Archives for the month of: April, 2012

Our vegie patch has gone through many incarnations.  I have spent a lot of time and energy feeding the soil with manure and mulch, while fighting weeds, and then I gave up.  Initially I used a chook dome to create the beds.  Then I decided to grow the vegies in raised rows, with deep mulch and manure between, in the trenches.  I dug the soil using a little rotary hoe I had purchased on ebay.  The weeds still overcame my efforts and the nutrients seemed to completely disappear from the soil, despite the vast quantities of goodies I was piling on!  Then my other jobs became so overwhelming, that I pretty much gave up on the idea of a vegetable garden that would supply all our vegetable requirements for a family of five.  It was so depressing not having many fresh vegies to pick, that we decided to try one more time.  This time we chose to follow the square foot gardening method.

Below is the space where our vegetable garden resides.  I originally used the chook dome, pictured, to create my gardens.  I followed Linda Woodrow’s mandala methods, but the chickens were unable to scratch deep enough to keep the couch-type grasses at bay, as they send runners quite deep under the soil.

In an attempt to reclaim the space we employed some of our pigs to clear the garden.  They are much better at digging deep to remove weeds.  We used our Kombi to house them, as it can be driven to any location on the farm, which is very handy!

We then decided to turn a portion of this space into a square foot garden to see if this method might work for us here at Baringa Park.  We used weed mat covered with pebbles between the beds.

This is at the start of Spring 2011.

Some of the more tender plants, such as tomatoes and capsicums required covers in case of frost.

Here is our Summer garden. 

The garden, now it is Autumn

There are 8 beds.  We will be tripling this number, once we have funds available, to expand the garden as we are very happy with the square foot method of gardening.  The Autumn garden is a transition garden where we still have the last of the Summer vegetables ripening, such as eggplant, capsicums and chilli.  We tend to grow leafy greens all year round such as lettuce, silverbeet and parsley.

This bed has a few remaining eggplants and a new planting of kale seedlings.

Here we have the last of the chillies ripening, and the capsicum, top left is a bed of carrots and top right a newly planted bed of broccoli and cabbage.  You can see the template in the broccoli bed, which determines how far apart to plant the seedlings.  This has been crucial for me as I am prone to over-crowding the beds.

A bed of greens with parsley and silverbeet.  The lettuce have all been harvested.

A major factor in this type of gardening, is that we must become proficient at producing good quality compost.    The beds are very shallow and the plants suck up all the nutrients provided.  To date I have failed compost-making 101, despite my best efforts.  I seem unable to get the correct ratios of carbon : nitrogen.  In the past I have simply piled up ingredients, and allowed the free-ranging worms to do their thing over time.  Now it has become important that we ‘get it right’!  The husband has made a new compost bin and we are working compost-making into our already very busy schedule! 🙂

This is haloumi, which I grilled in the pan.  I love haloumi.  It is a salty, firm cheese which can be grilled in this way and then added to salads and so on.  I made the haloumi a couple of months ago.  It keeps well in the brine, although can be a tad salty.  The trick is to use it as a condiment in salads and even on pizza, which I will be doing tonight.  Due to our dietary restrictions I will be making meatza, which is a GAPS  friendly version of pizza.  The capsicums are freshly picked from the garden and will also make a nice pizza topping 🙂

To make meatza :

Meatza base

I whizz about 1kg of mince in the food processor.  Any meat will do.  Tonight I am using beef, but I often use pork.  Add 2-4 eggs and a bit of salt and keep whizzing until sticky.  Spread the meat paste onto greased trays and bake in a very hot oven until the base has shrunk and looks cooked.  At this point I drain any juices off and pop back into the oven until well done as I like my base quite firm.

Toppings

Toppings can include whatever you like.  Slather on some tomato paste or sauce first and then throw on anything you happen to have! 🙂  I will be using our home-made salami, onions, olives, maybe some capers, capsicum and some of my home made cheese.  I like a combination of cheddar and feta.  I will slice up the haloumi and add that and as I haven’t any cheddar open, will use the Manchego I cracked the other day 🙂

Place it all on and either cook under the grill or put back in the oven until the cheese is nice and brown and melted.

Here is a photo of some meatza made previously.

I have so many birds.  From chooks, to turkeys and ducks and guinea fowl.  I really had no idea of numbers or breeds, as it has never seemed terribly important, so long as everyone looked healthy and happy.  We let our chickens out around 2pm each day, well after they would have laid their eggs for the day.  This way they lay in the nest boxes provided, rather than in obscure locations around the farm, which while it can be fun to go egg hunting, is not really useful for quick egg gathering!  One windy day I went to shut the pen that evening, only to find the gate  had already blown shut sometime during the day.  This meant that most of the chickens had not managed to return to their pen before dark, in order to be shut up safely from predators.  I spent the next hour trying to locate my chickens, in the dark, to return them to the safety of their pen.  Unfortunately, as I had no idea how many chickens I actually owned, it was impossible for me to ensure that I had found them all!  I counted 44 that evening, but today decided to do a check of all my birds, both in terms of number as well as breed.  Here is what I discovered.

