It’s hard to imagine that in just a few weeks time Autumn will be over. I’ve never liked calendar seasons, they’re never on cue! I’m hoping Autumn weather sticks around for a while yet, but I know that before long the black hole of winter will return. I’m well prepared though. My larder stores are just fine. The meat freezer is full of venison, lamb and soon another whole pig. I’ve also been able to sneak in a few wild ducks this season, which end up as the key ingredient in a few our favourite family dish’s, the arancini of which I’ve  been reminded to cook soon my smallest ratbag. “Dad when are you going to cook the duck arancini?” she’s five. I think I might be in some trouble here.

As much as we all adore the taste of a hearty duck meal, I cannot pass up the flavour of wild quail. I know it’s tiny and fiddly to eat, but I can easily look past this, for it’s that beautiful meat thats so alluring. Nick my quail hunting mate and I, have been trying to book a day or two working the field with the dogs the season. A mixture of bad weather and busy schedules have been conspiring against us. That is until this past weekend. Finally the two of us were able to meet up and walk those fields, hunting the feathered delight that is stubble quail.

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Late in the afternoon I arrived at camp. Nick had already set about with the saw preparing some wood for the fire. I came prepared with a cache of dried split firewood in the truck. This time of year you can’t trust the weather so I figured instead of trying to start a fire with soggy wet wood I’d bring my own ready to go.

The window of oppurtunity was fairly tight, we agreed to work with the time we had and keep our fingers crossed for a successful hunt. To be honest, I’ve never walked away from a quail hunt with a heap of birds in the bag. It’s a wild meat that I’ve found to be a far from a freezer filler. For me it’s more sought after because of it’s flavour. It’s very much like wild duck for me. I never get many each hunting season but the ones I do are a real culinary prize.

There is another reason why I hunt quail. Similar to hunting other birds, it requires both hard work and skill. If it all comes off right, the whole experience is rewarding as hell. It’s nice to able to share the experiences with a another dedicated and passionate hunter. On some hunts the notion of a shared passion with your fellow hunter is strictly unspoken. But out here with Nick, we talk constantly about why we hunt, and what it means to us to be responsible for the meat we ultimately have to kill for. He’s very passionate about his right to hunt. His right to a particular way of life. I can respect that.

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We walked the fields, across acres of stubble left over from the summer crops. Harvested maize and grassy fields dominated the landscape. Perfect habitat for the stubble quail, although that maize was tricky to traverse!. That hard corn stubble poking out from the soil, had me tripping all the way to China. It’s hard as nails, easy enough to walk down, but as soon as you need to walk across the neat rows you can find yourself as clumsy as Mr Bean.

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There was still enough spectacular autumnal light for a quick session over some dams for duck. Nick had been hunting these dams a few weeks prior and the hunt had been good. With the amount of fox poison laid from the local farmers we decided to leave the dogs in the truck while we jumped the dams. As soon as a duck was shot, we’d let a dog out to obediently retrieve it. With a wet dog and hungry bellies we headed back to camp. Nick had found a great spot next to an abandoned farm house, a ghost house really. A remnant of a time when labour workers populated the area, but now they’re replaced by efficient machinery so many a house sits idle. Eventually these haunted shacks fall into such disrepair, they’ll crumble and fade into the past, just as those laborious workers have. Only ghosts will remain.

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The following morning fresh from a night of star gazing, we rose from our warm swags, geared up and headed straight out to the surrounding paddocks hoping to locate some quail. Wadding through the wet grass I couldn’t help but acknowledge the irony of the present situation. Here I was, taking a stand, a hunter of wild food. Hunting for my meals, all in an effort to remove myself from the supermarket food system. And what ground was I hunting in? Why it’s Victorias richest vegetable growing region of Gippsland. The paddocks were filled with broccoli, asparagus, potato, corn and leek just to mention a few. All of this food would end up at the wholesale markets, then to supermarkets. Theres a good chance most of it’s been sprayed with some pesticide or fertiliser. I couldn’t help but smile at it all.

