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Showing posts from August, 2012

Homemade bread - so far so good after 4 months

Back in April I wrote that I wanted to stop buying bread, and so far we haven't bought any more bread.  We have suffered through my sourdough attempts, and Farmer Pete has made some white bread from a packet, but we haven't bought any bread!  And recently I have got into a routine and settled on a bread recipe that I'm very happy with. rising..... It is based on the recipe in the e-book "Is your flour wet", which is available free from Kitchen Stewardship . 12 to 24 hours before I'm going to cook the bread I set up my bread maker bowl with 330mL of water, 1 Tbs of olive oil, 2 Tbsp of kefir and one tsp of honey.  I mix into that 1 and a quarter cups of wholemeal wheat flour, 1 cup of white bakers flour and 1 cup of wholemeal spelt flour, and a bit scoop of chia seeds (I know that its usually really important to weight the flour accurately, but it doesn't seem to matter fro this recipe).  My ratios (other than flour and water) are a little differe

The permaculture home garden - book review

A while ago I posted my first post about permaculture , explaining how I had just really worked out what it was and how excited I was to find out more.  A couple of people recommended Linda Woodrow's book "The permaculture home garden".  I have been following Linda's excellent blog ( The Witches Kitchen ), but I had no idea that she had also written a book, so I decided to find out more.  When I emailed Linda to ask the best place to buy it, she offered to send me a copy, I was SO excited, this was the first ever free thing I have received as a result of this blog. The book arrived a few days later and I couldn't wait to start reading it.  Before I opened it though, I had a moment of trepidation.  What if I didn't like the book?  Would I be able to write an honest review?  Or would I have to resort to faint praise?  I read the first sentence and realised that I need not worry, I loved the book, every wise word!  Thanks Linda! Linda's book Linda be

Biological farming - mineral management

As I said last week, I recently spent a week studying biological agriculture.  On the first day we learnt about mineral management.  I have prepared a table with a summary of the signs of mineral deficiencies, which you can download  here , as it doesn't fit on a blog page! First a paradigm shift…. For decades NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium) have been regarded as the essential ingredients for plant growth and are the main components of most synthetic fertilisers.  This was due to work conducted in the 1800s by Justus Von Liebig , in a very crude experiment by modern standards, which showed that the main constituents of plants are N, P and K.  While this was technically correct, there are actually at least 9 other minerals also required by plants in varying quantities.  Plants that have access to a soil with balanced minerals will be more resistant to pest and diseases and will be more nutritious for stock and humans to eat.  Balancing the soil minerals is therefore the

Frozen convenience foods

I have to admit that I used to buy a few items in the frozen isle of my supermarket.  I used to buy chips, battered fish, crumbed chicken breasts, frozen veges, pastry, ice cream, pies, frozen meals etc.  It was so handy to be able to just pull them out and reheat them quickly.  Since I discovered real food, and what is in those processed frozen foods,  I don't buy any of that any more, but my freezer is still stuffed full of  convenience  foods.  By that I mean, food that is  convenient  to me :)  Here is a photo of our freezer.  It is starting to get empty now in preparation for our next steer getting butchered, so I wanted to share what it usually looks like before it was too late (until recently it was full floor to ceiling!). In my freezer you will typically find: left over meals so we can grab a quick lunch or dinner, often deliberately or not, we cook far too much and eat the same meal for several days, when we get sick of it we put a few servings in the freezer

Butchering Homegrown Chickens

This post does contain photos of dead chickens and bits of chicken guts in the interests of explaining how we kill, gut and butcher our own homegrown chickens.  I make no apologies for this, just warning you.  If you are considering killing a chicken, you should be able to at least look at the photos, or you're going to get a shock when you get started.  If you have done it before it will be nothing you haven't see before and you might be able to give me some tips. A few weekends ago we decided it was time to kill the first of the two roosters that we hatched last spring.  They would have been about 6 months old, one Rhode Is Red and one Rhode Is Red / White Leghorn cross.  People who raise meat chickens can have them ready to eat in about 7 weeks and ours take an awful lot longer and probably eat more along the way and don’t get as big, but we have a few good reasons to stick with the pure bred birds: At first the roosters were more the by-product of trying to breed more

Biological agriculture course

If you're following my facebook page, you might have noticed that I recently spent a week in Yandina doing a "Biological Agriculture" course with Nutri-Tech Solutions .  The course was exactly what I needed.  We have been trying to figure out how to grow forage and hay crops organically, trying to understand whether we should be tilling the soil and generally confused about our soil test results.  I won't say that the course answered all my questions, but it did give me some key information that I've been able to research in more detail to help us come up with a plan. Biological farming is about farming with nature's cycles.  It doesn't necessarily mean using organic methods, but if chemicals are to be used, they are used at the most sensible times and using methods that minimise any adverse effects on the overall system.  The idea is to use natural methods to our advantage to increase production and reduce input costs.  For farmers and/or farms that

Cooking with fat

Since reading Nourishing Traditions , I've realised that using butter and lard/tallow in cooking is healthy, tasty and frugal.  For more information on good fats for cooking see this post . I skim the lard/tallow off the top of my stock and keep it in a container in the fridge (my stock method here ).  The easiest way to do this is to put the finished stock into a large jug or container in the fridge.  When it has cooled, the fat will have solidified on the top of the stock and is easy to scrape off.  I usually end up with a little stock mixed in, but that just adds flavour.  I don't bother to purify it, so I just try to use it up quickly (as the stock will go off before the fat will).  I find that its useful for frying and roasting just about anything.  When I have some cooking fat in the fridge I use it in place of my normal olive oil or butter.  I don't go out of my way to source animal fat for cooking, but when I do have it, I like to use it up.  I kept lots of fa

The Dexter show!

