Wonder twins activate!

Hey guys! Just wanted to share some news.

My clever partner has been working furiously on all things nerdy and computery and has created us a new site. We have joined forces and now have one place online where you can order a whole bunch of stuff. Click here to order your veggie boxes, custom workshops with me (at my place) and even spend a baking day with Kate. You can buy my old book or a dozen eggs! (I'd go for the eggs) and if you're feeling a tad carnivorous, you can order some pork or lamb from our mates at The Farmers Larder.

Custom workshops with me, in my garden and kitchen!

I've had a number of people ask if I'd run small workshops for just a few folk at a time at my place. I've really enjoyed these backyard days! The one on one type workshops have been mega enjoyable for all parties involved. It's just me and a few peeps casually hanging out for the day in my garden or kitchen, where I share practiculture skills and we talk all day up in the troubled clouds of food philosophy or on the subject of the realities of striving for self sufficiency (which is a myth people....let's talk more about this over a cuppa).

I really want to use some adjectives like 'personal' or 'intimate' but I don't want anyone getting the wrong idea! Really it's just a day with me where I teach you the stuff you want to learn. And where better to learn it than in the garden or my kitchen where I do all my stuff! And we get to cook up a big afternoon lunch!

Instead of buying a new tablet or Wii for Christmas, buy someone a workshop! Then they can come to my place and play a game of WHOLELARDERLOVE on the Wii.

The site is here, go check it out.

NB. Veg boxes, meat and egg deliveries resume in January. Screen-Shot-2014-11-24-at-7.17.43-pm

Food Process

Don't you think there is some element of irony in the fact that in my efforts to exclude processed food from my diet, I've fallen hard for processing food? I recall a conversation this past week with someone about the enjoyment I get from food processes. No I'm not talking about adding sulphites to my food, I am instead referring to processes such as podding peas or threading summer beans for dry hanging.

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These food processes and tasks force me to sit down, to focus and get lost in monotony. There is a constant list of 'to do' here at the old farm house. But every now and then these food processes appear, they demand attention and I find myself sitting down, squeezing peas from pods or slicing mushrooms to hang and dry. I wouldn't dare suggest that it's always fun, at times it's downright frustrating. But this way of living, well she's the boss and when she tells me to sit down, I sit.

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I do what needs to be done because the alternative simply no longer appeals to me. I prefer to embed myself in tasks which result in my food being preserved and stored for future use. The goal that drives me is a reduction my reliance on someone else processing my food. The result is I'm eating real food and there is a satisfaction of being responsible for my food that's difficult to describe. It isn't measurable in money or stuff, but simply a feeling of purpose.

Today I set up my work station. I put on Waylon Jenning's album 'I've Always Been Crazy' on the player. Fill a basket of beans, warm a pot of boiling water and fill a bowl of ice cold water. I pod the beans, blanch them, then finally I bath them in the cold water. They're now ready to freeze and won't loose much of their freshness with this technique.

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While I'm waiting for the beans to blanch, I whizz last summers now dried chilli to top up the chilli powder jars. Having those jars filled gives me a sense of wealth. In fact, having food in my larder from these food processes is as reassuring as a well balanced savings account.

I think these food processes have been integral part of my saving. It's the process of working with the food that I've worked for to create that's the key. I planted these broad beans from the seeds I saved from the previous years crop.

I'm whizz dried chilli that once grew in my poly tunnel. I slice wild mushrooms I searched the bush for, or process corn kernels from a bumper crop, or I stuff chorizo with pork I butchered. Every one of these food processes is a reward for me. It's a reminder of my efforts.

It was never explained to me in the brochure. Instead it's been a gem I've discovered by embracing this way of living. It's comforted that year in, year out the same food processes return and present themselves in my world. I welcome them back like a long lost friend.

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Tale of two Cakies

I love a good metaphor. And I reckon the one in this story is a pearler. I've lived two adult lives.

Life #1. I ate processed food. I was unhealthy as a result.

Life #2. I ate real food. My health improved.

This past week my dear schmoopy poopy honey bunch cuddle pie ran another segment in her series of 'Lunch Lady Vs The World'. The idea is to compare two versions of a dish, the packaged processed version and the real food version.

This week she challenged a packet carrot cake mix.

This segment states the full ingredient lists of both meals, which often has my mouth dragging on the floor in disbelief. There is also a stop watch which records the exact time both meals take to make, and there is a breakdown of the process involved to make both versions of the food.

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The purpose of this segment is to present two versions of food, and allow the reader to decide which version is applicable for their life. Maybe there's also an element of hope, hope that the information may inspire someone to cook real food from scratch.

The carrot cake segment was a challenge for me personally. It reminded me of my old way of living, cue metaphor. The carrot packet mix had 2% carrot in it. Yes you read correctly, I said 2% carrot!

It's just plain disturbing that an item of 'food' called Carrot Cake can actually be promoted to us even though it only contains 2% carrot. The carrot cake tale IS the metaphor for our current food system.

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Now lets not get caught up in the carrot cake mix itself. Let's look at other food examples. Like ham products. Some ham is actually made not just from pork meat, but reconstructed parts from other animals with 'ham flavouring' added to it. No, that's not a joke. A guy from the pork factory near us shared this info with us the other day. Or the good old chicken nugget. Google that one for an real stomach churning eye opener.

The point I'm trying to make is that a lot of what my generation has grown up to think is food, isn't actually food. It's some weird concoction of mixed ingredients and additives that's not doing our health any favours and is hard on our environment.

I get plenty of comments and emails telling me to shut up and stop preaching, but the 2% carrot cake is what drives me to continue. This is clearly not right. How can I not stop saying this. It concerns me. It's not right that we are fed these products, the cost to us is too high. And I say that proudly because I've lived through it.

I have about 2 weeks of tablets remaining of blood pressure medication that I've been taking for about 6 years. My blood pressure was off the charts as a result of my diet and lifestyle choices. It's been quite a journey to fix myself. Earlier this year my doctor was shocked to see how much my blood pressure had dropped (I had been avoiding him for a few years). He halved my dosage and asked me to return in a few months (I avoided him again, it's been six months). He said there is a very high chance he will be taking me off the medication. He said what ever you've been doing, it's working.