Setting aside all things ironic, we walked those fields soaking in the stunning scenery and weather show. To the north sat the rising mountains of the high country. Majestic and proud. Thats where my heart lies. I grew up at the base of those mountains. I cannot deny that they have some power over me.

All other directions it was flatlands, allowing for full skies, and super sized vistas. Just another great bonus to being a man that hunts for his food. When you put yourself out in nature, it rewards you with stunning skies, moonlight nights and moody clouds. Far prettier than the inside of any building. No matter how talented a human can be at design, they’re no match for the beauty of the outdoors. And no match for what the outdoor provides the soul.

The dogs, Nick and I worked into the day, our legs dragged through the wet grass, jagged stubble, across muddied fields. Nicks dog Jack is an experienced quail pointer, my dog Henry however was new to quail pointing. I was concerned that he’d diverge off to the hint of rabbit, his favourite beast to hunt. But in the end I finished the day a very proud fella. He pointed a few birds and I shot over him just like we do with Jack.

With a little bit of encouragement and training he got the gist of what we where doing. It’s a phenomenal feeling working hand in hand with a hunting dog. Henry zig zagged the fields, his nose to the ground, a hundred miles and hour, covering the ground searching for any hint of quail. He chased a few, but eventually got it. He ran right over a bird, stopped in mid air, and spun around on point, starring with his bee sting tail hard as nails pointing behind him. I walked to his rear, and the two of us flushed the bird out. With all the excitement of his first point (on quail) I missed that damn bird. But he allowed me to shot over him and it’s the start of many years of quail hunting for the pair of us. No doubt a life long partnership.

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We ended up with a bag of quail and two ducks. Not much for a days work, but enough to keep us happy. Nick and I parted ways, shaking hands until the next time we meet.

aaaaas

I got home to my girls excited to see me, but in reality they where probably more excited to see a basket of birds. They know those birds will make some delicious meals for them to enjoy. We lit the fire pit in the vegetable garden and spent the afternoon plucking birds. Even though the girls had girly moments of “eeewww blood” and “grossssss” they still managed to help pluck the birds clean with me. I guess after all these years, they know that the end result is worth the gore. It is after all, ‘gore-met’ food.

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I marinated the quail with a smokey pimenton, thyme, garlic and cumin rub. With a bit of melted butter the birds were well covered flavour and I placed them over the hot coals of the fire to cook. They sizzled away as the girls and I started to salivate. I didn’t realise that the afternoon had slipped away so far, I guess we’d been so busy plucking we lost track of time and totally missed lunch. I don’t know about the kids, but my belly was grumbling! When I was sure the birds where cooked well, I removed one to check. Perfect! The feast was on! The girls and I had marinade and juices all over our faces. We squeezed over the lemon juice and devoured each bird with fervour.

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The quail hunt signals the beginning of the end of Autumn. We sat in the vegetable garden to pluck and cook these birds, where we were surrounded by the bare garden beds of Autumn. The clock has been reset now.  It’s a time of transition. It’s the one time of the year when the larder is fully stocked with food from the three productive seasons, Spring through to Autumn. Now it’s time time to rest. It’s a time to allow the slow down. Soon the hunting season for birds will end, and we’ll retreat to the warmth of the house, where most of the winter we’ll hide, enjoying the spoils of seasons past. It’s been years in the making this system of living. I reckon I’ve finally got it running smoothly.

 

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  • May 12, 2014 - 11:31 am

    Alacoque - That looks so delicious! One of my first ever pets were quails. It’s funny I’ve never thought of them as a food source, even though I’ve had pet chickens and turkeys. Maybe it’s because they’re so little. But god they look good in that dish.ReplyCancel

  • May 12, 2014 - 11:57 am

    Steve - Yum, although the thought of picking the shot out from your teeth is a little off-putting.

