A visit to Tasmazia, with its beautifully constructed gardens and amazing hedged maze left me wanting to come home and create order in my little patch - but on getting back here there were 101 other things that seemed more important than weed-free garden paths and boxed gardens :) We are still talking about creating our own 'balancing' maze at home though... or perhaps make one out of hay bales in the shed... (another project to put on the list!)

I am so happy to be home. There's really nothing like time away to heighten your gratitude for home, sweet, home, is there?

Check out those hedges!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sunflowers are here....

This week our tall sunflowers have finally come into flower.

It seems a bit ironic that they flowered a week after the goats left, as I planted them as a tasty goat treat. I'm sure the chooks are going to be delighted to have them though....

We're trying to grow beans up them - looking a bit iffy at the moment as the beans seem to be struggling despite Johan's best efforts to get more light to them by removing a large number of sunflower leaves.....

Friday, January 16, 2009

Secrets and Lies.. and spinach

It has come to my attention this week that we're all a little bit guilty of game playing (and only 1 1/2 months into our little challenge!).

I'm a serious offender - sneaking about in the kitchen, inserting no-go vegetables, such as spinach (which brings back supposedly hidious childhood memories for Johan)into food. Spinach is currently bountiful in our garden and I've been adding it to salads and hot meals. Last week I snuck spinach into a veggie lasagna, and have being strategically chopping it up fine in mash potatoes so he can't avoid it. He's been remarkably good humoured about it.

Yesterday, mid-cuddle with Johan I felt an unusual hard lump under his shirt. After a brief wrestle (I won!) I discovered it was a brand new, quite pricey, magnifying glass (So much for not buying anything new for four months!!!). Many excuses were given (Jake - age 5 - lost the last one, it was a work expense, he's getting older so he NEEDS it to see, it was an unfortunate result of having to pick Katelyn up from the dentist wich was above an optic shop... and so on, and so on...).

I must admit my main reason for feeling slightly peeved about it was that during the last few weeks I've been wrestling with my own hypocrisy having signed up to get a new in-built storage space (I have lots of 'reasons' too - but I'll save that for another time...)I'd been to-ing and fro-ing, asking Johan what he thought I should do, whether it was too much given this journey we're on.... and here I was discovering that he was up to the same sort of caper, albeit a less expensive one, but he's chosen to conceal it (sort of)... after much teasing of each other I think we're back on the straight and narrow (:

On a more positive note: I'm really pleased with our latest energy usage - we've used less thatn 3kw per day over the last fortnight - so I'm confident that if we actually get a bit of sunshine this summer we'll get to grid neutral.

Another big achievement is that last week I completely paid off the $7500 approx investment in solar energy. I had planned to pay it off within 12 months but managed it within 5 months - yippee! - a great feeling to be debt free on it.

Of course my little consumer self immediately went into planning the next stage - another 6 panels - which could make us completely self-sufficient for power next summer - at a cost of $8000.... spending in my mind already... how long does it take to break that habit????

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Tinkerbell's tots

I've neglected to mention that prior to Christmas our wonderful Wessex Saddleback pig, Tinkerbell, had her first litter of piglets. We've had her since she was 8 weeks old and watching her transformation from piglet, to a mother of 9 (!) has been amazing. She's a great mum, very mild mannered (unless she thinks the young 'uns are under threat), and willing to share the experience with us by letting us interact with them. The piglets are a mischevious bunch, turning up in various spots around the farm, before racing back to Mum when they've been spotted.

Tinkerbell has had a big week - one of her piglets has had to be taken to the vet twice with an abscess under its chin, and she's been had a problem with lice which have hatched on her. I'd left her with lice eggs on her as my usual treatment method was not recommended while she was suckling piglets - but yesterday I could see she was getting uncomfortable so I did a ring around to the vet and livestock store and have found a spray that disposed of the moving lice, and the vet will come during the week to give her an injection to deal with the egg cycle. She's already a much happier pig. Lice are very common with pigs - apparently 60% of the national herd has them (just writing about them is making me feel itchy!!!)

On a more cheerful note Tinkerbell is potentially set to be a star on the small screen. Today we had a camera crew filming her and her little ones - all performed brilliantly and were completely unfussed by the attention - Tinkerbell even let them have a cuddle of one of her litter. Might have had something to do with the bunches of cabbages and lettuces I'd provided for morning tea.......