Chickens

Hens/Pullets

6 Buff Cochin X

2 Speckled Sussex

1 Silkie

2 Bantam Xbreds

3 Rhode Island Red

4 Aracauna – black

1 Aracauna X Indian Game

3 Indian Game

3 Indian Game X Silver Grey Dorking

2 Silver Grey Dorking X Cochin

17 Silver Grey Dorking

1 Silver Laced Wyndotte

45

Roosters/Cockerels

3 Silver Grey Dorking

3 Brahma X

4 Rhode Island Red

2 crossbred

12

Ducks

9 Muscovies

11 Aylesburies

3 Indian Runner X

1 Khaki Campbell

1 Khaki Campbell X

25

Turkeys

2 hens and 2 Toms

4

Guinea Fowl

4 lavender

5 brown

9

That is a Grand Total of 95 birds.  I also have another setting of chicken eggs in the incubator, so this number will increase shortly.  Remember, we breed these birds for the table, as well as for their laying abilities, so numbers are constantly fluctuating.

Mostly Silver Grey Dorkings in this picture.  They are a rare breed and so great to breed, as the females are grey with a brown breast, while the males have a black breast and white feathers above ( see rooster back left).

Speckled Sussex are another rare breed, and so pretty.  I would like to source more of these 🙂

I made two Coulommiers Cheeses early in April.  I became a bit worried about this one, pictured, as the mould was taking on some interesting hues!  I decided I would eat this cheese before it had fully matured, just in case there was a problem with the mould.  As it turns out, after reading up on Coulommiers Cheese, it often takes on a brownish/red mould, so I probably needn’t have worried.  I am so glad I did crack it open, however.  It is delicious!  The cheese is still firm, due to its lack of maturity, but it is silky smooth, with hints of mould.  I have now wrapped version 2, to enable it to mature for the requisite 4-6 weeks.  I am excited to compare notes on the texture and flavour of both versions.  This cheese, pronounced Coo-lum-yay, is similar to a Brie.  I love soft smelly cheese! 🙂

I haven’t been ill for over 12 months.  That’s right, no cold, no ‘flu, nothing!  The reason this is so astonishing,  is that I used to catch a cold or ‘flu every. single. Winter.  and then remain ill for an entire 3 months.  In addition to this, I have suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome in its varying forms for about twenty years!  My journey towards health has been long, boring and convoluted.  In short, I have tried every supplement, been on every diet and eating regime known to mankind, and nothing, nothing, has done any good!  Well, until I happened upon the work of Dr Natasha Campbell McBride and the GAPS protocol.

I have slowly, but surely, begun to heal and seal my gut, the source of all dis-ease.  My body is re-building itself, and I am now on the path of detoxifying, which includes gradually having my toxic, leaking mercury amalgam fillings removed and replaced from my teeth.

The lifestyle of simple, self sufficiency we have set up here at Baringa Park is extremely supportive for someone like me.  The food is organic, fresh and nourishing, there is peace, quiet and calmness, essential for  a person, like myself, who has burned out adrenal glands.

What did I do?  I removed starches, sugars and all grains (yes ALL) from our diet.  I added fermented foods (including kefir and fermented vegetables), bone broth and coconut oil to our diet.  I have learned to manage my stress – this was KEY for me.  I drink raw, organic goat milk every. single. day!

Lately we have been playing around with introducing certain foods back into our diet.  The GAPS protocol is not a ‘forever’ regime.  It is a healing protocol, designed to heal the human system over a period of time.  I originally committed myself to a minimum of 2 years.  We have discovered that small amounts of sweet potato and plain potato (both starches) are tolerated now.  Also well soaked lentils seem fine for the family, although my gut complains a little still.

It is amazing how tuned into our own bodies we are now!

The road has been long and rocky and there is still a way to go.  After all, 20 years of damage cannot be healed overnight! 🙂

Water kefir brewing

Raw goat milk kefir

Fermented chillies

We don’t miss out on baked goods either.  A selection below of some GAPS friendly cooking!

