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.

IMG_2982

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.

WOOD-BLEWITT

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.

IMG_7104

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.

IMG_7095

Facebook Share|Tweet Post|Pin Post|Email Post|Link Post
  • July 12, 2014 - 7:20 am

    Jane @ Shady Baker - Love it Rohan, we take a few dusty back roads here too. Those pasta bows are perfect :) ReplyCancel

  • July 12, 2014 - 7:33 am

    Michelle - Having just spent seven hours driving home from Cradle Mountain via the back roads I can relate. Lovely post and I love the metaphor.ReplyCancel

  • July 12, 2014 - 9:56 am

    leaf (the indolent cook) - What a gorgeous pasta dish. Oh and I would argue that wild food IS also conventionally grown food… according to nature’s convention, and that has been around longer than we have. ;) ReplyCancel

  • July 12, 2014 - 11:08 am

    Robin - I’m always sad when we get back to pavement. Life is better on back roads. I drove on a back road a couple of days ago to pick wild raspberries and chanterelle mushrooms. Birch bark I’ll use to start fires was a bonus. It falls off logs as they’re being taken to the mill. I’m all set for fire starters and kindling for the campfire cuisine workshop I’ll lead in the fall.

    The pasta dish looks delicious!ReplyCancel

  • July 12, 2014 - 2:07 pm

    thecitygourmand - As always, I think you’ve captured the spirit of the season so wellReplyCancel

  • July 12, 2014 - 11:58 pm

    alan - My good man I saw the post and just had to try your pasta dish.
    I featured it today for supper and it was a hit.
    Love it, and love your blog.
    AlanReplyCancel

  • July 13, 2014 - 8:18 am

    look see. by naomi fenton - Snow! Mushrooms! Pasta! Oh my!ReplyCancel

  • July 13, 2014 - 10:55 pm

    Trish - Hi Ro,
    Any chance you will be including Bluies in this Saturday’s wild mushroom hunt workshop? I feel totally confident with collecting Saffron Milkcaps from your first workshop even though we only found three (wow, was that over a year ago already?) and now Slippery Jacks which we didn’t see that day but I have diligently researched and taught myself to identify. I’d love to add another shroom ID to my foraging repertoire! I went to my secret pines yesterday for what will probably be the last grasp of Milkcaps. They are getting too old and big to really enjoy now, but I still came home with a basketful. It just took bit longer, 3 hours + of foraging, to find enough good specimens; time well spent for me and my two pups!
    Is there still room on the hunt the 19th??ReplyCancel

  • July 14, 2014 - 11:42 pm

    Hank Shaw - Homemade bows! Love them. And blewits? Sometimes I forget you are opposite to us. They are a December thing here in Northern California…ReplyCancel

  • July 14, 2014 - 11:42 pm

    Kim - Really loved this post.

    I have J. R.R. Tolkien’s quote on my fridge:

    “Not all those who wander are lost.”

    The simple and explored life is what fulfills me.

    Not many understand my obsession with mushrooms and canning, and eating local, wild and foraged food, having a garden, recycling, composting, picking apples and chokecherries and turning them into something amazing.

    So glad I found your blog!ReplyCancel

  • July 16, 2014 - 12:44 am

    James / 10E - A few hours drive from Chi-town. Hope some of your readers can make it. JReplyCancel

  • July 29, 2014 - 11:25 pm

    on the rain « outerNotes - […] note: this is one of the most beautiful blogs out there about farming, among other pursuits, including hunting, foraging, and getting along in […]ReplyCancel

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.

IMG_7027

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.

IMG_6945

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.

IMG_2894

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.

IMG_7003

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.

IMG_6833

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.

