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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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.

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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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