After I finish writing this post I'm calling the doctor to make an appointment. My hope is that my blood pressure has normalised and I can finally stop being medicated for my lifestyle induced hyper tension.

Over the years writing on Whole Larder Love I've shared my food and 'good life' journey. It's only now that I feel like I've reached a milestone of improving my quality of life. No longer do I eat the 2% carrot cake style food, I eat real food. And the results speak for themselves.

I want people to now see how much of a positive difference eating real food and living the good life can make to a life. And it's not necessarily about moving to the country and living off the land. It's about making better choices where ever we live, be it city, coast or country.

Thank God for that 2% carrot cake mix to remind me of my past. I wish for more people to see the light, to taste and enjoy the benefits of eating the real carrot cake.

Joel Salatin talks about the value of understanding food and the Nursery Project

We fell very fortunate that Joel agreed to set aside some time for us to record his little message of support. Joel is someone that we really admire, value and respect. His values are in line with nature and creating a better world. The positive impact he has made for our world is phenomenal. So when he agreed to film a clip for us we where over the moon. Please share this link and help the momentum of the project continue. We still have a long way to go. Thank you to Meg who travelled to Joel's farm to record this clip.

Sorry about the editing and wind noise. We may know how to grow food, but audio visual is definitely not or forte. I'll never get an oscar for 'Best Editor using iMovie'.

Pledge your support here.

JOELS MESSAGE from The Nursery Project on Vimeo.

If we want to live in a world that's less shit, then we need to be less shit.

The simplistic approach is often the best approach. We as humans over complicate things. It's often the case that when a choice is presented to us,we inadvertently choose the complicated option.

In my ideal utopia there would be no bad food. People would enjoy eating and living well, and we would keep our industry systems, they'd just be cleaner and greener. Oh and people would be nice to each other instead of killing one another. A nice world eh?

I know I can't make that happen for the entire world. But what I can do is change my own little world. I may not be able to get everyone eating real food or being a little lighter in the old consumer department, but I can make that so, within my house. I can feeds my kids good food, I can buy mostly secondhand and recycle, I can reuse and invest in things that will last me a while. I can make my world less shit.

My world was shit years ago. Sure there where some good elements. But the shit outweighed the good, so I changed it. It's never going to be perfect. But it's way better. And thats all we can do.

Identify the things that are shit and make them less shit.

I cooked a meal this week that optimised this mantra. Home grown beans, a rooster from last springs clutch, some backyard herbs and spinach. Roster, beans and greens was a meal that represented the change I wanted to see in my life. I raised the bird, I grew the food and I learnt how to cook. These are things that I wanted in my life to make it less shit. And when I ate that meal, all the negativity of the outside world subsided, even for just a few moments.

Peace. Out.

Ro

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With your help the project will succeed

Quite simply, I love the simple life. It took me half of my adult life to figure it out but I'm here now, and I love it. If you've been a long time reader here, you'd know about the journey I've been on. You'd know about the personal challenges, the failed crops, the successful hunts, the days spent doing tasks that revolve around food the good life. We are a family that actively tries its best to live lighter. We eat real food and we celebrate nature's beauty. I was asked recently how I came to be where I am. And I don't really know myself. I guess it's just been a number of years, one after the other, learning new things, finding out new information and building a skill set that's imperative to make it in this simple way of living.

There isn't much to our 'team'. Just two adults and four little girls. Everything us adults do is primarily to provide a good world for the kids. It's so very important to us. And that's what drives us to make the Nursery Project happen. Our goal is to share our lives, the 'good life' with as many people as want to attend. We want it to not only be about teaching food skills but also a place for people to escape, to be free, to contemplate, to question and leave feeling either of clear mind or loaded with more questions. We live in a world we're constantly told what to buy, what to think and how to act. Personally speaking, I've not been listening to that mainstream message, and my live is better for it.

We want the Nursery to be a place we're you can become free (and also learn a bunch of interesting skills).

Today, whilst working in the veg garden, we got our film crew together and made a little video. Our family made the video together. On our high tech telephones! As you can see we have a massive budget ;-) We really need you're help. The 'success' of this project is about positively impacting peoples lives. We haven't invented a drone hover camera or a glow in the dark toaster, what we're trying to achieve is providing positive experiences for our fellow humans.

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I know what we're doing in the rewards system for this crowd funding project is not normal. And I guess I thought that there where people out there that wanted to see something good like this happen. And I hope you're out there. Because right now, our world could do with something good for a change.

If the project is to have any success it will be your doing. It will be because you helped get it off the ground. If you can't support the project, please share it online.

Oh and we've reduced the amount we're attempting to raise. We have been offered some very amazing support for the project. But we still need capital to build loads of infrastructure.

The silly season is coming up soon. Billions of dollars will be spent on useless items that will end up as land fill. Use you money wisely and invest in something that has a social benefit. Or buy a Furby. The choice is yours.

Everyone that contributes now gets a temporary 'Kale and the Gang' Tattoo and your name etched on the honours wall in the mess hall. Please help. Every dollar counts.

[video width="1280" height="720" m4v="http://wholelarderlove.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/IMG_4676-iphone.m4v"][/video]

I like doing it

Confused and indecisive is the most appropriate way to describe this spring. We’ve had a warm spell, a storm spell and now it’s back to a cold spell. More spells than an episode of Charmed. The warm spell did weave some magic though. It got me motivated to get the house in order for the coming summer. Last year I was a few months behind. We’d just moved house and I was still forming the garden beds, and the poly tunnel was still a pipe dream. This year is different. I’ve been looking forward to the growing season. I’m prepared! This house is on high alert, cocked pistol, VEGCON 1. The poly tunnel is fully operational, it’s power should not be underestimated. It’s potential as a food production facility is practically imminent. Seeds, poised at the ready, germination sequence has commenced!

In 4 months time our bellies will be full with fresh zucchini, tomato, eggplant, watermelon, basil, squash, coriander, corn and many other summer crops we thrive on. The very thought of not having to eat kale or chard is enough to have me jumping for joy! Anything but kale please! ;-) This winter has been slow like every other, and we rely heavily on hunted meat from the freezer, dried beans, cured meats, excess frozen summer crops and yes kale, kale, kale with some chard. The two edible plants dumb enough to grow in our winter climate.