    There must be quail on the paddocks in your area, surely? Or is it a problem of access? Or just the thought of a day away with an old mate ;-) ReplyCancel

  • May 12, 2014 - 12:05 pm

    Adam - I’ve been reading your blog for a while and decided to get my ass in gear and comment.Thank you for sharing your life! The prose and the pictures are absolutely gorgeous and allow me some much needed time to slow down and soak it all in. As someone who is a small scale farmer (hopefully getting my hunting license this year!) it’s great to be inspired by somebody else who is so passionate about making a life in his place. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • May 12, 2014 - 1:46 pm

    thecitygourmand - Stellar post, and what a haul!ReplyCancel

  • May 12, 2014 - 2:03 pm

    lisa | renovatingitaly - Love seeing the kids with real food, ours are just coming to terms with the whole idea. We have chickens and rabbits. The lady next door plucks hers on the old road outside our door, it’s full on here xx

    ciao ciao lisa xReplyCancel

    • May 12, 2014 - 2:06 pm

      lisa | renovatingitaly - PS when I pin some of the images the actual image number comes up, I changed it to Whole Larder Love. I think you can put a title in when you upload them .ReplyCancel

      • May 13, 2014 - 3:04 am

        rohan - Ok. Maybe I should stop being lazy!!
        ;-) ReplyCancel

  • May 12, 2014 - 7:42 pm

    Theresa - Do you pick the shot out before cooking, or eat around it? Serious question – shot is actually the main thing that holds this city girl back from eating my family’s shooting bounty, and I’m not sure how to deal with it…ReplyCancel

    • May 13, 2014 - 3:04 am

      rohan - The shot for quail is real small in size. I use a #9 size. The birds are so small it normally passes through, of not we dig it out when plucking if its visible or it pops out when the meat cooks and shrinks or we find it when we chew out food. For ducks we have to use steel shot. Quail we can use Lead.ReplyCancel

  • May 12, 2014 - 10:51 pm

    Stephen - Stunning photos over the fields Mate. The light and skies this time of year can make for some sweet shots. Love your work.ReplyCancel

    • May 13, 2014 - 3:00 am

      rohan - Thanks Stephen. It’s photographed purely to so people something that is so dear to me. Might get people outside too! ;-) ReplyCancel

  • May 12, 2014 - 11:39 pm

    lemmiwinks - Man that quail looks freakin’ delicious!

    To the shot worriers, in a larger animal like a duck you might get a few pellets in the thicker parts, but I imagine it passes right through small game like quail. I picked a bit of #4 (much larger shot than you would use on birds) out of a rabbit a few weeks ago while I was cleaning it, but again, most of it passed right through.

    The lead is covered in lead oxide and the pellet would pass through your intestines if you did eat one (not likely as unless you don’t chew your food you’ll find it). These days unless you have an antique (100+ years old) shotgun like me, you can use non-toxic and/or steel shot anyway.ReplyCancel

    • May 13, 2014 - 3:02 am

      rohan - Exactly. When we pluck the birds, often you can spot the hole and the shot is just under the surface or it’s popped out the other side. In any case, you have a laugh when you chew in to a shot. It just reminds me of how the animal was killed and more importantly how it lived. But thats me. I think too much about my food!!!ReplyCancel

  • May 12, 2014 - 11:53 pm

    Kylie - Beautifully written, you words take me back to growing up on the farm far from this inner city life I now have – Your girls helping you pluck the birds landed me right back sitting at the family kitchen table laden with a whole freshly cut lamb ready for wrapping and packing in the freezer, I’m sure they will be as proud of their old man as I am of mine, even more so as old age rapidly takes back his mind and disables his hands.ReplyCancel

  • May 13, 2014 - 12:24 am

    Alice - There’s a beautifully morbid quality to these images Rohan. As always, I’m drawn into your story by the words, which you so carefully choose. I’ll bet every single delicious morsel tasted amazing. Especially as you worked for each & every bite.ReplyCancel

    • May 13, 2014 - 2:59 am

      rohan - They sure did. The girls and I loved sitting around the fire in the back yard feasting well!ReplyCancel

  • May 13, 2014 - 11:59 am

    brenda - i love autumn too and hope it hangs around a wee bit longer. Well done on the Quail haul..I love quail, my grandfather used to hunt them and cook them stuffed with amazing nuts and breadcumb mix…and you’re right…fiddly but oh so worth it. Autumn really is the preparation season hey. sounds like you are well organised.ReplyCancel

