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

Warning. Reality may offend.

My hands and shirt, bloodied and dirty. My heart racing like a rampant stop watch. At my feet sits a buck, shaking the final electricity remaining in its nervous system. I knelt beside it, my hand on its hide. It was already dead. The moment was so surreal that I’d reached out to touch it, to see how real it was. My 308 had found its target, the large animal had dropped in a flat second. Before I was joined by my spotter, I uttered a thank you to the beast, alone. We’d spent the morning following a myriad of deer prints on muddy tracks. We stalked our way to a pair of fighting stags, their antlers crashing as they pounded each other. They were too far from our position and I couldn’t take a clean shot, so they lived to see another day. The stag however had not been so fortunate. Our meat freezer would now be well stocked for the oncoming winter. Filled with deer meat from an animal that lived wild and free. The only human interaction this animal probably had was the sound of distant 4WD’s and finally the crack of my rifle. I’m omnivorous, I eat a balance of vegetables and meat. Sometime ago I decided to acquire most of my meat from the wild. I have my reasons. Most of which I think are obvious now. I’m not happy with how most meat is produced for human consumption. So I took matters into my own hands in the knowledge that parts of it would be plain ugly. A fact I had to accept. Or become vegetarian. And for me, that is not an option I believe is right. For me.

Many years in transition, and I’m finally at a point where a deer sits at my feet. I started small with rabbits, ducks, quail and hare. Now a large deer is dead by my hand. I truly no longer outsource my killing. I know that under that hide lies valuable rich meat, that when butchered will feed us many meals through winter into spring. I know how this animal died. I’m comforted in the knowledge that it lived free and wild. It may sound like an oxymoron as I’ve just killed the beast. It’s difficult to verbalise effectively the feeling and knowledge that I’m no longer cheating myself as a meat eater. I don’t care what any other meat eater does or how they choose to acquire their meat. This is my journey. Right or wrong it’s my choice. I’m doing what I believe to make the most sense to me. I’m doing what feels the most natural.I can say that I’ve seen the brutal reality of being a meat eater. I have seen it for years now. I accept that I am a meat eating animal. A meat eating mammal beast. We all are. I know many people choose to be vegetarian, and I wish there where more of these people. Although there are some farms doing it right, doing it ethically, the majority of the meat ‘industry’ is flawed. It’s 2014, if you haven’t heard about factory farming, if you haven’t heard about the chemicals and antibiotics applied to stock then you must be living under a rock of ignorant bliss. Last night on the radio was a feature story about the correlation of human diseases and the introduction of agricultural chemicals and antibiotics over the last 50-70 years. What impacts will this nature tampering have on us humans and our future generations? We don’t know. We may never know. But I’m prepared to do what I need to do to remove myself and my family from that system. Where food has been tampered with, where no definitive science exists to assure us of the potential health impacts. Where the industry is regulated by the very companies that produce the food. I’m more comfortable eating wild beasts than tampered meat.Consider this. Could any one person walk into a shop, look at a slab of meat and honestly state what is in that meat. Could they state how the animal was treated? What conditions it lived in? How far the animal was transported in its lifetime? The method in which the animal was killed?What chemicals or antibiotics where given to the animal? What health impacts may result from the tampering of natures way? No one can answer that. I surely can’t. Frustrated, I simply walked out of that shop and started hunting for meat.It’s difficult to explain this feeling of truly providing for my family. I don’t provide like I did in the past. When I once earned tonnes of cash, where I used to buy lots of ‘stuff’. I’ve transformed like Optimus Prime. I looked to the past, to a time when people survived with nature, when people had a true understanding of seasonality. Not in a wanky foodie gour-met way, but a real surviving, by using your brain, your muscles, your determination and a strong work ethic. Like I’ve said, I don’t care for what any other man chooses to do. I’m not sharing my story to shame anyone, nor to make anyone feel guilt for buying a farmed chicken, far from it. I’m sharing it because it’s one hell of a journey. One I think some people may benefit from hearing. I understand that I’m, in many ways considered backwards in what I do. I know in some circles I’m considered barbaric because I hunt. That holds no water with me. What frustrates me is when people express a distaste for hunting wild beasts, yet happily eat a chicken sub made with from intensively farmed animals. How can one value an opinion shadowed by contradiction. We have a plentiful supply of contradiction in this world. Yet out here, where nature gives and takes, contradiction is absent. We live in a time of senselessness. Where so much does not make any sense. Living this way though, I’m comforted by the realness of what is around me, and how I choose to live. No matter how much it mayst times, offend me. I accept the reality, and that allows me to see past the bullshit. I’ll forever be cynical of it, criticise it and discuss how it’s toxic of us. This age will not be known as one of enlightenment, one of inner reflection. Instead, it will be known as a time of extreme inequality, rampant consumerism and an unquenchable thirst for natural resources.Lets face it. Sometimes you just have to say, fuck everyone else. Fuck what anyone else thinks. Just do what feels right for you. You know you’ve said it to yourself. Thanks for the photos: Kate Berry 

