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Pea and ham soup success!

After the Christmas ham is finished, the traditional next step is to make pea and ham soup.  Every time I have ever made pea and ham soup it has come out thick and gluggy and yuck.  So this time I really really wanted it to work!  I followed both the recipe here and the recipe for lentil soup in Nourishing Traditions, and I ignored Edmonds cookbook for once.  Following an actual recipe has got to help, right?
I soaked 3 cups of split green beans for 8 hours in a pot of cold water and 2 Tsp of whey

simmered small ham bone in a big soup pot for 2 hours
added drained peas and cooked until peas were totally dissolved (about 2 hrs) sautéed onion, carrot and silver beet stalks (had no celery!) and added to soup cooked it all for a bit longer and then blended soup with stick blender  crossed fingers that this time it would taste nice!  And it did, but I have no idea why it worked this time because I can't remember what I did last time.  I suspect that I used the "quick method" to pre…

1-year blogaversary!

Tomorrow is the 1-year anniversary of my first ever post on this blog.  HAPPY BLOGAVERSARY to me!  And thank you dear readers for taking an interest in my ramblings.

When I started this blog I didn't really try to enunciate why we have this lifestyle, its something that kind of evolved for us, so I hadn't really thought about, but now reading other people's blogs has given me a clearer idea of what we are doing and why, so allow me to attempt to summarise our influences here, everything we do on our eight acres relates to one of the following principles:
Preparedness: We have a feeling that things are going to change in the near future and we should be prepared (Dixibelle uses the term "Survironmentalism"), in particular we are expecting that fuel, food and other resources will be more difficult to get and that makes us want to at least know how to do things ourselves, if not actually converting to full self-sufficiency before we absolutely have to.  We don't m…

Making do vs buying new

One of the most difficult decisions that we small-farm para-permaculturalists have to make when we need something is whether to make it out of materials that we already own, or should we buy/make something new that is designed to do the job at hand?  From a permaculture point of view, we should be minimising our inputs and using materials that are recycled or reused.  But so many times we have decided to make do and ended up creating huge amounts of rework for ourselves.

For example, our constant renovations of the chicken run before we decided to just build some decent movable pens.  At one stage we were even using the top of an old horse float as part of the chicken nest box/roosting area, with old bits of corrugated iron screwed into it, it looked AWFUL and was the first thing you saw from the kitchen window, we were both so pleased to take it to the dump (added to the scrap metal heap of course).  Another example is my husband's welder, he put up with using his 15 year old we…

Sauerkraut and trusting your nose

After reading Nourishing Traditions I was keen to try some of the recipes, but its a little scary when you haven't eaten these foods before.  Most of the recipes involve lactic fermentation.  This means that you leave something out on the kitchen bench, with some added whey from cream cheese or kefir, and wait for it to ferment. In our modern society, that's not something most people are really comfortable with.  We are told to put things in the fridge immediately, not leave them out on the bench for a few days!  I don't have a problem with the process, its just hard to get used to it and hard to know if you're doing it right or if you're going to get food poisoning.

But I was determined to be brave and try some of the recipes.  The only thing you can do in these situations is TRUST YOUR NOSE.  If it smells bad, don't eat it.  I find myself sniffing everything, deep sniffs, because things you make yourself don't come with best-before dates.  I've been…

Healthy, chemical-free dogs

When we first got our house cow Bella, we decided to make a real effort to eliminate the chemicals that we had been using on the cattle.  Bel from Homegrown recommended a book called "Natural Cattle Care" by Pat Coleby, which I bought and have read several times.  We have stopped using any chemicals on the cattle, and hope that Pat's advice, to feed sufficient minerals in the form of a mineral mix, sulphur, copper sulphate, dolomite and kelp powder (read more here and here), will keep the internal and external parasites at bay.



However, the poor old doggies were still getting their monthly flea and worm treatments.  Not only are these expensive, I started to wonder about the effects on their health.  Surely its not necessary to medicate the dogs if every other animal on the property (including ourselves) was just being fed good quality food and minerals.  If only there was a similar book about dog health......

I finally got around to doing a google search, and there it w…

Bella and Kaptain Nightcrawler - Artificial Insemination of our House Cow

Over the past few months we've been watching Bella for signs of heat.  No, not summer heat, we have been tracking her ovulation cycles so we can get the vet in to artificially inseminate her.  This is where the conversation can get complicated for some people (dare I generalise and say "city people"?).  In fact its been funny how many people didn't realise that dairy cows only produce milk after they have had a calf.  Yep, just like human females, the milk is really there to feed a baby, so the baby has to come first.  Most real dairy farmers aim to have each cow have a calf once a year, they aim to get the cow pregnant again about 3 months after the calf is born, and dry her off 1-2 months before the next calf is born, so her body isn't under too much strain.  For the farmer, this is a case of optimising profit from milk production against cow life expectancy.

One of the luxuries of not being real farmers is we can run things to our schedule as we're not try…

How to stop hens from eating eggs

Recently we had a serious case of egg eating with all our hens.  We caught them in the act a few times, and they also left tell-tale signs of egg yolk around the nesting box.  For a few days we had no eggs from nine hens in two separate cages, so it was time to sort it out.


Considering how long humans have been keeping chickens, the collective knowledge about egg eating is surprisingly inconclusive.  Most of the information that I've read on the net or in books has suggested either culling the chickens or filling an egg with mustard to put them off.  The second option was looking better than the first, but still not ideal, then I came across this forum thread, which had some very insightful suggestions.  
The theory proposed on this thread is that hens only eat their eggs if the egg shells are weak.  Apparently the hens peck the egg after its laid to check the shell.  If the shell is too weak for the egg to be viable (ie to hatch a chick) then the shell will break when its pecked …

Local pure peanut butter

I've always loved eating peanut butter sandwiches.  I remember that when I was a child, the first time you opened a jar of peanut butter you always had to stir the oil back in, but you don't have to do that any more.  Ever wondered why?  Have a look at the ingredients, there's not just peanuts in that jar (unless you are a fanatical label reader like me and know what to avoid), usually vegetable oil and stabilisers are added to keep the oil in the peanut butter.  Well I'd rather not eat random vegetable oil and stabilisers, so I try to find real peanut butter.  Lucky for me I live in the peanut capital of Australia!



The South Burnett produces about 12000 t of peanuts annually, that is the majority of peanuts in Queensland, and Queensland produces 90% of the peanuts in Australia.  That means I can buy freshly made pure peanut butter for my sandwiches :)  You can usually get fresh peanut paste from health food stores as well.



Do you eat pure peanut butter?  What's you…

Companion planting - myth or reality?

I've heard of companion planting and read about people using it on a few blogs (here and here and here), but due to a general lack of planning in my garden anyway, I hadn't got around to implementing it myself yet.  It has also been pointed out to me that I one of the reasons my peas didn't succeed this season is because I planted them next to spring onions, so I have been thinking about paying more attention to companion planting.
Part of the reason I haven't taken a huge interest in companion planting so far is an uneasiness about the science behind it.  I don't like to just blindly follow instructions about which plants like to grow together, I like to know why something works, so I can modify the system to work for me in my garden.  For example, with the peas, I assumed that the reason for not planting peas and onions was that the nitrogen from the peas will make the onions too leafy with not enough growth underground, however if I'm growing spring onions t…

Farm Update - December 2011

We have had NO rain until the last week of November, and even then its only been 10 mL, so everything was getting very dry and we've started talking again about getting a bore put down.  The garden was still watered with grey water, so it is green and with the warmer weather its amazing to see how much its grown.













We hatched one more chick from 24 eggs.  Yep, need to work on the i