  • May 13, 2014 - 2:10 pm

    Zelda - I loved reading this post, Rohan. Looks like the perfect day, rounded off with a delicious meal. My hubby wants to take our pup hunting. He’s a quick learner, but I thought they need lots of training to hunt effectively. Can they learn just by accompanying a more experienced dog?ReplyCancel

  • May 13, 2014 - 6:08 pm

    Steve - Nice work Henry, what an achievement.ReplyCancel

  • May 15, 2014 - 7:48 am

    Parkesy82 - Awesome photos and words Rohan. It was a pleasure to be in the field again with someone who is as passionate about hunting and the outdoors as me. Looking very forward to our next venture :)
    Zelda, if you have a hunting dog and want to start to hunt with them, get out there! Although having another dog to learn from helps, they certainly pick things up very quickly on their own as it’s in their genes. The only advice I could give is to introduce the dog to gunfire gently and start with quieter noises and work up. Always make it fun and you can’t go wrong :) ReplyCancel

    • May 29, 2014 - 4:57 pm

      Zelda - Thanks, I’m sure he would love that!ReplyCancel

  • May 20, 2014 - 4:38 pm

    Time | We Didn't Plan Past 25 - […] really good at shooting skeet (because my dad hunted quail as a teen and because of this article: http://wholelarderlove.com/where-there-is-stubble/), doing that textile design course I purchased online forever ago, cooking more, learning […]ReplyCancel

  • May 21, 2014 - 3:53 pm

    Chris - Love the post and am always inspired to keep forging ahead on my own journey towards self-reliance! Am looking to get a Magnum of my own. But being a girl, I certainly do take issue with your labeling of your daughters’ reactions as “girly.” They are human reactions- no need to genderize them, I think.ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2014 - 6:42 pm

    Mary Beth - This is so beautiful, I almost can’t stand it! It’s a wonderful life you are living, Rohan.ReplyCancel

Accepting the things you cannot change. That’s one of the things I remember from my one time stint at AA. I may not have succeeded as a regular member attending meetings, but that message sure planted itself firmly in my mind. One of the hardest things I’ve learnt about being ‘self reliant’ is that most everything in nature is controlled by cycles. And in some ways thats a hard pill to swallow. It’s often the case that when something is new, it will eventually be something old, and ultimately it’ll be something very much dead. It’s a reality that insists on some level of contemplation. I spend a lot of time think about it.

 

When the first frost arrived a few weeks ago, I knew it was curtains for much of the warm season summer type vegetables. I hang on to them, these summer veg, hoping that they’ll solider on that little bit longer. Deep down though, I’m aware of the inevitable. They need to go. In their place the winter crop will carry on. Right now the priority has been garlic, broad bean, kale, chard and onion. All of which I can never grow enough of! Especially the garlic. But right now, I feel like a rich man when I rummage through my garlic cloves, selecting the biggest for planting.

 

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Come harvest time I pull up the garlic plants and pat myself on the back with how large the crop is, but come middle of winter or spring my back is void of patting. It’s then that garlic runs out and it sucks for cooking. No garlic! What the heck can I cook without garlic?;-)

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The leaves of most of the sensitive summer veg have been burnt by the cold, the zucchini has contracted it’s autumn leprosy, tomatoes have just soiled their undies, and the corn has gone on strike, stunned by the shock of the freezing wind. One unfortunate eggplant was sitting too close to the opening of the poly tunnel, and it’s so droopy and dead looking all because of the thats snuck in from the ventilation window. It’s wilted beyond repair. Pussy. It’s a sad looking hungry puppy that I just can’t help. Even though it only has one sorry looking fruit still hanging on, I’m reluctant to pull the whole plant out. It would mean the end for that plant. The total end. As mad as it may sound, I’ve developed a one way relationship with this plant. Stop giggling at me! I’ve raised it from seed, watched it germinate and observed it’s growth to maturity and now it’s time to let it go. Ok so I may have gone a bit tropo here right? Or not? The juries still out. Do I talk to my plants? Maybe just a little but of encouragement chit chat. That’s ok isn’t it?
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This damn relationship with the nature things around me! It’s been a sneaky fox and embedded itself into my life without me noticing. I’m so entrenched with this relationship that I’m pretty sure I may be completely out of touch with most of the outside world. Ok so that’s a bit over the top, but you get the drift. I don’t follow sports, read tabloids, or pulp magazines, I don’t own a television, I have no idea what is happening in pop culture. I guess I’m a bit of an outsider now. Well thats not entirely true, I think in fact I’ve always been an outsider, I never did fit in at school or in the offices I worked. I am however, well and truly right at home with dirt under my fingernails, out in the cold planting garlic and pulling out on strike corn plants! I sure as hell don’t miss any of that old life. Zilch.