A few weeks ago we went to the local show grounds to have a look at a Dexter show.  There were probably 100 animals there, with some lovely examples of both black and red Dexters.   At first we were a little worried that our recently-purchased little Dexter bull, Donald (introduced here ), was quite small compared to some of the Dexters on show, but after chatting to some of the owners, we were told that some of the Dexters were probably getting a bit larger than the original intention of the breed, and getting closer and closer to Angus cattle.  We also thought that Donald looks a bit rougher than the ones on show, until we realised that they had all been clipped, washed and brushed before the show!  I don't think Donald would put up with that kind of treatment!   It is now over 6 weeks since Donald spent a few days with Molly (our Jersey heifer) while she was on heat, and she hasn't come back into heat yet, so fingers crossed that he has done the job he was hired for

Forage crops, pasture, hay - isn't it just grass?

Once again we are learning on the job and its time to make some decisions to manage our stock feed through the winter. The typical system in our area is to have pasture with mainly tropical grasses that do very well in summer, but die back in winter.  These are rhodes grass, bluegrass and gatton or green panic.  When the grasses die back the protein content decreases and stock don't put on weight.  They have to eat a lot of the dry grass just to maintain weight and we have to feed them hay.  Some farmers we know only keep steers from spring to autumn and don't even try to keep them over winter.  This means they are buying when the price is high and selling when its low.  forage oats  To help the stock gain weight farmers will grow a forage crop in a cultivated area.  Over winter this can be oats or rye grass, and over summer sorghum or millet.  The cattle can be let into the cultivated area to eat the forage or it can be baled into hay.  I think the summer forage is

Cornflour versus cornstarch

I use cornflour regularly to thicken sauces and gravies.  I only recently realised that the bright white colour is not natural.  I bought some organic corn flour and its creamy yellow, and does the same job.  So why is most corn flour white?  I haven't been able to find the exact answer, but I assume that its bleached , which means that the flour is oxidised.  Oxidation is something that you want to avoid in your food, that's why we are supposed to be eating anti-oxidants!  I have found some references to white corn, but I doubt that the corn is THAT white.  Anyway, I'm happy to have found some yellow cornflour and I won't be going back to the white stuff! UPDATE December 2014 It turns out that "cornflour" in the UK and Australia is actually "corn starch".  Starch is a component of cornflour that is extracted using a fairly complicated process (although it doesn't seem to involve too many chemicals, just lots of water).  I guess the point of

Growing root vegetables

Several years ago I tried to grow carrots in our heavy clay soil and was completely discouraged when I pulled them up to find arms and legs twisted everywhere and not much carrot worth eating.  This put me off for ages, but then I read about how you can feed root vegetables to dairy cows ( here ) to reduce their grain ration.  This really appealed to me, so I thought it was time to try to grow some root vegetables again.  Nita at Throwback at Trapper Creek (my favourite family cow blog) recommended to me that I try to grow enough for myself before committing to trying to grow enough for my cow.  Great advice of course! This time I have better soil and have more experience as a gardener.  I read a few of my gardening books and decided to try carrots, swedes and turnips.  We eat lots of carrots, I would say we eat nearly one carrot a day, but they are so cheap at $1-2/kg, it hasn't been a big priority to grow our own.  I thought it would be a nice challenge to see if I could grow o

I haven't washed my hair since January

Its true, I haven't washed my hair since January.  I have rinsed it in water a few times, but I haven't used any soap or shampoo, or even the "no poo" baking soda and apple cider vinegar mixtures that I've read about.  The idea came following a post I did back in December about eliminating cosmetics from my life.  One reader commented that she didn't wash her hair and it made me wonder if that could work for me (unfortunately I lost that comment when I changed commenting systems, so I don't remember who it was, feel free to comment again!).  Finally I decided to give it a try in early January and I haven't regretted it. I have had long hair for a few years, but I have also tried very short hair in the past, I found that I had to use too many "products" and wash my hair too frequently when it was short, so now I prefer it long, at least shoulder length.  As I've written before , I now use no products in my hair and never dye my hai

Real food Aus-Mexican

Farmer Pete and I love to eat burritos.  Its a good way to use up all the beef mince we have, and to add a few salad vegetables.  I'm sure that our version isn't very Mexican, I haven't been to Mexico, so I have no idea what burritos are supposed to taste like! these are the spices you need For a long time we bought the burrito flavour sachet and a packet of tortillas.  Then one day we wanted to make burritos, but we had no flavour sachet in the cupboard!!!  After brief panic, this finally gave me the motivation to look up a recipe and discover that is not actually that hard to make.  The spices you need are paprika, cumin, ground coriander seeds and chillies, I had all but the coriander seeds in the cupboard, so we made it the first time without that spice and it still tasted good.  Now I make it with about a teaspoon of each spice, and a tablespoon of cornflour, with half a cup of water, stirred into the cooked mince (about 1kg at a time, we eat it for several d

Farm update: August 2012

We had even more rain in July, about 50mL, this is very unusual, so now I'm wondering if we will see a wet summer, or a dry summer!  Either way, we have some nice soil moisture and the pasture is starting to green.  This year my bean plant hasn't died back, which is a shame because I planted peas around it, and now they have to grow through the bean instead, things don't always go to plan in the garden.... Meanwhile, the broadbeans are flowering, so I might have some beans soon.  And the strawberries are flowering too.  The pak choi is recovering from the chicken attack.  The bok choi are all going to seed, even the little ones, so I'm guessing that they are done for the year.  Mizuna and kale are still doing well.  The cabbages are forming heads.  I've picked some broccoli, but its small as usual (any tips?).  Have been harvesting carrots, swedes and turnips.  Still no beetroot, but its getting bigger.  Planted more beetroot and radishes.  Self seeded lettuce and