Whole Larder Love » Grow. Gather. Hunt. Cook.

They’re back. The dead paddocks.

Only a few weeks ago they where still green. Lush and green. Now they’re turning grey, they’re dying off. We see them dotted around the country when we drive to town. It’s hard not to notice them.

It’s not from natural causes. It’s not a result of some rare agricultural disease, nor has it anything to do with severe weather. No, these paddocks, the very paddocks from farms surrounding our home have been turned grey because somebody chose to make it that way. It’s another example of human intervention, of meddling with nature, trying to get better yields, trying to make more money.

It’s the annual spring preparation by farmers to prepare paddocks for growing summer crops. So how do the paddocks turn grey? They’re boom spayed with a broad spectrum herbicide, the active constituent is Glyphosate (aka Roundup). It’s a non selective herbicide that’s used to kill all the ‘weeds’ so the oncoming crop has little or no competition (and thus the yield is improved). So popular is the chemical that companies now sell, ’round-up ready’ crops which are genetically modified seeds that are not susceptible to the effects of glyphosate. Mmmmm tasty GM.

There is mixed science about the toxicity of glyphosate. Some people say it’s so safe you can eat it. For those that have attempted to test this theory they have subsequently died from toxic poisoning, so I’m not rushing to pour it on my cornflakes. Well I don’t actually eat cornflakes, or any breakfast cereal for that matter. Do you know what’s in that stuff?

I just wanted to share this with you because the food you buy at the supermarket or at the take away drive through most likely doesn’t have a warning on it stating that synthetic chemicals where used in the production of this ‘food’. See no food company has to legally tell you that the food is certified ‘non-organic’. It’s only the other way around. So everything that you eat that isn’t certified organic most likely has been treated with either a pesticide, herbicide or agricultural antibiotic.

(NB: There are some great producers out there that don’t use chemicals but also don’t believe in the ‘pay to be certified organic’ arrangement…..so keep that in mind, and please don’t write to me telling me your issues with organics or non-organis, I’m simply not interested in the conversation. We can talk about fishing instead.

My parents eat this food. My neighbours eat this food. The townsfolk eat this food. Most of ‘us’ eat this food.
Most of us are also getting sick. We now have an unending list of modern medical aliments from alzheimer’s to IBS, asthma to hyper tension. We’re more sick than we were pre-war, before food started to be produced in this manner.

I’m sharing this because I want people, I want anyone out there to think not just about this dead paddocks story, but to be mindful of all the other chemicals that are added to crops that eventually make our food. Think about the chemicals added to food during processing, added to food to extend it’s shelf life. I’d love to see more people hungry to know how our food is made and what it’s doing to our health.

This is one of the big reasons why I changed my life. My personal health was in tatters and I was concerned about the future health of my daughters. I’m not saying what I’m doing is perfect, hell I ate a burger last week (I WAS IN AMERICA!!!). I’m just saying it’s something we all should be aware of. For my everyday food, I’m glad the majority of it comes from my garden and it’s no longer coming from the dead paddocks.

NB: When I lived in a city house I grew vegetables just like this. I also worked six days a week.
Growing food is really easy. Too easy.
Anything is possible, if you want it bad enough.

Peasant Beans on home made sourdough.
A meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Home grown almost all the way.
Scarlet Runner Beans, Home made Passata, Onion, Garlic, Carrots, Kale, jalapeño, Parsley and home cured prosciutto.
Home made sourdough made from Powlett Hill Rye and whole wheat.
Side of Harrisa made from, yep you guessed it, home grown Jalapeño and garlic.