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Soon we shall once again pick straight from the patch and into the kitchen. It’s a bloody beautiful time of the year for food. Everything feels positive, alive and natural. Sun warmed cherry tomatoes, flavour bursting peas and zucchini so fresh you can peel it straight into a salad.

All this is possible because I decided that I wanted it and I decided to 'do it'. I never had a singular energy saver low watt, light bulb moment. It’s just something that’s been growing over the years (no pun intended). I wanted it, (a veg garden) so I did it. I also didn’t want to be a slave to a desk job, so I figured out a way to escape the rat race. I figured that if I got rid of all my debt, focused on living light and actively made my food, then I wouldn’t need so much money to survive. And it seems to be working. Sure sometimes it’s scary, like when rent is due, or when bills need to be paid. But we manage to get by because we just 'do it'. We do odd jobs to make a living and thankfully our food bill is minimal, thus we survive. I figure that life is too short not to ‘do it’.

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I’ve wanted this lifestyle most of my adult life, I once sat at my office job, day in, day out, dreaming of this lifestyle. It feels so good to be here. Someone on the internet recently told me to “get a job!”. I have one, but thanks for the suggestion. My job is surviving. My job is no longer being a slave to a consumerist lifestyle. My health is the better for it and my impact on the environment is reduced, but overall life is just way better! As far as I’m concerned it’s a win win.

I know it’s not the norm, and that some people think I’m a slacker because I don’t have a regular job, but what's a real job anyway? I question the great Australian Dream, is really all that rad? I don’t dream of owning a brand new car or massive new house full of brand new stuff. I like that my house is full of op shop purchase’s, my veg garden constructed with timber I found rummaging at the Daylesford tip, my cars old and simply engineered so I can repair them. Call me a bludger, but I’m happier than I’ve ever been. And I’ve never taken a hand out.

My new job will be running the Nursery Project. Oh and by the way, I won’t own it. We won’t own it. We don’t want to. We'll still be living right here, renting away at the old farm house. The organisation will own what ever happens, the land, the stock, the facilities. A not for profit organisation has to have board members, it has to report to the tax department, it has to operate within a self governing charter. And as much as I’d like it to be a bit more free and hippy like, it just can’t. It’s 2014 and everything fucked. So we have to follow the rules. But rest assured, we won’t be gaining any financial assets from this ‘venture’. We just driving the project. The reality is that we are two idealists, wanting to share what we love in our lives, which is basically, the good life. That in itself is pure gold. A big thank you for everyone that has helped thus far. You will be amazed when we tell you our news. But lips must be sealed until then. Except when chorizo is around. Then lips open wide for chorizo happy time.

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News Flash - shit food equates to shit health!

Look, we can't kid ourselves any longer. We've known this basic formula for years. If you eat bad food you will inevitably be unhealthy (even if you're skinny on the outside, Dad I'm looking in your direction ;-)). I started this blog years ago to document the process of real food discovery and the search for a better lifestyle. In the beginning it was about an individuals efforts to live off the land (even if it was simply my urban backyard). It was about dreaming of pretty log cabins, cosy plaid woollen hunting jackets and old pickup trucks. Well let's face it, that's never going away. But I digress.

Here I am, 38 years old, and finally I have realised something very significant. I'm not at the end of my 'food' adventure but I have had some very big light bulb moments along the way.

Even though, yes I'm still carrying some 'legacy' weight, I am happy to say that from my changes in life have had a positive outcome. How I treat my body with the food I consume and my lifestyle choices has in fact made dramatic improvements to my health and wellbeing. And as much as I hate to use that phrase 'health and wellbeing' the actual physical manifestation of that term is very imperative to me now.

So whats all the fuss? Why be healthy at all? Well the obvious benefit is that I may now live longer than somewhere just in my mid-forties (which was where I was heading). This is not really an air punch moment, but it is a personal celebration of showing what is possible for the individual.

I know there are people out there that are sick because of the food they consume and the lifestyle choices they make. I'm not judging anyone here, let me make that perfectly clear! I'm simply suggesting that I've shown at least to myself that life can be way more rad when you're healthy. I know at times, personally speaking it's been like pushing shit up a hill. So many times in my early days I'd mix bits of bad food in my diet. I'd be hungover and opt for take away. Or I'd buy a cheap nasty supermarket option. We are but humans. Flawed, beautifully flawed.

I'm also not suggesting that I'm perfect. I'm not some Venice Beach example of the perfect male form. But hows this for improvement. I can now jog 3km. The Rohan of 6 years ago could not. I probably couldn't have walked it, I was that sick. I can now spend a day of physical labour digging soil, fencing, cutting fire wood and I don't stop until the sun drops low. I love that I took that second, third and fourth chance to look after myself. And I will continue to share that story.

That's why I'm so damn keen to get the Nursery off and running. I've been gifted with this experience. I know there are people out there that would love a taste of it. And even though I speak at different events around the globe, there is nothing more powerful and real than showing someone first hand. Showing them what is possible by sharing, skills, experiences and ideas based around this amazing lifestyle that is 'the good life'.

Here is a video from a song I was very lucky to have been asked to sing at the phenomenal DO Lectures in Wales earlier this year. Thank you to David and Clare Hieatt, and Naomi for believing in me and getting my almost skinny ass to Wales to share my story.

NB: Language warning, oh and I do get a bit heated at the end.

Rohan Anderson - Shit food equals shit health. And how I used food to improve my life from The Do Lectures on Vimeo.

The Last Hunt

The Story

A few warm spring days snuck up on us like a snake in the grass, in fact the odd snake and shingle back lizards have been seen basking on the hot roads. Had spring finally arrived? All of a sudden it appeared as though the chilly winter blues were finally moving on. It got me thinking about sorting out one last hunt for the year. Tramping through the dry bush on foot in summer is not my idea of fun. Not only is it hot and sticky, but the hunters mind is focused on the prize of deer, not the venomous brown snake lurking at their feet. Summer for this hunter is reserved for nurturing vegetables, berries and fruit tree’s, and of course the odd wad up a river with the fly rod. I leave the deer alone to grow fat on summers goodness, then I'll return when they go mad in autumn.