Walking the garden this morning, pulling old bean vines from the garden fencing and intently searching for any sign of garlic spouts, I had this realisation I’ve been trying to explain earlier. I have a million emails to catch up on, plans to make for overseas trips, lectures and talks to write and this damn book to finish, yet here I am, full of anticipation for new season crops that will eventually feed the family. That’s the thing that’s most important to me still. I finally get it. I finally get what makes me pretty darn content in life. When all the poo gets to me, when the internet is not my friend, then I just think of how rad my life is and a smile lights up under my hipster beard. Happy as fuck. And the best thing is that no one can take that away from me. Not even the corn on strike or the digital trolls.

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  • May 8, 2014 - 3:44 am

    Deb - And I thought I was the only one who got sentimental about those ageing tomato, basil and zucchini plants…. You are not alone on the fringes. Anyway, Prince Charles has been talking to his plants for donkey’s years. Does that make you feel better?ReplyCancel

  • May 8, 2014 - 4:20 am

    Alacoque - It feels like betrayal to rip up a plant. I often have to give that job to my husband because I do feel incredibly guilty. I also can’t kill caterpillars because you hardly ever see butterflies anymore and I wonder what beautiful creature it would turn into, so I migrate them onto ornamental plants. The hungry month (that awkward phase when summer veggies die off and winter ones have not yet come to fruition) just makes us value the bumper harvests that bit more. If I had a beard (hipster or otherwise) I would be smiling under it too :) ReplyCancel

  • May 8, 2014 - 5:12 am

    Jane @ Shady Baker - I pulled out beans yesterday and felt exactly the same way! Happy winter growing to you.ReplyCancel

  • May 8, 2014 - 12:58 pm

    kate - “the zucchini has contracted it’s autumn leprosy, tomatoes have just soiled their undies, and the corn has gone on strike” Is it wrong that I may have fallen in love with you over these words? Kate Berry is a lucky gal.ReplyCancel

  • May 8, 2014 - 9:21 pm

    Kerry - I seriously wouldn’t consider you to have a hipster beard.

    You have the kind of beard (and actual lifestyle) that hipsters are trying to portray.

    Nice beard bud.ReplyCancel

  • May 16, 2014 - 9:12 am

    Friday Favorites :: 5/16/2014 Edition - Homespun Seasonal Living - […] love reading about how others embrace the natural rhythms / cycles of the earth (you are forewarned, some adult language in this […]ReplyCancel

  • May 26, 2014 - 1:19 pm

    Ceire's Kitchen - I love your work – it’s inspiring!ReplyCancel

  • August 4, 2014 - 6:26 am

    Jessie - When I realised my tomatoes were not going to ripen before the frosts I debated pulling them and getting in early for garlic but I couldn’t do it. When the frosts toasted my tomatoes I pulled every little green tomato off the vines and let them ripen inside (I was stunned how many did turn red actually) and turned the remainder into green tomato salsa. Pulling those tomato vines, toasted or not from the ground was devastating. Right now I’m faced with my totally destroyed banana in the greenhouse where it froze its butt off at -6.5C. Maybe, just maybe it has the internal fortitude to come back right? I did curse it for being a sook the other day too. Bat shit crazy me I guess. ;) ReplyCancel

Each saturday morning since January, my alarm slaps me in the face with its rude alert. I put a coffee on the stove and wipe slumber from my face. Man I wish I was still in bed with my warm lady. But I’m up and ready to go. I have a duty.