 

Facebook Share|Tweet Post|Pin Post|Email Post|Link Post
  • June 29, 2014 - 8:51 am

    Donna - Finally someone who gets winter. The light is not gloomy; its soft. I adore it. The heat lasts so long into Autumn now. I treasure these months.ReplyCancel

  • June 29, 2014 - 8:59 am

    Dad Berry - Winter gives you something to look forward to.ReplyCancel

  • June 29, 2014 - 9:09 am

    Paul - hey Row, what are those grey mushrooms? They look great. I have been stacking wood, warmed three times from the pile so far, getting it into the trailer, cutting/splitting it, stacking it and in two years burning it. I love winter too. CheersReplyCancel

    • June 29, 2014 - 9:49 am

      rohan - Wood Blewitts! I’ve seen them in books before but never in the forest! It was a real treat to find something new to pick!ReplyCancel

  • June 29, 2014 - 9:18 am

    Charlotte Houston - drool. and double drool.
    A resolution to stop moaning about the cold and relish every minute of what’s left of winter.
    Cheers, CharlotteReplyCancel

  • June 29, 2014 - 9:38 am

    Alacoque - I’ve always loved winter. The wood fires, the rich comforting food, snuggling up with loved ones, curling up with a good book and a glass of red wine (when I’m not pregnant, of course). I love (short-ish) walks in the invigorating crisp air followed by a rewarding/restoring cup of hot tea or chocolate. Food seems to be such a cure for the cold. It’s like the season gives us an excuse to retreat to our families and do less. Treat ourselves well. Add rain on a tin roof and I’m in heaven.ReplyCancel

  • June 29, 2014 - 10:24 am

    Fraser from Old Mill Rd - Winter comes a close second to Autumn in my books. Definitely a time of rest and reward. Sleep and solace. Spring is hard work, Summer is draining but so much gets done. Autumn is for enjoying. Winter is reflection and looking ahead. As you say, they all have their own personalities and how flipping beautiful is that?!!!ReplyCancel

  • June 29, 2014 - 11:55 am

    Jane @ Shady Baker - I love everything about this post Rohan. Winter rocks.ReplyCancel

  • June 29, 2014 - 12:16 pm

    Simone - A magnificent post. I am deeply in love with Winter, and I’m drawn to anyone who also celebrates it. Fabulous! Off to drink more red wine by the fire. Thanks.ReplyCancel

  • June 29, 2014 - 12:46 pm

    Cindy Ricksgers - Beautiful reflection on the blessings of winter!ReplyCancel

  • June 29, 2014 - 9:43 pm

    Deb - Another great post, Rohan. I can almost taste that delicious looking pie.ReplyCancel

  • June 30, 2014 - 12:43 am

    lemmiwinks - Aaaaaand now I’m hungry! The Yab Chow looks especially delicious.ReplyCancel

  • June 30, 2014 - 1:30 am

    Justin - Nice one Ro. Very evocative. I’m with Fraser – autumn is still my favourite season but winter is close run second. I love it more and more the older I get, and I secretly get a kick out of hearing people complain about the cold. They can have summer, and leave winter for the rest of us.ReplyCancel

  • June 30, 2014 - 1:40 am

    Lou - Just beautiful …..reading your prose today makes me glad to be alive. And that is a MIGHTY fine looking pie !ReplyCancel

  • June 30, 2014 - 3:20 am

    debbie lee - how nice to read such a cosy and warm post.ReplyCancel

  • June 30, 2014 - 5:22 am

    Dale Morgan - lovely!ReplyCancel

  • June 30, 2014 - 8:53 pm

    So This is Winter - The Veggie Mama - […] like this blow my mind. You like this kind of weather? I mean, I see its charm. I think it’s a nice […]ReplyCancel

  • July 1, 2014 - 12:10 am

    natasha - Hi Ro,

    As a new fellow central highlander your comment “If you take the effort to notice you will enjoy a softness of light that is, often mistaken for bleakness” completely summed it up for me. Thanks for reminding me about the ‘silver lining’. Its all in how you perceive things that provides another opportunity to make the most of it. I’ve been loving walks in the pine forests more than I could have ever possibly imaged these last few weeks.