The other exciting event of the day was the news that Johan's daughter, Sarah become engaged to Ben... Congratulations!!!!!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Tassie Scone Recipe

This is proving a great alternative to bread for us during our local food challenge - whilst not strictly 100% Tasmanian - it's pretty close, and very delicious. While there is cheese in the recipe, this serves to help bind the flour, which is low in gluten, rather than providing a cheesey flavour.


1 1/2 cups Tasmanian Wholemeal Flour (from the Bignell Farm at Oatlands)
3 tsps baking powder
dash of salt
30gr butter (such as Elgaar Farm Unsalted)
about 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (such as King Island Stormy Bay)
3/4 cup milk
extra flour for dusting bench

Rub the room temperature butter into the flour (including baking powder and salt), then mix all ingredients together - makes a fairly wet dough. Press gently onto floured surface (I tend to scatter flour on top to stop my fingers sticking to the dough) til about 2cm thick. Cut with scone cutter (or similar), brush top with a little milk - place on baking tray close together. Put into hot oven (180 degrees in my fan forced oven) for about 15 minutes.

My very sophisticated scone cutter!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Slowing Down

Johan kindly bought this road-sign at the local Tip Shop. He thought it would be useful to put up along our dirt road as we've a few people who are hooning up and down, seemingly oblivious to the number of young children and animals about.

When I saw it I thought it symbolised for me perfectly the need I feel to slow down... sometimes I feel I'm travelling at 100km/h - trying to fit too much into too little time - and it's becoming clear to me that for the benefit of us all I need to make choices that reduce my speed (a pace of grace!). So... the sign will be hung in the hall outside the bedroom, and I will endeavour to take a moment to reflect on its relevance as I head towards the shower each morning (no more 50 metre dash!).

It's ironic that during the lead up to this Challenge, which was about getting back to basics and and celebrating the simpler things, I've managed to make life more complex, by adding additional responsibilities and activities to our daily life.

Some of these activities, like more gardening and the cooking I'm doing really inspire me and give me energy (and the family loves the results!). But I must be honest and admit that others, such as the twice daily milking of the goats, is not enhancing my (or our lives) - no one is interested in drinking the milk, preferring cows milk instead. I've also found that I haven't had the time to convert the milk into cheese as I'd planned to. At the moment all the milk is going to the pigs - who seem very grateful of the treat - but it doesn't seem worth the amount of effort and the ongoing time commitment.

Muriel and Fatso (the goats) are gorgeous animals with great temperaments, easy to milk, and in the prime of milk production, so I've decided the best thing to do is to try and rehome (sell) them to someone who has enough time, energy, love, and and can use the milk they produce.

So if anyone knows anyone who might be interested in 2 very friendly registered British Alpine milking goats please ask them to make contact! It would be greatly appreciated :)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Raspberries and Pikelets

I had a spontaneous moment today (a shock to my family who are used to my over-planning most things) whilst reading the classifieds in the paper.

Our local berry farm, Peacehaven (isn't that the best name!), was advertising raspberries for $6 a kilo on a pick your own basis. I organised the troops quickly and we jumped into the car, with buckets and bowls galore, and a hoped we'd get a few berries before the rain came again.

We were lucky - and enjoyed nearly two hours of happy, relaxed and dry! picking - returning home with 6 1/2 kilos of luscious fruit, including some yellow raspberries (the cultivar is called Venus I believe). I've put about half into the freezer, and the rest is going to be made into jam or sauce.

We did enjoy some of the finest berries with our lunch also - a decadent pikelet feast.... here's the recipe we've adapted so that we're using mainly Tasmanian ingredients, plus a few left over pantry items.

Pikelet Recipe:

1 cup Tasmanian wholemeal flour (from the Bignell farm at Oatlands)
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch Salt
Pinch Nutmeg
1/4 cup of sugar
1 egg (free-range!)
1/2 cup of milk
1 tablespoon of butter, melted

Put all ingredients into a mixing jug or bowl, whizz with a bamix til combined, then drop spoonfuls of the mixture into hot greased pan. Turn when brown. When cooked take straight to table, or deposit into waiting mouths!

Our favourite topping of the day - mashed ripe raspberries (with a smidgin of icing sugar mixed in) and whipped cream - scrummy!

The triumphant berry hunters head home....