Over the months of veg season, I see the mornings progressively get darker, then cooler, and finally wetter, drizzlier and basically shit house, until the early saturday mornings feel like a mix of an arctic morning slash a frozen Armageddon. I wish the heater in my truck worked a bit better!

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I drive down the road to the farm, load up the boxes of vegetables, count them, and then count them again, you can never be too sure. With the load secured, I climb back into the drivers seat, and head down the western highway for Melbourne. On the way down I’m often passed by 16 wheeler semi trailers, on their way delivering grocery food for all the main players, Coles, Woolworths, Aldi, IGA etc. My truck seems minute in comparison. In the scheme of things, lets face it, I’m only delivering food to a handful of households in Melbourne. But I love that the opportunity exists for me. I love the interaction with my weekend pickup people. I love seeing the same faces each week, and hearing about how much they’ve loved eating this real food. The best way to describe the feeling? …..well it’s very satisfying. It feels like I have purpose, especially when people say, “thanks for doing what you do, we love this veg”. A secret internal tear of joy erupts.

 

I don’t kid myself. I know what I do isn’t really making a big difference, but I’m encouraged by the responses from the customers who by the veg. Those guys just get it. And that’s how I wanted the veg season to work. I believe that the produce should sell itself. Although I do appreciate the help people have given by sprucing the veg boxes on social media. Keep that coming by all accounts! I love hearing what people have made with the produce, and what they plan to make with it. I love the interaction and friendships that have developed. I love that there are people that just want good fresh food that’s not been treated with chemicals. Yes it’s officially classed as organic, but set that terminology aside and it’s just real honest food, free of the things that we know are not natural (and no doubt have been contributing to many of our health dilemmas these past 50-70 years).

I love hearing about how sweet the carrots where when roasted, and how the cabbage made crispy fresh slaw for a dirty pulled pork feast. I love hearing about how some of the excess veg has been preserved, or shared with friends and neighbours. All round, it gives one a sense of being part of some sort of community. We’re all joined by a box of vegetables!

It’s cooled right down up here in the Central Highlands. We’ve already had a few frosts and no doubt there will be more on the way. We have about three weeks left of deliveries before the veg production slows right down to a trickle. I guess I just wanted to say thank you to everyone that has support me these past few months. Thank you for spreading the word of mouth. Thank you for coming back each week or fortnight and meeting me on saturday mornings with your smile and gratitude. You make my weekends full of purpose, enough to keep getting me out of bed at 5:30am!

Like I said, there is only a few weeks remaining before we close for the winter, so get your orders in, tell your friends, your mum, your neighbour, the crossing lady. Lets finish up with a bang and put a smile on Farmer Rods face before he retires to his man cave for the oncoming winter.

Details for ordering veg boxes are here. 

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  • May 5, 2014 - 3:05 am

    veggie mama - Thank YOU! I have totally loved it. No idea what I’m going to do when you stop. Looks like I’m going to have to figure out what veggies are in season during winter all on my own, haha xReplyCancel

  • May 5, 2014 - 3:08 am

    Alacoque - If I wasn’t in a completely different different state I would be more than happy to tuck into one of those boxes! They look just divine!ReplyCancel

  • May 5, 2014 - 8:49 am

    Lisa - Please give yourself some credit! You DO make a HUGE difference, in my life and in the lives of those close to me. Because you provide me with access to these amazing vegetables, I not only eat heaps more veg than I used to but I also cook and share more delicious veg dishes with my friends and family. Every week I get to think about what new recipes I will try out next with the different veg I get in the box. It has honestly been life-changing for me!ReplyCancel

  • May 7, 2014 - 11:49 am

    benny - ” I know what I do isn’t really making a big difference ”

    The thing is, Rohan, you ARE making some difference – it’s more than most will manage/bother and sometimes, just a lil difference is enough.

    If everyone made a little difference, well, that adds up to a LOT of difference. (i think.)ReplyCancel