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  • April 21, 2014 - 6:42 am

    Declan - Great piece beautifully writtenReplyCancel

  • April 21, 2014 - 7:08 am

    Bec - I really admire what you’re doing, Rohan. I wish more people cared, or even knew where their food comes from.

    I’m a vegetarian because I can’t bring myself to kill animals (and have huge problems with industrialised meat production). I figure that it’s only fair that if I can’t take the shot, or pull the knife myself then I shouldn’t be eating it.

    I also don’t get why supermarket-meat eaters get all up in arms about hunting, or eating horses, or kangaroo, or whatever. Horse, cow, deer, chook, it’s all the same to me. Living creatures who we should treat with respect.

    Anyway. Love your blog. Thanks for sharing your journey. Very inspiring :) ReplyCancel

    • April 21, 2014 - 7:44 am

      rohan - Living creatures who we should treat with respect.

      Exactly! I’d rather know the meat I eat has lived free than in horrid conditions. Thanks for coming over for a visit.ReplyCancel

  • April 21, 2014 - 7:12 am

    Kerry Adams - Another great post. Many thanks.

    Tonight I had my first feed of an animal I had shot, skinned and cleaned myself.

    I didn’t totally butcher the animal, I used a local butcher for that, because I still live inner-city, turning up with a whole animal to process would have been a bit of a no-no.

    With me for this meal, was my extended family, and it’s hard to describe the deep sense of satisfaction of feeding my (meat eating) family with my own handiwork.

    I have been taught by some of the best, now I just need to put what I have learn’t into practise.

    http://thebloke.co.nz/balnagown-hunting-block-experiencing-roar-learning-process-deer/ReplyCancel

    • April 21, 2014 - 7:43 am

      rohan - It’s a good way to go about it eh? Cheers mate!ReplyCancel

      • April 21, 2014 - 8:44 am

        Kerry Adams - Yeah.

        I head away for a week into the bush shortly – hunting Sika. The Ghosts of the Forest.

        It’s been interesting getting into hunting, as you find yourself faced with two types of people – those hunting for food and those hunting for tropheys. Personally, I find hunting for the sake of bragging rights a little ego driven, but each to their own.

        What I am thankful for, is that I generally find myself surrounded by guys who have a profound respect for the animals they are hunting. Guys who love the land, the creatures on it, and the sustenance it provides through them.

        Fallow I am picking (from the dots?) – same as what I just put in the freezer.ReplyCancel

  • April 21, 2014 - 7:13 am

    Julie - Just wanted to say how much of an inspiration your blog & way of life is. I choose to be vegetarian at the point when i realised I wouldn’t (personally) be able stomach doing what you do & therefore could no longer justify the hypocrisy of eating meat, just because it came prepared on a neat cling wrapped slab of polystyrene. I utterly respect any meat eater who lives as you do, who makes themselves a part of the journey from live beast to plate . Enjoy your full freezer over the winterReplyCancel

    • April 21, 2014 - 7:41 am

      rohan - Thanks Julie. I feel like it’s the right way to go about it. And I get recharged when I read thoughts like yours. Thanks.ReplyCancel

  • April 21, 2014 - 7:16 am

    Alacoque - “… you must be living under a rock of ignorant bliss.” This. When I was a teacher I was amazed at how so many of my students chose to be ignorant because it was easier. They didn’t want to face hard questions or look inward. So many people are like this with their food. They just want maximum product for minimum cost and turn a blind eye to the people and animals that are hurt in the process, even when it’s their own health on the line.