A few calls were made and the last hunt arranged. A quick overnight trip with the opportunity to hunt one dusk, one dawn.

Jack and I talked most of the drive up. The country was flat, with the rare slight undulating hill an exciting feature on the landscape. We passed mostly barren looking land, marginal farming at it’s worse. The low rainfall of the past winter showed plenty of stunted and failed crops. Many dusty roads and blistering highway we drove until we came to the farm we’d been invited to.

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By the time we arrived, the sun still sat too high to hunt, so we said our hellos to the boss and set off down the bush to explore. The block seemed to go on forever, we crossed flat pasture, tilled soil and thick scrubby bush. It was perfect habitat for Fallow deer. We spent the warm afternoon walking and driving the various tracks and trails. We found deer tracks, worn down by repeated journeys of exiting the scrub to feed on nearby green pasture, which they do with the safety of darkness. We found scats, skulls and prints. This was definitely deer country.

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We set up a position, hidden in long grass we waited. Mosquitoes buzzed and bit any exposed flesh. Sugar ants snuck up from the grass for a quick nibble, and the warm sun blessed us with warm rays. It fell like a lifetime for the sun to dip low. It was at low sun that we hoped for something to appear from the bottleneck of deer tracks in the bush, out to feed on the pasture. Patiently we lay. Nothing but kangaroo! The sun dipped far too low to hunt, we packed it in and hunted hare in the evening, of which we also failed to see.

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Late that evening, almost at midnight, we set a fire and cooked a meal. In between bursts of conversation we rested silently in our chairs, contemplating the days hunt. We agreed we’d done everything right to make the hunt work. We lacked one vital element, Luck. We just weren’t at the right place at the right time. It’s one thing about hunting that can challenge your resolve. The thought of coming home without meat for the freezer. Even worse is the jibes from your partner. "Gee that seemed like a long way to go not to get a deer". So supportive.

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Thankfully we have enough food to get us through. This hunt was more about getting food for Jack’s freezer, not mine! I guess he’ll just have to take more care with his veg garden this summer! We also hunted the dawn, but got stuck without luck once again. The drive home had my head full of thoughts about the reality of being a hunter. It’s a reminder from nature that we don’t get to choose when we get meat. That’s the way it works in the real world. But in the ‘man’ipulated world things are very different.

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The background

(warning- this article contains some honest colourful language)

I started hunting for meat years ago. I don’t know exactly when, in any case that’s irrelevant. What is important is why I started hunting. I knew I was eating poorly. I was eating meat that hadn't been raised real well. I knew that most of the farmed animals I happily consumed, had lived a shitty existence. I knew that corners where cut so that we the consumer, could purchase the meat at a low price. So I made a personal decision that I’d rather eat meat that’s come from a wild free animal than eat meat from one that’s been treated poorly by human hands. But let’s put that issue aside for the moment.

 

I want to address the big driver behind Whole Larder Love. The philosophy behind how and why I live the way I do is based around the fundamental idea/reality that no major food corporation or government will have my nutritional diet and health in their best interests. They also don’t have your health in their best interest either. They do however take making money very seriously. Last night on the ABC iView was a phenomenal example of this very depressing reality. The industry body, the one which has the best interest of the food companies in mind, is the puppeteer of bad health. They believe that it’s ok that fast food and processed shit can be sold to us. They believe it’s up to the individual to self regulate what they eat. HELLO! IT’S NOT BLOODY WORKING!!!! We are getting fatter, sicker and dying younger. And it happened to me.

 

I myself only exist online because of this very dilemma. I got sick, I got 'all of the above' sick and I then started to change my life, hence the catalyst behind the blog. I didn’t self regulate, I just ate what I wanted. I’d eat a take away home delivered pizza late at night after a few bottles of wine and a packet of cigarettes. Not a pretty picture. With my hangover the following day, I’d head to another fast food outlet to eat me take away McHangover cure. An even uglier reality.

 

It’s estimated that 70% of Australian adults will be overweight or obese in ten years. We need to do something. The government isn’t being proactive. The big companies don’t give a shit about anything else but money. We have to take the initiative and do something.

 

This blog has been evolving for years. It now has mega clarity in it’s aim. To communicate the story of an Aussie bloke that changed the way he lived from Macca’s to mountains of kale. From Burger King to Rabbit Stew. From KFC to home grown vegetables. From supermarket junk to dirty but sweet home grown carrots. I am proud of the changes I have made. Why? Because I’m a living, breathing example that lifestyle change and nutrition can improve an individuals health. I’m proof that a person can make positive changes in regards to food and lifestyle. Ok my story may be a bit extreme and I’m not suggesting everyone do what I’ve done, the whole grow your own thing, but at least may I suggest we eat real food. That is achievable for everyone.

 

Oh and one last thing. That hunting mate of mine Jack. He often tells me his sulphite stories. So you know what sulphites are right? You know they’re added to most processed foods and drinks right? You know that they cause asthma, allergic reactions, and disrupt our gut bacterias right? Australia is the most under-regulated country in regards to sulphites being added in foods. The sulphite story goes largely untold. But the good news is that once it’s cut out of your diet your body repairs itself. Jacks personal story is encouraging but even better is the tale of one of his relatives, who had been relying on ventolin for years. After changing the diet to whole foods, and no sulphites the puffer sat in the draw for a year. Now I’m not suggesting it’s a cure for asthma, but what an amazing tale of overcoming something by simply eating what our bodies have evolved to eat.

Now isn’t that an amazing way to approach living well. Eating what our bodies have evolved to eat. No way! What an outlandish idea.

The bullshit food haze

Low fat. Low Salt. Added Fibre. Reduced fat. Reduced Sugar. All natural colouring and flavour. It’s a haze of food bullshit.

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For years I was so confused. I’d walk those damn isles scratching my head, trying to make the most informed decision about the food I was buying. I also used to opt for the cheapest option, regardless of understanding why it was so cheap. Things have changed.

In 2014 food is bewildering. Just like all the other ‘information’ we’re fed, it’s skewed towards what they want you to hear. Yes that just sounded very conspiracy theorist. Stay with me please.