Meringues made using honey in place of sugar

Pancakes made with coconut flour in place of grain flour

Muffins made with coconut flour

Slice made with coconut flour with honey, coconut, lemon frosting

I have three horses here on my wee farm.  I made the tough decision to lease my rescued Standardbred, Banjo McGregor about a month ago.  I have issues with the racing industry, both ‘the gallops’ and ‘the trots’.  One, among many, of the reasons for this is the way horses who are too slow, past their prime or broken down are basically thrown away.  Many end up as pet food, but some are rescued.  My Mojo was a rescue, and some years after he came to live with me, I was compelled to make the eight hour round trip to a little place called Coleambally in NSW to collect another unwanted Standardbred.   This one was apparently, “Too good for the dogger!”  I was horrified! I borrowed a neighbour’s horse float and set off, armed with a great deal of paperwork, as it was at the end of the Equine Influenza outbreak in 2008.  Banjo floated brilliantly and was very easygoing, not even batting an eyelid when he met his first pig!  Standardbreds, in general, are known for their placid temperaments and can make fabulous partners with their humans, excelling in many disciplines aside from harness racing!

Banjo as a 2yo meeting his first pig.

You can see Banjo is in racing condition here on his first day at Baringa Park.  His coat was liver chestnut and he was 14.3hh.

Banjo as a 6yo just prior to his lease about 3 weeks ago.

As you can see, the horse above is totally different from the young 2 year old who first arrived here.  His coat is a rich chocolate colour, due to grazing on our re-mineralised pastures.  He now stands at a massive 16.1hh, and has learned how to be a horse in the past 4 years.

So later today, I am going to collect my horse.  It has been a difficult time for us both, being separated, and as things did not work out for him at his lease home, Banjo is coming home! 😀

 

A month ago I set down a Manchego cheese to mature.  Today I cut it open! 🙂  What a delight!  The texture is creamy, the flavour mild, the consistency firm and compact!  I followed the recipe on p128 of Ricki Carroll’s book.  This is a Spanish cheese, usually made from sheep milk, but I naturally used my goat milk.  It can be eaten in as little as five days, but I chose to wait until it was Manchego Curado, which occurs after 3 to 12 weeks of maturing!

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As you can see, the rind had begun to develop.

I could have left this cheese for up to 12 months for Manchego Viejo, or set in down in oil to mature for longer than 12 months to become Manchego Aceite.

I have loved horses since I was a little girl.  My Dad bought my first pony, Scamp, when I was twelve.  It was the happiest day of my life – period!  Scamp was the love of my life, my pride and joy, and we were mates for twenty five years.

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Here is Scamp, as I  saw him when we first met.  The year was around 1979 and he belonged to a riding school.


So how does this indulgence of owning and loving horses fit in with a simple life with a goal of self sufficiency?  For me, well I cannot live without horses in my life, it is that simple.  If I need to justify keeping horses on our small farm, then I can sum it up in one word. Poo!  Horses poo, and they poo, a LOT!  This manure is fantastic for the soil.  Because we are completely chemical free, and only feed our pastures lime minerals, seaweed and worm juice, we have very, very healthy populations of both Summer and Winter active dung beetles.  Why not use the manure on the garden?  Well, one must be very fast around here, in order to grab the poo before the dung beetles have turned it into the earth! 😛

Today, the horses in my life are Mojo and Fabrice.  Horse number 3, Banjo McGregor is currently out on loan.  His fantastic capacity for teaching humans, being utilsed elsewhere for the next 6 months!

ImageFabrice is a grey Welsh/Arab and Mojo, a bay Standardbred

We raise old fashioned, heritage breeds of pigs.  There are several reasons for this.  We are interested in slow grown, flavourful meat from pigs which live outdoors on pasture.  The old breeds are meant to live outdoors and do very well in this environment.  They like to graze and wallow and sunbake.  They grow at a slow rate and put down lovely nutritious fat with incredible flavour.  These breeds have become rare since the advent of pink commercial indoor-raised pigs.  The commercial breeds grow fast and lean, and are kept in dreadful indoor, intensive piggeries.  We do not support treating animals this way.  We believe in giving our animals the very best life possible.  If people were more connected to their food, the world would be a healthier, happier place with less cruelty.  If we eat meat, we surely must recognise that a being will lose its life.  We accept this, and respectfully raise and slaughter our animals to feed our family.

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We raise free range rare breed pigs.

Meet the herd

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Priscilla – English Large Black 4 years

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Pitu – English Large Black 6 years – retired

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Pearl – English Large Black 6 years

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Penelope – Wessex Saddleback 5 years

(She was a little busy for photos)

updated (19 April 2012) to add that I am likely keeping the little gilt with the big white stripe as a replacement breeder.  She shall be named Pascall!

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Pickle – English Large Black – 4 years

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PigE – English Large Black 2 years

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Piper Louise – English Large Black 7 years – retired

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Pippa – English Large Black 4 years

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Pixie Belle – Berkshire 4 years

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Pollyanna – Berkshire 4 years

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Prince – Berkshire boar 3 years

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Perry – English Large Black boar 5 years

(not interested in photos today!)