    As an aside I spent the weekend on my parents acreage and dragged my hubby and daughter to the back paddock where I knew a chestnut tree stood by the billabong. When we finally got there with our baskets at the ready the tree was nowhere to be seen. I questioned my memory, I was sure it was this spot, maybe I got it wrong? Turns out it had come down in a storm. I was devastated. My favourite macadamia tree had also met its demise. Luckily one macadamia tree remained so we stocked up on those but my heart broke a little for those trees that I perhaps had not fully appreciated before.ReplyCancel

  • April 21, 2014 - 8:27 am

    Brigette - I love this so much, a few days ago I was told by my daughters kindergarten teacher that the children had been discussing where meat comes from. One child said that it came from the supermarket, and my daughter corrected him with ‘it shouldn’t! It should be outside eating grass and then we pick it up from the farm to eat! Or the market!’ While we don’t kill our meat ourselves we are good friends with local farmers and frequently visit to see how our future meat is doing, this involvement should be crucial. I feel for so many people that cannot feel a connection to their food, and live in ignorance. As a child, my grandfather (a butcher) made a point of taking every child to an abattoir to see what really happens to meat, a firm believer that if you can’t feel comfortable with the life of the animal, you shouldn’t eat it.ReplyCancel

  • April 21, 2014 - 8:41 am

    Mark - I admire your way of life and respect what you do to provide food for your family. On a larger scale all humans hunting their own meat is probably not sustainable. I imagine the vast majority of your audience lives and works in cities – what do you consider the best alternative for us meat eating city folk?ReplyCancel

    • April 21, 2014 - 9:26 am

      rohan - Excellent question Mark, and one I get asked a lot. It’s a valid point you make, the hypothetical that if everyone embraced this way of living, that our natural assets would be greatly diminished.

      The alternative is to know your farmer. If you know your farmer, I mean know them because you made and effort to introduce yourself and be interested in what they do for you. Know them and support them.

      For Melbourne alone I can think of a handful of pork producers that sell pork to Melbournians. I guess the same situation would/could exist for other cities.

      The customers of these farmers tend to be clever food buyers too. They buy in big lots and stock up. This really helps the farmer with some sense of financial security.

      I have seen both lamb, beef and venison farmers that take their produce straight to markets in and around Melbourne, and no doubt we will follow suite and see some free range chooks available at markets just like as I saw in America.

      There is an alternative to poorly produced supermarket meat. You just have to go out and ‘hunt’ for it.

      Does that make sense?ReplyCancel

      • April 21, 2014 - 10:00 am

        Mark - Yes it definitely makes sense. I’m a little time poor and freezer space is at a premium, but I’m the first to admit I need to work harder to find responsible farmers. I think it is difficult to find that balance between buying meat responsibly and convenience.ReplyCancel

        • April 23, 2014 - 3:51 am

          Gem - The internet is our friend, friend. I’m stuck in town as well, and can only raise poultry and fish, so I’m sourcing beef, lamb and pork producers locally (Hunter Valley). Woolworths has quite a few RSPCA approved products, which means that the animals are raised fairly nicely, but slaughter is probably still a frightening (though unlikely to be painful) experience for them. You might also be able to find a friend out of town who is already raising their own meat and could raise animals for you as well (if you paid for the calves or piglets and some of their feed/care).

          Hunting isn’t so great around our area, but at least we can fish!ReplyCancel

    • April 21, 2014 - 10:03 am

      Robin - I believe if everyone had to provide their own meat there would be far fewer who ate meat, and those who did would eat less meat. I don’t think there would be too many hunters. Land used to graze cattle could be allowed to revert to its natural state of wildlife habitat. Or at least I like to think so.ReplyCancel

      • April 21, 2014 - 10:28 am

        rohan - It would be a good outcome for the planet!ReplyCancel

    • April 22, 2014 - 12:42 am

      Toni Fish - Hi Mark,

      Living in Hobart and not quite being up to hunting myself, I did as Rowan suggests and got to know my farmers at the local farmer’s market, to the point of actually going to visit a few of them on-farm to have a look and talk about how they were raising their animals and managing their land and water. It was a very worthwhile experience and I have maximum respect for what these farmers, now friends, do.

      Additionally, I was able to source meat from wallabies that were being culled under licence in agricultural areas. This is clean, wild meat that would otherwise be used as pet food. Although I got mine mostly through a friend, there are a few cull shooters in Tassie who are licenced to butcher and sell wallaby and possum meat and you can find it in local stores and mini-markets. That might not be so possible in Melbourne, but you might be able to find a non-supermarket source of roo meat. Might be worth asking any restaurants that feature it if you can get the details of their supplier?