For example, (and this may get me in a lot of trouble here). Consider the amount of news we’re getting on ISIS and Syria. Or Australia’s recent spate of ‘home grown’ terrorist arrests. It’s pretty big news for the western world right? It seems like the whole damn thing is falling down around us. Well in a way the show almost winding up, with wild tuna stocks in jeopardy, ocean temperatures all over the place and the ice is still melting away, what have the Romans ever done for us?

But there is a more immediate problem thats knocking out us westerners and in big numbers too. Unfortunately the issue though is rather cloudy, it’s almost consumed within it’s own complexity. I write about this issue over and over again, and I will do so until I finally disappear like the wild tuna.

 Modern processed food is slowly but surely killing us off, or at least making our lives miserably unhealthy.

And the pharmaceutical companies are rubbing there hands together and I’m a living example. As soon as it was discovered that I had hyper-tension I was administered blood pressure medication - Micardis. As soon as I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression I was immediately medicated with Lexipro. These two health problems are linked to diet.

Whether you believe in the science that suggests that it’s sugar or grain oils that are the culprit, or fat, salt, pesticides, herbicides or maybe you believe its the added sulphites or nitrates.

It doesn’t really matter what you or I believe to be as the individual culprit. The reality is that pretty well much all modern processed foods have changed our health in one way or another, not for better, but for worse.

The only real way to avoid the problem is to eat real food.

Nothing fancy. Just real bloody food. Food that’s grown without anything added but love. We should be eating meat that’s come from animals that haven’t lived a shit existence. In fact we should eat less meat. I suggest we each find an ethical farmer and support them for life.

I don’t have all the answers. But I do know what my past is. I know that I was sick because of my lifestyle choices, of what I ate and how I got sucked into fast paced, unbalanced work/life balance.

I do know that by making changes in my life, by learning to live like a peasant, to grow, hunt, and forage like a hipster, that I’ve made an improvement to my health and happiness (start burning incense now). And although that is a triple rad outcome, I think what’s even more rewarding is the whole process of how I live now. For example, I recently dug over the soil where last summers poly tunnel was. The soil has been resting all winter, primarily because my poly tunnel was destroyed by fierce winds. But as I dug into the soil, I felt such an odd sense of familiarity, like the soil has been part of my life for so long now. I have memories of digging over garden beds as a kid, and I’m almost 40 and I’m still doing it! And is’t that the way it’s supposed to be? Aren’t we supposed to be involved in what keeps us alive? What fuels us? There is something indescribable about that feeling I have in regards to raising my own food.

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So many emotions and feelings erupt when I eat food that I’ve made literally from seed. I think that’s whats been giving me balance and clarity over the last few years. But I’m still learning! I’m still on the journey.

 

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Today I sent off a few copies of my books off to some important people that I hope can help us out with the Nursery Project, and happened to flick upon a page in my old book with a recipe that had ‘tuscan sausage’ in it. What the hell is Tuscan sausage anyway? I probably bought it from a butcher no doubt, which I don’t often do these days, preferring to make them myself. But the point I’m making is that seeing the old me, the one that bought ‘tuscan sausage’ highlighted how much I’ve changed and learnt over these last three years even just since the books completion. I mean I didn’t even know what was really in those sausages. (I’ve since found out that the pork that supplies that butcher is factory farmed and every sausage has preservatives added).

 

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I’m still learning but now I’m also teaching. It’s an amazing process.

I’m wrapped to launch the Nursery Project website today.

It’s a big project, for sure, and it’s the next progression for us. To pass on and share what we know in the hope that it might bring some goodness to the community of us. Us the people. You know, the ones that are born from a mother and a father. Just us. Humans. Mad Love.

 

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Some light reading for you here: Colorectal Cancer Epidemiology: Incidence, Mortality, Survival, and Risk Factors

Pigs, a nursery and big news

Many months ago I got a call from a friend about a bunch of piglets free to a good home. This is the second year in a row something like this has happened. Maybe the word has got out the I'm the man to contact to take care of unwanted pigs. And that's alright by me. qqqqq

Anyway, as it turned out there were a whole bunch of piglets, of which I didn't have the facility to take care of. So the piglets went to another friends farm, where I managed to strike up a deal to house at least one of those piglet's in his porky nursery to be raised to maturity. All I had to do was cover feed cost. Seemed like a good idea to me.

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After a fair bit of mucking around (It's been a busy year for me), we finally got that pig to the abattoir.  A day later hanging at a mates cool room was our beautiful pig ready for us to break down. I have a few pork gurus/mentors which I'm very stoked about, and this mate, well she guided and trained me in the process of breaking down a pig, just like when Johnny Castle taught Baby how to Dirty Dance. I did this job last year, but with a more commerical butcher who wasn't really interested in teaching me any skills, he just wanted to chop the pig up as quickly as possible. Which is cool. That's what I commissioned him for. But here, my mentor (female Johnny Castle, but with pork) really took me under her teaching wings. I learnt so much in just a few hours. It's a blessing to learn from someone so passionate about what they do. She calls herself an 'ethical omnivore' which I've never heard of before but it makes total sense to me. Maybe I'm one too.

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The story here is that the little piglets where housed at a pig farm, a nursery if you will. They grew up with the care from the dedicated pig farmer, and finally matured into a beautiful animal. One step further and they transformed from living animal into a year supply of pork for our family. To finish of the process, the cuts have started to become cured little gems for future cooking like double smoked loin bacon, jamon, chorizo and hot salami.

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I've had an idea running in my head for a few years now. In fact for too many years, it's been an idea,  just that. But I'm moving into action now. Last week we looked at a piece of land which was in fact an old nursery that raised little plants to maturity for sale to the public. It has all the bones I need for my big idea.

The idea? Imagine a place where we can show how to grow food and raise animals in a pegged out space the size of the average Australian backyard.

Imagine a place where we can cook real food for people, and where every meal served comes a recipe card so you can go home and cook the food yourself.

Imagine a place that could facilitate workshops and sharing of skills and ideas. And because I don't have to rent it I can get the rates affordable so that everyone can attend.

Imagine a place for people to experience, touch, feel, taste a lifestyle so beautiful it makes this bearded grump so very content and happy.

Imagine a place where all people, all races, all religions, all the people can come to experience something beautiful. A mini harmonious nirvana, where it's cool to be a human.