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  • August 19, 2014 - 7:58 am

    Trish - Ro,
    My good friend Michael who lives nearby in Portland just passed on the terrible news two days ago that all four of his once flourishing bee hives are now devoid of life. They were well and fine when he last checked 7 days ago and now it’s a scene of total devastation. All of his thousands of thriving, working bees from a week ago are dead. He believes that a farmer (who is his neighbour) has recently sprayed his paddocks with pesticides and this was an unfortunate side result. Bees can forage up to 5K’s from their home base so unless you place their hive smack dab in the middle of at least five acres (which you own and control) they are and will always be susceptible to whatever someone else poisons their neighboring property with.
    A very sad but sobering fact.
    We all need bees – every farmer included. And yet, bees are doing it very hard these days; case in point. Michael has said he will try to rebuild his hives at a great personal and emotional expense to himself. But what will the future hold for his next hives? Any new bees will be equally susceptible to the same pesticides in the area, what can an natural beekeeping apiarist do??
    We are all together living on this one, fragile planet. I believe what we do as individuals does and will affect us all.ReplyCancel

    • August 19, 2014 - 11:21 pm

      Alacoque - That’s heartbreaking! It’s funny how we have laws stipulating how we can/can’t affect our neighbours in the city (e.g. noise pollution etc) yet in the bush they’re subject to whatever their neighbours decide to do upstream/upwind.ReplyCancel

  • August 19, 2014 - 10:37 am

    Robin - I’ve been saying for years that the “food” most of us (not me) eat is partially to blame for our huge spike in autism in the US. I was dismissed because there are many other explanations until a few months ago when someone “official” suggested it.

    “Food.” Putting something in your mouth, chewing and swallowing does not make something food. It makes it edible. Many things are edible (margarine, red dye) but not food.ReplyCancel

  • August 19, 2014 - 2:02 pm

    Patty - I had to laugh (I’m American) because I read this and I thought, ‘Whats a paddock…a plant?” So I googled “Paddock images” and all I came up with was corrals. The I googled “Paddock plants that live in Australia”. That got me no where. Then I looked up the word and found out that it has duel meaning….pasture in your neck of the woods and corral in mine! Thank you for teaching me a new word!
    PS. I totally get your concern for the nasty Roundup….I avoid it like the plague too.ReplyCancel

  • August 19, 2014 - 4:38 pm

    Claes Öberg - Once again..spot on!thank you!ReplyCancel

  • August 19, 2014 - 10:29 pm

    Cle-ann - Thanks Rohan! Makes me feel good growing what I can, and being more aware – thanks to you.ReplyCancel

  • August 21, 2014 - 11:47 pm

    Emma - I love that you’re writing about this. It is so scary its crazy that people are not informed.

    More important is that Round-Up is killing the bees. Yes, bees that pollinate 1 in 3 of the fruit and veg we eat.

    Imagine if we lost that?ReplyCancel

  • August 25, 2014 - 5:20 am

    lemmiwinks - Swings and roundabouts dude. While I abhor the overuse of herbicides (Roundup resistance is growing (no pun intended) at an exponential rate BTW), it’s for zero till cropping. Ploughing has it’s downsides too – loss of subsoil moisture, disturbing soil biota, creating a hard pan, consumption of diesel. Some years it’s cheaper for my mate to spray than plough, what’s a small farmer to do?ReplyCancel

From the kitchen she yelled loud with excitement “It’s snowing!”

All of sudden it came down hard and fast, just like the waves of long grass in a windy paddock. Covered up in a warm jacket and wide brim, I let the flakes land delicately over me. How often do we get to really stop and enjoy these moments? Even though this is our five spell of snow here, each time it’s still special. Her giddy smile and childish excitement and my boyish playfulness, all brought about by gently falling flakes of frozen water. Amazing what the weather can do to an adult.

Snow bellowed in like dust storm, the ground was soon covered in white. Everything from discarded kids toys to stacked firewood, all disappeared under the white. The dogs ran about confused while we tried our best to capture the moment for our absent kids. But it was a futile task. Nothing could capture this moment but our ‘memory cams’. We held each other, hoping to hold onto the the moment as long as possible, before we realised we where getting cold. Love was impractical in this blizzard.

After a spell, we headed across the paddocks to return to the old farm house. I stood looking back at our home. Everything was hidden. Everything all looked the same. The white of snow had hidden everything from view.