      Cheers,
      Toni.ReplyCancel

    • April 22, 2014 - 7:38 am

      Lisa - Where do you live Mark? Someone who lives in the same city as you might be able to share some inside knowledge on where they buy quality meat from sustainable producers and farmers.ReplyCancel

  • April 21, 2014 - 9:02 am

    Suzie - Thoughtful piece. I understand your reasons, and I have respect for them. Take responsibility for taking the life or don’t eat meat. I’m vegan, for many years I was a vegetarian. I choose not to eat dairy products either for exactly the reasons you give about the meat industry, the same rules apply only they are more insidious and better glossed over. I live in a part of the world (rural France) where hunting, fishing, foraging and having your own potager are a way of life but sadly the vileness of factory farming are still ever present.ReplyCancel

    • April 21, 2014 - 9:05 am

      rohan - Do you think that way of life in France is in Jeopardy?ReplyCancel

      • April 21, 2014 - 9:15 am

        Suzie - I think sadly it probably is. In the rural areas the youngsters often prefer to go to towns for McDonalds and KFC, perhaps as a rebellion against their parents’ lives? Maybe the pendulum will swing back eventually. Luckily my region is quite a hippie place so there’s plenty of organic, local and quality food. In the nearest city to me (Toulouse) there is still a wide range of eateries, and the emphasis seems to be on better quality food. We have a fantastic vegan/veggie restaurant there and we usually have to queue for a table. In my experience France in general hangs onto it’s traditions strongly and doesn’t care too much for educating people about nutrition or anything that might upset French industry, especially the agricultural one.ReplyCancel

  • April 21, 2014 - 10:04 am

    brenda - congrats Ro, on your first deer, the hunt must have been exhilarating! I went out with Lou and his friend to sight their rifles the other day. The other bloke had a 308 and that noise it made really was incredible and I knew at that moment that hunting is all about emotion, connecting with that animal and being thankful that as meat eaters there will be a time that we take an animals life to feed our family. Like you we discussed going vegetarian because the alternatives were maddening. At the moment, we buy very selective meat from great local farmers, whilst Lou is getting practise with the small stuff like rabbits. You’ll have your critics Ro, but I think no matter what you do, they’ll always be there. Stay true to yourself….you’re on the right path.
    Cheers, Bren and LouReplyCancel

  • April 21, 2014 - 11:11 am

    annton beate schmidt - a brilliant and thoughtful piece; I would second every single word of it. thank you!ReplyCancel

  • April 21, 2014 - 11:38 am

    Accordion - Curious as to the effect of the shot or bullet on the meat? Do you not eat the area around the bullet and it’s’ trajectory? Is lead still used in bullets? I know nothing about guns or hunting, hence the questions.

    Also curious if you find a use for the hide, other than letting it biologically break down. Can it go in the compost bin?ReplyCancel

    • April 21, 2014 - 10:23 pm

      rohan - The stag I shot was in the neck. This way the meat loss is minimal. I also shot a doe in the head. No valuable meat loss. The projectile is big and fast and it will make mince meat where it hits the animal. So I tend to shoot where the round will give the fastest kill with the least amount of flesh loss.ReplyCancel

      • April 21, 2014 - 10:59 pm

        Kerry Adams - By contrast, I hit mine in the shoulder – which, for bush hunting is ideal because there is no chance it can run. However, it destroys the meat in the shoulder due to impact shock – in my case, I also managed to hit it on the diagonal, so also ruptured the guts, additionally losing some meat. No the best.

        So – as Rohan says – neck or head. Normally neck, because it’s a bit of a bigger target.

        Also depends on distance to animal, what you are shooting and so on.ReplyCancel

        • April 22, 2014 - 12:33 am

          rohan - My deers were both close range. 50-70 meters. So neck and head were a good option.ReplyCancel

  • April 21, 2014 - 12:46 pm

    T - If even a fraction of our bloated population decided to start hunting their own meat we would see a bio-diversity disaster such as they have in Zimbabwe. Probably much worse in more populace countries. What you are doing is a huge luxury.ReplyCancel

    • April 21, 2014 - 10:24 pm

      rohan - Yes it may seem that way. I live in the bush so these animals I hunt live around me. It’s a practical choice for me. Not for someone living miles away in a city.ReplyCancel

  • April 21, 2014 - 12:53 pm

    Dale Morgan - great post rohan.ReplyCancel

  • April 21, 2014 - 1:01 pm

    Kat Goldin - I grew up in a part of America where most everyone hunted. It wasn’t a rich area, so people hunted the deer, pheasants and turkey that roamed wild to supplement their freezer. Beyond any consideration for the ethical or health benefits, it was just something one did (men and women) because it made sense. It was free, it was there and it tasted better. Plus, we all knew how pigs were farmed and no one wanted to eat those.