A place where people can buy food staples from producers. Nothing gourmet. Just real bloody food.

I'm working on a crowd funding project for the 'Nursery'. It will be launched in the next few weeks. I will be calling in a million favours from everyone that cares. I have a LOT of money I need to raise. Like A LOT. I have a lot of meetings, brainstorming and favour asking ahead of me.

When I hear the word 'nursery' it evokes a thought of place's where little things are raised and nurtured to grow into big things. I want to turn this old nursery into a place where I can nuture little ideas into big action.

In a time of chaos, fear, hatred and consumerism, we have an opportunity to make something beautiful happen. We have a project of hope. Watch this space.

 

Baby Rabbit ravioli with in season avocado

If you have a keen eye, you’ll see the rabbits getting all frisky at the end of winter. They bounce around one another in a flirtatious frenzied ritual. They spring and fly into the air with acrobatic fervour. Sometimes they chase one another from one side of their patch to the other. I could sit and watch them for ages, but more often than not I have something more pressing to do with my time. The result of this annual mating display is obvious; many baby rabbits. Unending baby rabbits in fact. The cycle is as predictable as the mad north winds of spring. Without fail, the new generation rabbits rise out of their labyrinth of warrens into the world of grassy fields. This generation is weird, they communicate mostly by social media and prefer text to conversation, and seem to take way more selfies than the previous generation.

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I cannot deny that there is some element of cuteness to this new batch of rabbits, but the underlying fact is that the species is introduced to Australia, it’s a feral pest species. They cause a lot of damage to crops and the warrens wreak havoc with the erodible Australian soils. When I decided to stop buying supermarket chicken because I’d discovered how said birds where raised, I turned to hunting rabbits as an alternative white meat, and I’ve been hunting them ever since. You’d think I’d have tired of them by now, but it’s the opposite. They’re still very much a joy to hunt, a joy to cook, and a pleasure to eat.

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When I was a full blooded bogan I used to visit a Italian style pasta chain restaurant that’s relatively famous in Australia. I often ordered a pasta dish that consisted of chicken, avocado in a creamy creamy sauce. It was delicious, but I’m pretty sure the ingredients wouldn’t fit my current view of the world. I’m not sure anything is organic, local or ethically raised. I know sometimes I hear myself and think, "Rohan you're annoying". The reality is, right or wrong, I just give a shit about my food. Thus I haven’t eaten there for well over a decade.

With that old favourite meal in mind, I figured I could make my own version. A version of the old meal but through new Rohan eyes. The baby rabbits are fresh and at their best in spring and avocados are now at peak season. The avocados are at peak season and my mates up at Barham Avocado's grow a selection of varieties that stretch the avocado season from winter to summer.

What could be better than combining in season avocados from the guys up at Barham with the tender meat of new season rabbits. Seemed like an interesting twist on the old meal that I used to order with my blind robotic eyes, but now with my new approach influenced by the new version of Rohan.

I use baby rabbits because the meat is the best quailty, it’s tender and delicious. And before you get on your high horse about me eating baby rabbits, please remember these guys grow up to be adult rabbits. And just like humans, the adults are the ones that do all the environmental damage.

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Now I know we have serious issues in the world. Issues that have split the community in two. This dish represents one of those major issues. Apparently it’s very wrong (culinary speaking) for me to have avocados in a hot dish. Seems ok to me, but apparently it’s a big no no. The kids and I didn’t seem to be that concerned as we devoured the meal for dinner. If my kids eat it, I’m happy. If it’s works for you in life, just do it. No one is your boss but yourself. Well that’s how I live anyway.

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With everything I cook I make an effort to source good local stuff. If I can’t make it myself, I look for the local option. To be honest, it doesn’t take much effort. Well I don’t think it does. It’s easy to say I’m too time poor. I believe that’s a state of mind. You’re only as busy as you allow yourself to be.

FULL RECIPE available HERE

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An idealistic notion

The evening air hung thick and warm. Summer was in full swing at Elkhorn. During the daylight hours the shade of ancient trees offered some respite from the sting of summer sunlight. When the sun fell from view and fireflies danced in the still air, it was the lake that sang to me. In the cover of darkness we swam, lazy and slow. Floating with bodies parts poking out of the wetness. Our faces looked into the night sky, mesmerised by the moment. The lake was surprisingly warm, it was also full of lake weed that tickled feet as we wriggled about. It was a refreshing momentary break from the draining heat of a Wisconsin summer. Our bodies where confused as we'd just travelled from a cold winter back home, I'm sure they experienced some sort of shock from the extreme contrast in weather. Only a few weeks ago I was standing in snow, now I was on the other side of the planet, sweating it out in summer.

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I'd made my way to Camp Wandawega to run my first American workshop in 'practiculture'. The idea was to share my skills with whoever wanted to learn them. From skinning a rabbit to making sourdough bread and everything in between. I don't have much these days, be it money or possessions, but I do have a handful of learned skills that I'm keen to share. That's my commodity.

That was the idea of this workshop. To share skills. That did happen, and people seemed pretty happy walking away with techniques like how to smoke pork loin or how to butterfly a trout. But something happened to me at this workshop that I did not envisage.

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I've come away asking myself a lot of questions. About my purpose. About what I want to achieve.

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When I was a kid, Mum used to call me an idealist. She spotted it early on, and she was dead right. I am an idealist. Ideally I'd like to see more people embrace a certain way of living. I'd like to see people source food that's not going to make them sick or make the environment worse off. But the reality is this just isn't going to happen. I don't have the reach, I don't have the media presence and I definitely don't have the money to make that happen.

I've now travelled the world trying to peddle the idea of 'sustainable' living. I get on stages all over the place and share my story and talk about how making certain changes in ones life can in turn provide massive positive benefits for the individual, their family and our environment. I've spoken to thousands of people on this topic but I know that I'm not even scratching the surface.

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When I sit in a plane, on that slow approach to land on a runway, I look down at the massive cities. The network of roads, buildings, the built human environment. These places are massive machines. The are too big to be altered. The massive companies that are manufacturing the shit food have budgets, of endless supplies of money to keep the machine going.