    Thanks againReplyCancel

  • July 3, 2014 - 10:54 am

    Jessie - Burgeoning time. A time to gather oneself together before the onslaught of madness known as Spring. I too look forward to winter. The alliums and brassicas take care of themselves, the garden doesn’t need any watering and althought the weeds need some maintenance, I treasure the times between the shouwers when the sun shines in lemon yellow to go and pull some weeds.
    Your meal sounds delicious and we too are into the meaty slow cooked meals. Nothing like a nice heavy stodgy meal to warm your insides whilst the fire toasts your derriere.
    I’ll raise a glass of mulled wine to snow this winter. We should see it according to all the locals in Ballan. :) ReplyCancel

  • July 5, 2014 - 5:14 am

    Winter: it’s all about the food | collette beck - […] authentic. You can feel it through his velvety prose and his beautiful photos. Specifically, the ‘Buckets of Rain’ post sent me directly in to my kitchen with the intention of cloaking myself in the warm comfort […]ReplyCancel

  • July 5, 2014 - 5:44 am

    look see. by naomi fenton - Love these bits of winter – but I have to tell you I struggle with the whole getting up in the dark thing! Other than that, everything else about this time of year is amazing. I love rugging up, heading outside in the cold and then coming back to a warm house and warm cuppa.ReplyCancel

  • July 5, 2014 - 8:38 am

    Parkesy - Nice read, Rohan! It’s good to be reminded of how we should appreciate the seasons for what they bring and mean to us. I love winter. It’s definitely a chance to relax and catch up on the previously hectic months. And by the time we’re sick of the cold, spring comes and we look forward to what that brings. That’s what I love most about Victoria. The seasons and weather are so varied you can never get bored!ReplyCancel

  • July 6, 2014 - 6:47 am

    Rach - Winter over here in the West is seemingly fleeting some years and no where near cold enough for my liking. We have wild storms but the chill, down to the bone, the kind that turn your cheeks pink? No, we don’t get that and for me that’s what Winter is all about.

    And so, with the heat clinging onto Autumn for longer and longer each year, when the ‘cold’ does arrive, I cherish and revel in it.

    Your food looks delicious and just the kind of hearty, warming food you need in your part of the world – so jealous of your cold winters!ReplyCancel

  • July 8, 2014 - 3:09 am

    yvette - As always, so beautiful….
    As always, many thanks…

    xoReplyCancel

  • July 9, 2014 - 10:12 pm

    Ami@naivecookcooks - First time here but I must say I am in love with your writing. It makes me feel I am experiencing it all as I read every word of yours. BRILLIANT is all I can say in humble words!ReplyCancel

  • July 16, 2014 - 12:34 am

    Indrani - This is just what my soul needed – a reminder of the beauty of winter and you expressed it so eloquently and lyrically. Thank you! You have a rare gift for writing. Winter more than any other season is when I want to be outdoors, in the drizzle and the crisp air, amongst the gum trees. I crave the bush and just want to escape my city flat. Any tips for a city girl wanting to buy some rural acreage?ReplyCancel

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.

IMG_2315

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”.

photo1

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.

IMG_6716

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.

IMG_6723

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.

IMG_6742

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.

IMG_6727

IMG_6734

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.

IMG_6795

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.

 

 

Facebook Share|Tweet Post|Pin Post|Email Post|Link Post
  • June 23, 2014 - 9:40 am

    Alacoque - We had pet ferrets as kids and they are escape artists. The only time we used ours for hunting was when we had rats getting into the chook yard and we sent the ferrets in and out they came with rats in their mouths one after the other. Bloody brilliant. Sorry to hear your experience with the ferrety fiend was less positive.

    I’m glad winter has arrived. It’s lovely to curl up in front of the fire and enjoy being safe and warm. Even better when you’re fed with food you’ve grown and prepared yourself. I’m loving my thick winter socks and I’m in a much warmer clime. Your boots look very well utilised. :) ReplyCancel

  • June 23, 2014 - 10:01 am

    Steve - When I build my poly tunel I used really thick pvc pipe, the stuff they use for the water mains here in the uk. It’s probably about 10cm in diameter.

    The pipe is so strong and think I can hang from it with no wood uprights and it will still keep it’s shape.