    Now, I live on a hunting estate in rural Scotland and the difference is shocking. Here, rich English and American visitors come and hunt at great expense. Venison and pheasant is considered food for the rich. I find the backwardness of it, even 17 years on, shocking. But it is the way it is for the majority.

    Enjoy the vension. Venison bacon is my favourite thing.ReplyCancel

    • April 21, 2014 - 10:26 pm

      rohan - What you said in that first few paragraphs rings so true for me. I hunt because it is wild, and most of what I hunt is actually feral introduced species which is just another bonus. But I hunt because it is what is around me.ReplyCancel

  • April 21, 2014 - 10:09 pm

    Danielle White - Great reflective piece Rohan.
    For various reasons, there are all too few people able to make a commitment to the life choices you and your family have – your blog therefore acts as an inspiration, a place of learning, a dose of reality.
    Farmers like us are there for those who want to eat ethically raised, chemical-free beef but can’t do what you do. We hope people seek farmers like us out – and in doing so shoot the ugly cruel, unhealthy mass production food system in the foot.

    Wonderful insights Rohan,

    Danielle, Sam, Benjamin
    Sidonia Hills Natural Beef
    http://www.sidoniahills.com.auReplyCancel

    • April 21, 2014 - 10:27 pm

      rohan - There was a guy that commented about options for city people. You guys are what I’m talking about!!ReplyCancel

    • April 21, 2014 - 11:51 pm

      Mark - Looks like I need to organise a long weekend in Kyneton Danielle!ReplyCancel

  • April 22, 2014 - 12:30 am

    Michelle - I was really looking forward to reading your words after seeing what you were up to on instagram. Beautifully handled as ever Ro.

    I’ve just heard two bullets go off in the paddock next door as our neighbours have the mobile butcher around today to their cows. I jump at every gunshot, and feel a little sad, but know that we’ll have meat in our freezer next week from cows that lived a happy life right beside us.ReplyCancel

    • April 22, 2014 - 12:38 am

      rohan - It’s a sound that can give you a jolt that’s for sure. Killing these deer (I also shot a deer later in the day) didn’t upset me so much. A lot less than I initially assumed. I guess I must be getting used to it. But no matter how many times I take a life I will never not feel thanks to the animal. It’s not so much that I respect the animal it’s more that I appreciate what it will give us. You could argue Michelle that if we truly respected meat animals then we would not kill them. I’m not making much sense here. I might go think about it and come revisit this discussion. Hope you’re well and I’ll see you soon down south. XoReplyCancel

  • April 22, 2014 - 1:27 am

    Bart Sedgwick - Hi Rohan, Interested to know if you hunt using an r-licence on public land or mostly on private? Just curious. R-licence deer and boar hunter here. Cheers.ReplyCancel

    • April 22, 2014 - 1:27 am

      rohan - Public land license for crown land.ReplyCancel

      • April 22, 2014 - 2:54 am

        Bart - Thanks. I forgot you were in Vic, not NSW. Good to see others out there making successful use of public land for hunting, keep up the good work. The blog and instagram feeds are inspirational.ReplyCancel

  • April 22, 2014 - 3:13 am

    carmel - Heyo! Are you planning on tanning the hide? Im about to tan two sheep hides for the first time scary stuff :) if all goes well ill try deer and goat!ReplyCancel

  • April 22, 2014 - 5:39 am

    Kian - Rohan, thanks for what you are doing. I am planning to make a similar transition and your blog keeps me motivated to do so.ReplyCancel

  • April 22, 2014 - 6:02 am

    Alice - It’s always a pleasure to be an observer in this life/journey that both you & Kate Berry are pursuing. There’s no doubt in my mind that the gruesome reality that you face day in and day out, would frighten the pants off us all.

    The knowledge & power you have, in being so close to the food source, is something that the (majority of us) gave up so long ago…I’m encouraged by this journey that you both willingly share, the honesty, the truth and hardships.

    I posted a picture of a fish the other day on Instagram, within moments up to 10-15 people unfollowed because they were so challenged in seeing a whole fish (deceased,) at Sydney Fish Markets no less. It baffled me, but now I know the difference between folks who want to see a picture of a cupcake or real food.