The 'people' don't want to hear the news that the cheap food they eat will make them sick. The people don't want to hear that man made chemicals have negative impact in all areas from our health to the health of the natural world. There are just too many distractions that divert peoples attention form the reality. The sad part is that a lot of our modern world woes are cause and effect i.e. If we stopped eating bad food our hospitals would be quieter.

Ideally I'd love to see little changes made that can reduce our impact on environment. I shouldn't have to spell out exactly what those changes are, it's up to the individual to figure that out. We don't need to be hand fed anymore. We're adults. Let's figure things out for ourselves. See there's me being idealistic again.

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The workshop went well by all accounts. It was a stunning venue at Camp Wandawega. That place is something special. The people there where amazing, the students where amazing and the sharing of ideas and skills was a productive two way street. It's just that I've come away asking myself so many questions that, at the moment I just don't have the answers for.

People keep telling me that I'm doing this or that the wrong way. That I'm not putting enough science behind my message or that I'm wearing the wrong hat. I'm realising now, after being on this path for a few years now that it's easy to become a target. I know now that if you put out a message your going to get shot down at times. Acceptance is part of the role.

I have one conclusion from this experience. And I've turned to my outlaw country hero Willie Nelson for my answer. See, he did his time in Nashville in the 1960's trying to become a country music star. He tried to play the industry game, was clean shaven and well dressed and tried to write clean songs. But it wasn't the real Willie. Then he started to do things his own way. He was more honest and became real Willie. Branded an outlaw from the Nashvillie scene, because he ideally wanted to be himself because thats something he could believe in.

Now I know I'm not Willie, I'm not comparing myself to Willie, but it's the metaphor that lies within the story that I'm interested in. I can't walk the streets of the worlds great cities telling everybody that they're living it all wrong. No one will want to be told, and who the hell do I think I am saying that the modern world is slowly but surely killing the health of the natural world and us humans. I can however be myself. I can live my way and record it here, on this old blog. Here I can be the real Rohan. I can continue my journey of discovering real food, and living a more mindful and purpose driven existence. This is not an idealistic notion. This is practical and achievable.

Big thanks to everyone that helped out to make the Camp Wandawega workshop a success. David and Tereasa for all you're help getting the event off the ground. Thanks to Max Wastler, Kate Berry, Dillion, Dale, Jacky, Joe, LL Bean, Sweet Paul, Karen and Bob, Ruby Roasters, Underground Porky Jonny and all the students that came, learnt and swam in the lake with me.

The Dead Paddocks

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.

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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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Hidden

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.

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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.

The Wandawega Schedule

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

Camp Wandawega Workshop 23rd-24th August

It's something I would have only imagined in a dream. But it's really happening. A weekend of my workshops held at the magical place that is Camp Wandawega, Wisconsin. I've been wanting to organise a weekend workshop stateside for a while now but nothing seemed to come together until now. This time though everything is falling into place, thanks to Max Wastler and David and Tereasa from Camp Wandawega.

So here it is. A weekend of sharing a bunch of skills I use in my daily life, along with good food, great company and poking campfires. It's a skill based weekend and they may be skills you want to introduce into your own daily life, or it may just be the experience you're after. Either way, events like this don't come up very often. A weekend at Camp Wandawega alone is worth it. The place is a magical fairyland of awesomeness.

So what will we be doing on this rad weekend?

Over the course of the weekend I will teach you how to :

Dispatch a rabbit or chicken (depends on what I can get my hands on) Pluck, gut, skin and butcher small game How to prepare trout for smoking and curing, fillet and de-bone Cure pork; make bacon, prosciutto, pancetta and chorizo sausage Secrets of sourdough bread, pasta's and pizza bases

Accommodation at the Camp and all food is included.

Tickets are limited. First in best dressed.

Book Here

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Taking backroads

Opting for the backroads is not just an approach for getting from A to B. It's also whatever alternative route you choose other than the main more obvious path. I'm all for taking the long way round, those roads with no hitchhikers, no large groups of lycra clad riders and not a sign of the  weekend tourist driver. The rougher the surface, the more remote, or the more bordered in bush the better. The same can be said about an approach to living. I don't believe that it's about going against the tide, it's more so just taking a different path to get to a similar destination. The previous version of me, he always took the safe road. In life I'd often chose the path that was the brightest lit, the best paved and the clearest in direction. I can't take that path any more. I've avoided that route for years now, and my now preferred alternate route takes me everywhere I need to go. Be it in snow, rain or hail.

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If you're keen on taking that back road you will find that you may be late, you may learn something new and no doubt you may disappoint, aggravate and frustrate some people that may be waiting for you at the end of the journey. You just have to stay the course. You just have to drive whatever way you think is best for you.

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I took my truck on one of those journeys that was both literal and metaphorical. At the end was the prise of an oak forest that housed more of the beautiful lilac wood blewitts. They've made the most gnarly meals that are fast becoming new winter favourites. Slow cooked bunny, blewits and bows (farfalle) is surely one of those new to my list of winter food traditions. It's a dish made extra turbo with a few slices of my new Jamon, (aged 9 months from that big old sow we butchered last year), mascarpone and peccorino. It's most definitely a take on the classic creamy mushroom and chicken sauce, but it's the backroad version. Another example where taking the alternative route, and choosing a lost path will give you something new to experience and possibly treasure. This meal is triple awesome.

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Wild food. . .who in their right mind would choose wild food over conventionally grown food? It's 2014, not 1814. We have the technology. Opting for the backroad in this case is one hell of a journey. I used to care knowing that what I was doing was quite different to the norm, but now I couldn't care less. I just enjoy doing whatever it is that I like doing. Someone once asked me "whats with this hunter gatherer ego trip?" The truth is I don't know. Only thing I'm sure of is that it's definitely not an ego trip, it's a life choice. A choice to live a particular way that I've embraced for life.

The upside? Well I get to have rad experiences for myself and I share many of these moments with my little family. My version #2 family. The one I've made with lovers, past and present. Us and our kids, our motley cure, our band of gypsies, travelling down backroads together, looking for a more adventurous and meaningful alternative.

We work together, we cook together, we grow and learn together. We have no set path, but we never lose our way.

Life's too short not to take the alternative. You may just find your way by getting a little lost.