    It’s stood up to 4 years of abuse, any number of winter storms, the tunel itself is positioned in a very unsheleterd spot as well.ReplyCancel

  • June 23, 2014 - 10:03 am

    Lisa - Rohan, the good news is that the winter solstice is now officially behind us, and every day will get a little brighter and a little warmer from here on in. Chin up.ReplyCancel

  • June 23, 2014 - 10:25 am

    Judy - There is an old bloke out towards Haddon who sells chooks. The australorps we got off him are laying strong even while out Isa browns are off the lay. The same winds destroyed all the chook / toddler proofing I had done. Ho-him it’s never ending!ReplyCancel

  • June 23, 2014 - 10:54 am

    Edward - G’day Rohan,

    I’ve just about finished my 12 metre long 1 inch steel pipe poly tunnel frame. Just waiting on some clips to fasten the plastic. Your welcome to come and take a look for a different point of view.

    Cheers
    Ted of GlenlyonReplyCancel

  • June 23, 2014 - 11:25 am

    Helen W - Welcome back! how nice to ‘read’ your voice again. From here the days get longer :)

    All the best to you

    HelenReplyCancel

  • June 23, 2014 - 3:36 pm

    Robin - I fought and lost with PVC for two years before switching to steel. I never worry about the wind. Heavy snow isn’t a problem, just clean it up when the storm stops. Hail bounces off as long as the poly is tight. It’s nice to walk through three feet of snow and step into an above freezing tunnel full of greens. This too shall pass. I swear the challenges make our food taste better when we finally sit down to enjoy the meal.ReplyCancel

  • June 23, 2014 - 4:39 pm

    Steal Away North - We’re in the summer solstice frenzy right now: garden first, fish and firewood now, then deer season, then berries, and ducks until the rain and snow. Hard to believe it’ll be over and your world and our world will switch places (even though we wear rubber boots all year).

    Also need to find time to build a new marten-proof chicken house since they’ve figured a way into our old one. It’s more devastating than losing chickens because it seems to psychologically affect the survivors. They stop laying and lose their inquisitiveness. Serious bummer, man.ReplyCancel

  • June 23, 2014 - 4:57 pm

    isis - Such a wonderful post! I love how it both has spirit and peace. It almost makes me long for winter :) ReplyCancel

  • June 23, 2014 - 9:38 pm

    Erin Block - Loved this one, Rohan. So beautifully lived and written.ReplyCancel

  • June 23, 2014 - 11:06 pm

    Justine - Winter – challenging, difficult and miserable….. ha ha!ReplyCancel

  • June 23, 2014 - 11:36 pm

    Dad Berry - Shit happens.ReplyCancel

  • June 24, 2014 - 12:34 am

    Emma - Oh Rohan!
    I am about to go away to the States for 4 weeks and I know what you mean about the dread. Im worried something will happen to our chooks too, or that my brocolli and bean crops will die, or be eaten by bugs or

    Stupid bloody ferret.

    But as Dad Berry says above: shit does happen. And we need holidays, so best not let it get you down too muchReplyCancel

  • June 24, 2014 - 2:38 am

    Margaret | Destination Here&Now - Think of it as a journey towards becoming the third little pig ;) Feckin’ freezing in Bathurst atm too.ReplyCancel

  • June 25, 2014 - 12:14 pm

    Alice - So beautiful, yet so darn awful to hear of the harder times and bleakness of winter. Sorry, to hear of that hard work, gone and loss.

    Without a doubt though, the hard & sturdy seeds that both you & Kate are sewing within your girls and (your readers,) to achieve great things with the flow & ebb of life (that is nature,) will always remain strong. Ferret or no ferret. Hope you got yourselves a nice pair of gloves out of the deal!ReplyCancel

  • August 4, 2014 - 10:28 pm

    Jessie - Winter. The season to gather yourself together and recover from the madness of Spring planting and Autumn planting and harvesting, and to get ready for the hammering of summer heatwaves. I love winter if only that it gives me a bit of a bloody break!ReplyCancel

  • August 5, 2014 - 2:34 am

    maamej - You remind me of how we city-dwellers take our food for granted. In Sydney right now we can buy nectarines and cherries in the supermarket, totally out of season, totally out of touch with what it takes to produce food. You haven’t chosen an easy road, but I can see it’s hugely rewarding, good on you – and I hope your supplies last the winter. Also, I love your fire pic.ReplyCancel