    Thank you for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2014 - 12:05 am

    Frank H - Thank you for your remarks and for sharing your “first deer” story. I experienced my first (and second) successful deer harvest, last Fall, and was both awestruck and humbled by the events. I enjoy viewing your photos (and those of Ms. Berry), and look forward to reading more of your stories and hearing more of your success in the future.

    Here’s hoping you return to Northern California sometime soon so we can show you some good seafood; the salmon season is just opening up.ReplyCancel

No straight lines in nature

As soon as that break in the weather came, my mind wandered to where mushrooms huddled en masse, patiently waiting for the sharp side of my knife. The excitement builds inside me, just as it did when I was a wee laddie, sporadically searching for field mushrooms all over our farm paddocks. Excitement for that moment when you’re fortunate enough to spot a specimen lurking under grass, weeds or pine needles. They hide so well, and ever vigilant eyes are a mandatory for a successful picker.

It’s a similar high to what I used to get as a kid, clambering under the supermarket registers looking for small change. I guess I’ve always been looking down at the ground for some kind of treasure. Once it was coins, now it’s wild mushrooms. The buzz equally exhilarating.

The season has definitely started. How long it will stick around for is anyones guess. It’s never dependable, it’s not open for calculation. It just is what it is. Like most everything else in nature. No straight lines. No certainty.

I don’t know what I’m doing when I cook. I just do it. Here there is also no certainty. The outcomes are never predictable. But I just do it. It’s not like I’m throwing caution to the wind. I just do what feels right at the time. Most times it works, sometimes not so much. I’m no expert. I’m far from being able to say “this is the correct and only way” to do any particular thing. But at least I try. That’s all we can do.

 

In culinary terms, if someone tells me I can’t to it, or I’m doing it all wrong, well it just makes me want to do it even more. Not only because I want to prove them wrong, hell I just don’t like being told. Why? Because if you’re told you can’t do something, then chances are you’ll stop having a go. And then, what do we become? All the same. Boring and void of imagination.

I keep telling myself that I need to retreat. I need to get away from the noise and visual pollution of 2014. I find myself walking forests looking for food, facing my fears and talking to myself…a lot. My time alone in the bush is when I feel most real. With a basket of found mushrooms and a mind of new ideas, I’m a complete man. When I cook a meal, I take pleasure in the possibility of it succeeding. When I consume said meal, I experience what I’ve just worked for. I feel contentment in a job done, done all the way to the end. When I look at my food, I can see truth and beauty, I see no bullshit manufacture, I see real. I cannot communicate well enough, how much this has altered my life. Let me assure you though, it’s totally rad.

Pizza with wild picked saffron milk cap mushroom, home made chorizo, home made passata, home grown garlic, jalapeño, sage and thyme.

 

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  • April 15, 2014 - 9:59 am

    Alice - Those mushrooms are heavenly Rohan. There’s something to be said for finding such treasures, alive in nature and creating something from scratch. Such love!ReplyCancel

  • April 15, 2014 - 1:34 pm

    Rob Wilmot - Love your pizza Rohan,it looks delicious and real – just like the mushies.ReplyCancel

  • April 15, 2014 - 1:50 pm

    Elyse - Talking to yourself is always a winner- you always get the answers you want!ReplyCancel

  • April 15, 2014 - 7:58 pm

    KC - A heavenly home grown pizza. I’m really curious to know how sage and jalapenos go together.ReplyCancel

  • April 15, 2014 - 10:31 pm

    Cle-ann - Beautiful, just beautiful, and YUM !ReplyCancel

  • April 16, 2014 - 6:47 am

    lisa | renovatingitaly - Ciao Rohan, you sound so like my husband, yesterday we had a BBQ inside on a slab of rock in our massive fireplace, it was great. Slowly pulling away from the constant onslaught of the online world, enjoy your meal, ciao ciao lisa xReplyCancel

  • April 17, 2014 - 6:15 pm

    Ashley Thompson - Wow, your pictures speak so many beautiful words and thoughts. I find it funny that such beautiful pictures of a like-minded individual can inspire me to continue in the same direction regardless of the nay-saying of uneducated people. Thank you.
    Thoughts from Canada…
    AshleyReplyCancel

  • April 19, 2014 - 12:57 am

    Shape of things Toni - Thank you for this. One of the things I find hardest about living in Lima is the total disconnection from my food (I’m in a desert city of 9 million people). I feel the difference in my body and well-being, eating processed, supermarket food, and not things I’ve grown / forage myself or bought from farmers I know and trust.