 

These last few days since the snow fall, I’ve had a burning question in my mind. Why is so much hidden from us? I came up with what might be a silly question. But I’m going to ask it anyway.

My kids go to primary school. Each year they have excursions to places like Science Works the museum or zoo. Great experiences for young minds. Here they learn about history, animals and science stuff. And that’s all good. On these days out the kids are asked to take lunches which is standard practice I believe. In these lunches you’re sure to find the odd ham sandwich, some chicken rolls, I’ve even heard of chicken nuggets and party pies. Now answer me this. If it’s ok for the kids to eat meat that’s come from intensive factory farm, then why don’t we take the kids on an excursion to go visit these farms? Wouldn’t they learn something new there? It’s not like the farms have anything to hide right?

Nah. Lets cover everything in white snow. It looks better.

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  • August 4, 2014 - 10:16 am

    Marcia - When I was a kid, my family lived on a dairy farm in Northern Victoria (near Echuca). I have an older sister & older brother, when they were in years 5 & 6 our primary school participated in a student exchange. “City kids” from Collingwood came up to our country school & spent a weekend with some “farm kids” families.

    We showed them where milk, eggs, beef, lamb & chicken came from.
    It’s something I’ve always taken for granted, knowing the life cycle of our animals & the foods they produce, at the age I was back then (about 8) I just couldn’t believe that these kids didn’t know about those kinds of things.

    In turn, my family got to hear about what it was like to live in a big city, what they ate, what they did for fun & what their families were like. One of the city kids (Coung) was a Vietnamese refugee,(what we would now call boat people)living with his father in a one roomed apartment, while saving their money to bring out the rest of their family.

    We were young and very naive, never really having been exposed to anything like that before it was a real eye opener for both sides. What grew from that experience was a new friend for my brother. Coung went on to join us for many summer holidays, his father always sending a beautiful big tray of fresh mangoes, his way of saying thank-you. Many years have passed & while I am unsure of what happened to Coung, I am so very grateful my family got to experience that cultural exchange.ReplyCancel

  • August 4, 2014 - 11:11 am

    Robin - Imagine how the factory “farms” would scream if kids were exposed to the reality of how their food was raised. They’d never allow it here in the US and I think most of the parents would keep their kids home from school that day.

    I do have a little good news. My daughter is leading the Youth Conservation Corps program at our national wildlife refuge this summer. She has six high school students in her program. They’re bringing healthy lunches and snacks to work with them *every* day. These are young people who have grown up with our Farm To School program through elementary school. They were taught from the start that locally grown is good and healthy, and they’ve stuck with it. It’s good to see change happening.ReplyCancel

  • August 4, 2014 - 3:46 pm

    alan - In the US, a teacher would be prohibited from even photographing over a fence, these industrial “meat” plants – ask me how I know. But I do agree that we will never change the way people eat if they are legally prohibited from learning the truth. In the US most urban people are horrified by us country hunters, but never think about the food factories that even give their kill a fair chance.ReplyCancel

  • August 4, 2014 - 10:52 pm

    Jessie - We saw the snow here too. Given I have a 6, 4 and 3yo, NONE of whom were interested in the snow falling, I had to stay inside and make sure they didn’t destry the joint rather than enjoying being snowed on. Cold? Yep but it makes you value coming inside to toast ones back up against the wood fire. :)

    We home educate and our kids have also seen all but the ill stroke when we’ve processed our roosters. The lambs we kept them back a bit but our eldest is only 6 after all. They did see the carcasses once they were hanging though and our eldest even helped with the butchering, cutting surpluss fat from some of the cuts. The 4 and 6 year olds both helped with sausage making and watched whilst I rendered down the fat and then made tallow soap too. :) it’s real food for real weather. :) ReplyCancel