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Buckets of Rain

There's no doubt that it's winter in the Central Highlands. I've installed woollen boot liners into my Bean boots, and made the most important purchase of the month, thermal socks. These are the few months out of a year that can pin a man down. The days are wet, cold, typically grey and often end before you expect them to. Secretly I love them. I love that winter slows life's momentum to a snails pace. I've worked hard for this time, for winter that is. I've stowed away many provisions. I've stored, cured, dried, bottled, frozen, jared, pickled and sauced. All in preparation for these few months of winter. As much as I'd like it to be a time of prolonged comfortable reflection by the fire, there is, as always, still chores to be done. There just isn't that sense of urgency like there is in Spring to Autumn. This time of the year I consider to be a gift from the family of seasons. It's breathing space to collect yourself.

Food is an integral part of survival at this time. I'm not being literal here, I'm referring to the mental health benefits that winter soul food provides. In this last week I've twice cooked a recipe of deer where I slow cook the beast for an entire day. The legs of deer gently bubble away in a cast iron dish, the aromatics blessing the kitchen with sweet promising fragrance. Mouths begin to salivate, a reaction to the intrigue of what may materialise at the dinner table.

Light is different this time of year. If you take the effort to notice you will enjoy a softness of light that is, often mistaken for bleakness. Shadows contrast and detail all seem to manifest a seasonally specific mood. Fire glows deep red, orange and yellow. Nights are long, frigid but mellow. Blankets become treasured items, as do friendly bodies that warm you with embrace.

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Meals are hot, full of steam and sizzle. Warming flavours where spice is no longer sparingly applied. Chilli, Cayenne and mountain pepper are added to most meals. The last of the fresh chilli from the patch is a delight, with that unmistakable pepper flavour reminding us of warmer days.

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Before the ice, frost and maybe snow arrives, we take advantage of the last of the forest mushrooms. The field mushrooms finished up months ago as soon as the frost arrived, when they retreated until the following year. The forest floor however is still very active, with late season mushrooms starting to peak out from rotting leaf litter.

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Rain taps heavily on the roof, the hot oven hums and the hardwood crackles in the fireplace. The smell of fluffy pastry fills the room, that buttery aroma promises a perfectly cooked crusty pie. Steam erupts from cracks in the pie, escaping into the cold air of the kitchen, only to disappear like ghosts in the night. Steel breaks open the pie, the smell of slow cooked deer meat and wild mushrooms is as warming as a cuddle from your grandma.

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Roast vegetable soups, pastas, stews and casseroles dominate the evenings dinner prep. Food that was frozen in summer finally gets pulled from the ice box, cooked with a wintery twist. 'Yab Chow' a yabbie (crayfish) chowder with fried potato and yabbie dumplings seems right at home on a winter table. The chilli and spices bring spark to the table, like a flare gun in a football stadium. These small things are happiness to us when our bodies are telling us to be miserable because its grey days and buckets of rain.

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How can you be miserable when you have so much beauty surrounding you? These elements of nature, the cold wind, the endless sideways drizzle, pure clean water drops gathering on green leaves, these are all beautiful things. They wash, cleanse and renew, just like it's written on a bottle of shampoo. The seasons are broken up into four very different personalities, all having their trademark quirks. I love them all, but I reserve the softest spot for winter.

 

Boots, Beans and Blood

It seems that every time I go away somewhere far far away, something from the 'disaster realm' comes to visit my home. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind a bit of travel. But more often than not, something shit is waiting for me on my return. There's not much I can do about it. The older and greyer I get, the more I learn to simply accept this reality as some sort of fate driven trickery. A few days into my trip to talk at the Do Lectures in Wales we got a call from home. Initially it was reported that some sort of 'weasel' had attacked and killed a bunch of our chickens. We don't have weasels in Australia, so I asked for a photo. Thats when we discovered that a ferret had got into the chook pen and done the killing. Where the ferret came from, I have no idea. It's probably some kids hunting ferret that's cunningly escaped from its cage, and ended up feeding on our chickens. What ever the case may be, we're short most of our laying hens. There is nothing I can do about it now. The ferret was caught and disposed of. Now I have the task of locating some new productive hens.

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The second piece of poo was brought to us with 100km hour winds that rushed up the valley to our hill. Last evening that wind roared with fierce menace, with destructive power so wicked that it flattened the north side of my poly tunnel. The entire structure has now been compromised, and will have to be pulled down and rebuilt. I obviously won't rebuild using the same materials, but I will have to build with steel. It's just far too windy at this property to use PVC conduit for the frame. Again it sucks. I invested that combination of time, money and effort into that build. It's just one of those things you can't do much about. Like my mate said, "pick yourself up, take a deep breath, dust yourself off and start all over again".

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I appreciated the advice but I hadn't actually fallen over, and there isn't much of a chance of being dusty this time of year, it's winter. It's wet, muddy, windy and bloody freezing. There was a day last week where we didn't even see sunlight at all. Just cloud. And grey.

It's the time of year when the house fire is lit every day. Without fail. It's the time of year when I appreciate the days of work I put into building my cache of fire wood. And it's the time of year that I look at my wood pile and wonder if I cut enough wood.

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It's the time of year when wool lined rubber boots are an everyday item. It's the time of year when a good pair of warm wool socks is worth more than the muddy boots themselves.

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It's the time of year when carrots, celery and onions seem to get chopped every few days for stews, casseroles and soups. It's the time of year I wonder if I planted enough carrots, onions and celery.

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It's the time of year when I find myself soaking beans overnight, to use in my chilli bean stew. It's the time of year when I shell the last of the dried beans and pop them in jars for temporary storage until they're eventually needed for a hearty bean brew. It's the time of year I ask myself if I planted enough beans last summer.

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It's the time of year when I look the bleakness of winter dead in the eye and say 'fuck you'. It's when I cook with food I've grown back in spring or summer and eat like it's still sunny outside. Like this mug of mushy broad bean, with mint lemon and goats cheese. It tasted like spring. And if I got close enough to the fire place and closed my eyes, I could almost imagine that it was a warm day with the sun warming my body.

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Even though it can be emotionally, physically and mentally challenging, I do love winter. It's the season that bests suites me. It's challenging, difficult and miserable. We seem to have a lot in common.