    Right now I’m really missing Hobart, with the change to Autumn and the abundance the season brings. I should be out foraging! Slippery-jack mushrooms will be hiding in the pine forests and the feral pear and apple trees will be ready for raiding. At least I managed a few days away up in the mountains, where there was a veggie patch I could pick from, real, local, fresh food in the market and edible plants to forage.

    I am so looking forward to getting out of the city when my year here is up.ReplyCancel

  • April 21, 2014 - 7:01 am

    Sarah - This pizza looks so scrummy makes me want to go make mushroom pizza, or go pick mushrooms for pizzaReplyCancel

Filling my nut sack

I hunted over a few dams this morning hoping to get another duck for the pot, but to no avail. I spotted two pair of blacks but they where too fast for this old boy. Hiking back to the old farm house, dreaming about a roast duck stuffed with chestnuts got me thinking. I have no nuts in my larder, it’s time I did something about that. You can gauge when the chestnut is in season because they pop up at the Daylesford Sunday market. Each autumn, there’s a few boys who stand diligently over a bed of hot coals roasting chestnut. The smell is powerfully alluring and I bet those fella’s make a killing from their trade. Each sunday I hold back from buying those bags of hot roasted chestnut, because I have a few places up my sleeve to fill my own baskets with.

I’ve been checking in with a few of my nut locations of late and it seems the nuts are all ready for me to harvest. On that walk home today, with my shotgun resting over the shoulder, I decided that this day was as good a day as any to fill up my nut sack. For a few days now, the Autumn break has been keeping us on our toes. Wet but not exactly cold. It’s hard to decided whether the weather is really turning or it’s just a little precursor for more wintery conditions that are sure to arrive a few months down the track. Either way, it’s drizzly, overcast and wet underfoot. It’s perfect whether for harvesting Autumnal nuts. And perfect weather for walking through puddles like a pair of turkeys.

This time of year there are a few varieties of nut to forage for. Three that get my attention are hazel, walnut and chestnut. All substansially different from each other, but all very delicious in their own right. And like many things that are natural, these nuts magically pair well with other natural in season ingredients such as autumn hunted meat. Chestnut stuffing for ducks and geese, walnut and rabbit salad or hazel nut and quail roast, they all work well together. That’s saying something about the benefits of eating seasonally right?

I dragged the ratbags to our first spot. It’s a farm located not far from home and that’s well covered with fruit and nut trees. Here all three nuts are available, some in more abundance than others. The girls and I quickly get busy bending down picking this bounty from the ground. Chestnuts have fallen in great numbers this last week. Their spiny outer core stings if you’re not wearing gloves. Luckily for us pickers many of the nuts have already popped out of their spiny casings and are easy to pick.

Chestnut are a funny creature. Well funny to look at anyway. They clearly lack any ability for conversational humour. I’m sure I’m not the only one that can see the resemblance of Banksia Men, from the May Gibbs classic, Snugglepot and Cuddlypie. Or maybe it is just me. Those evil banksia men haunt my dreams.

As I pick nuts from the ground each year I can’t help but ponder two things. Firstly I think how much nuts have been an important food source for humans for thousands of years. Serving many cultures well, year after year. Secondly I can’t help but giggle at the fact that I’m eating food that’s fallen to the ground. It’s natures junk! Sometimes a nut tree will reside in a paddock, the same paddock stock live in. Today sheep poo was everywhere! But we still picked up those nuts. Those nuts that sat peacefully next to piles of sheep manure. It’s like totally natural dude.

The big old foraging sack starts to get heavy. The girls start to wain in the enthusiasm department, and the drizzle became as thick as politicians lies. We call it a morning and decide to move it on over to the next picking spot. In the truck we go, wet denim, wet skirts and a wet and muddy dog. With the heater on full blast we drive a half hour over to the secret spot for walnuts. I’ve been taking the girls to this secret spot for about four years now. Every school holidays, around easter time we return. There are usually so many walnuts, that we can fill our baskets in no time. Our pesto nut is then sourced for the remainder of the year.