  • August 5, 2014 - 10:03 am

    Sue from the Sunshine Coast - Wow, great picture. Beautiful. Isn’t it great to stop,look and feel the might of all things nature tosses our way. To be a part of such weather shifts reminds us we are alive. We were caught up in ex tropical cyclone Oswald here on the sunny coast on Aus Day 2012. We hid under the dining room table, mobile phone without reception in one hand and a glass of red for comfort in the other while 150klm winds bent the gums dangerously close to the house and thrashed rain sideways against the glass. It was terrifying (hence the red) and yet we knew in that 36 hours that we were truly alive. Was it fear or was it invigorating? Probably both. But in those hours we connected with the small tasks of grafting out food and water and repairing our broken camp stove. The small things became huge and after the storm came the calm and sleep. I love snow and rain and wind and storm, it’s hypnotic. thanks for the reminder.ReplyCancel

  • August 6, 2014 - 2:37 am

    Alina - Years ago I had the idea to compare, in a ‘bad foodie’ ‘zine, the recipes and machinery required for butter and margarine. I still think that idea has legs.ReplyCancel

  • August 8, 2014 - 12:13 pm

    Kirti - oh lord don’t get me started….ReplyCancel

  • August 12, 2014 - 5:58 am

    Richard davy - From a fellow farmboy and writer, I love the concept you’ve come up with and the style of commentary you provide. You put the point across well. Keep up the good work. RReplyCancel

  • August 13, 2014 - 9:35 pm

    Selby - Snow is some kinda special magic isn’t it?!:)

    I agree if we want to eat meat then part of the responsibility of that is to understand the process & true cost of that decision & as part of that we need to make sure our kids understand too at an age appropriate level of explanation & experience.ReplyCancel

I’ve had a few people ask about the schedule for the weekend workshop in Wandawega, so I got myself organised and put one together. As per usual it’s all subject to confirmation especially in regards to sourcing the materials and livestock needed. It’s a jammed packed weekend of skills sharing. By the end of it I will have shared a great deal of what I apply in my daily life.

I remember once paying a few thousand dollars to learn Photoshop at a two day workshop. This workshop is much cheaper and the skills are real world applicable. And it’s Wandawega dudes. Come on! Have you seen this place?

I have 8 passes remaining. Email me if you have any questions.

Elkhorn, Wisconsin, 23rd-24th August.

DAY ONE – MEAT

The Morning Session
9am – 12pm (with tea break)
RABBIT & POULTRY

1. How to dispatch a chicken
2. Pluck skin and gut technics
3. Butchery, break down of different cuts and cooking techniques for game and home poultry
4. Cooking demo – Spanish Rabbit Slow cook – and Rabbit and Chorizo Burgers

Lunch
12:30 – 2pm
Rabbit and Chorizo Burgers

 

The Afternoon Session
2pm – 4pm (with tea break)
TROUT

1. Trout cleaning and basic filleting
3. Butterfly filleting
4. Preparing trout for cold smoking
5. Cold smoking Vs Hot smoking
6. Curing trout (Gravlax)
7. Lake visit for fly fishing casting
8. Setting yourself up for for fly fishing

Dinner
6:30pm
Spanish Rabbit Slow cook with matched wine

 

DAY TWO – BREAD, PASTA AND SALUMI

The Morning Session
9am – 12pm (with tea break)
FLOUR

1. Make your own sourdough starter
2. Get to know your starter. Its alive. How to keep it alive.
3. How to make a no-kneed sourdough loaf.
4. How to make Farfalle, Ravioli, Spaghetti, Fettichini to Paperdelle
5. How to make a pizza dough

Lunch
12:30 – 2pm
PIZZA & BEER with locally sourced ingredients

2pm – 4pm (with tea break)
SALUMI

1. How to cure a panchetta, roll it, rope it for dry cure
2. How to make your own Bacon
3. How to make chorizo
4. How to cure a leg of pork (Jamon/prosciutto)

Dinner
6:30pm
THE FINAL FEAST

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  • July 28, 2014 - 10:22 am

    Jeff - I think you may need an assistant for the fly casting. Good rates, very friendly.ReplyCancel

  • July 29, 2014 - 12:37 am

    Steal Away North - Hope you have someone shooting video.ReplyCancel