This year however was different. There are two trees at this spot. One massive old girl and one a little smaller but still well over 80-100 years old. We hit up the big tree first, but the catch was poor. The summer has been dry, not as many nuts as last year had formed. I walk over to the second tree a little ways off. To my disappointment instead of a big mass of leafy tree it was open and light. I discovered that all that remained was dirty big stump. That beautiful old tree had been cut down. Can you believe it! All that remained to mark that she ever existed was a a sad grey stump. I didn’t cry but I wanted to yell, I wanted to scream. This tree had given people nuts for decades! Kids probably adventourosly climbed her, birds and insects called her home.

A few walnuts from the previous year sat rotting at her feet. They where her children, hanging around what was left of their mother. A bitter day for this forager. I’ve lost an old mate. I felt like that kid at the end of ‘The Giving Tree’.

On the drive home I lamented that I’d been unknowingly forming relationships with bits of nature here and there. A secret pear tree, a fig tree or a prime mushroom valley. These places and things in nature I now love. I lamented that I do, because when you loose them, you loose a part of your life. But that I guess, is what it means to be with nature. I must accept that even though everything seems intact, the illusion is false. Everything around us, everything we can sense, is all working towards return into a state of disorder, just as quantum law suggests. Chaos.

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  • April 10, 2014 - 11:12 am

    Jane @ Shady Baker - I have never eaten chestnuts but I bet they are good, especially with wild duck, which I love. They are an unusual looking nut aren’t they? Great photos, happy nut gathering to your crew!ReplyCancel

  • April 10, 2014 - 2:22 pm

    Alice - I’m hearing your pain Rohan, there’s such a sadness and brutality as to why someone would chop down a perfectly good tree! So relieved to hear there was still an abundance of chestnuts though!

    My folks in tassie used to have 3 apple trees in their home. One day I returned to find (the fuji) had been chopped down by my brother. It had apparently contracted some sort of rot, but I recall being sad (as I’d) been eating from the branches over 10 yrs by then! I was livid!!!ReplyCancel

  • April 10, 2014 - 6:34 pm

    MPR - Nuts are far from nature’s junk. They’re seeds and without them there would be no more nut trees.

    Sorry about the loss of your walnut tree. I’ve a few in my back yard and although she kills most of the plant life back there, I do get a lot of walnuts from her.ReplyCancel

    • April 11, 2014 - 12:19 am

      rohan - Yes of course they’re not actually ‘junk’. It was a metaphor.ReplyCancel

  • April 10, 2014 - 9:22 pm

    :: Things To Read On The Bus | meetmeatmikes - […] Rohan said NUT SACK. LOL. […]ReplyCancel

  • April 10, 2014 - 10:41 pm

    Rowan Wildwood - Know your feeling of sadness at the loss of a tree friend. For the past nine years I have gathered elderberries for my winter cough syrups and and odd bottle of wine from a beautiful stand of elders. This year they are gone. I couldn’t put my sadness into words but you have described what I was feeling. Love your writings.ReplyCancel

  • April 10, 2014 - 11:08 pm

    Alacoque - It’s so frustrating when nature isn’t respected, especially when the benefits are so clear and direct (nuts!). When I was mushroom foraging on the weekend I came across piles of perfectly good mushrooms that had been harvested then dumped in a pile for some unknown reason. Such a waste and ruined for anyone who came along to forage afterwards. There’s something special about trees though- they’re such wise old things that have witnessed and withstood so much.ReplyCancel

    • April 11, 2014 - 12:24 am

      rohan - That sucks! What they cut the mushrooms and then decided they didn’t want them. Maybe they weren’t sure if they were safe or not? Bugger. :-( ReplyCancel

  • April 15, 2014 - 6:21 am

    Linda - A feeling of emptiness, of theft. I used to have a secret mushroom spot, but for some reason they just don’t grow there any more. And they certainly don’t grow where I am now, even in boxes – and how I have tried!:) Fingers crossed for you finding a new nutty tree to forage from.ReplyCancel

  • April 19, 2014 - 11:17 am

    Jesse - Oh man. Here in the states we barely have native chestnuts left. The natives were mostly wiped out by a disease akin to phylloxera in vines, presumably brought over from Asia, that destroyed almost every chestnut in the country. Up the hill from our cabin exists one Chinese chestnut that we gather from every fall, but it’s sad to know that chestnuts used to make up most of the landscape in the US, and that they used to be a dietary staple. It’s truly my favorite nut and I would give anything to have more for roasting; more for all our open fires. With that in mind, knowing most of America will never taste a fresh chestnut, its tragic to hear of someone cutting down a productive chestnut tree. Bummer.ReplyCancel