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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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  • 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.

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”.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

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  • 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

The evenings have become quite crisp. The dusk mist sneaks up from the valley to our hill, often leaving us in a blanket of moist air. Seasons are shifting. You can tell something is up. Ewes are birthing early lambs, field mushrooms are becoming hard to find, magpies are flying around with straw in their beaks and rabbits well, let’s just say they’re busy too. There are signs every where that winter is on it’s way.

Autumn is my most treasured season, I lament that she’s almost done for another year. I love it when she returns each year without fail. I’m so excited at the subtle hints of her return. Then like a rainbow she’s is gone as fast as she arrived. And now we have winter knocking vigerously at our door.

I feel the best prepared for this oncoming cold season than ever before. My larder is stocked with the basics. I have a deer, lamb and pork filled freezer. I have over a hundred bottles of passata, baskets of nuts, endless pumpkins, dried summer beans and just enough garlic. I have squirrelled away corn, peas and broad beans from the spring and summer harvest that we are just now starting to enjoy and eat.

Excited by cool weather and the return of camp fire cooking, I found myself stoking the coals of the fire pit in my veg garden. I set up my camp cooking tripod which I’ve carrying around with me since I was about 13. The large hanging frypan is perfect for cooking paella, and sure enough I had bubbling away a broad bean paella, with home made chorizo, home grown onions, garlic, parsley, passata and wild duck stock. It’s a beautiful paella, fresh and delicious. And not an ounce of seafood to be seen.

 

Sitting by the fire admiring my handy work in the garden, I couldn’t help but notice the new broad beans popping out of the ground. I planted them a week or so ago from seeds saved from the same crop I was cooking my dinner with. Here in the ground was the my future food. While I was eating the paella I enjoyed the feeling and comfort of the cyclic nature of nature. Seed gets planted, they germinate, they flower then fruit and finally get harvested. Eventually the next round of seed returns to the soil to continue the cycle. It’s a beautiful thing. Just wondrous when you take the time to think about it.

I’m currently preparing a new talk for this years lecture series. I’ve written about my own cyclic history, how I was raised on the land with nature, I then left for the city, lived a corporate life, then finally returned as the older version of me, to a life deeply embedded in nature. Just like the bean seeds, I can’t help but be cyclic.

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  • May 29, 2014 - 2:16 am

    Amelia - Thanks Rohan. I always enjoy your reading your words. I love changing with the seasons. It feels right once you tune into it. Happy Winter to you!ReplyCancel

  • May 29, 2014 - 2:19 am

    Melissa - Autumn is my favourite time of year too. We have also started camp fire cooking. Nothing taste quite so good as lamb in the camp oven!
    Looks like your all set for Winter:)ReplyCancel

  • May 29, 2014 - 2:32 am

    Grace - Always a pleasure to read what you’re up to Rohan. And wonderfully prepared for the cooler months ahead. Thanks.ReplyCancel

  • May 29, 2014 - 2:48 am

    Alacoque - It’s a wonderful slow rhythm, isn’t it. No matter what happens in our own little worlds the sun still rises and sets, the plants grow, things are born, and things return to the earth to start the cycle all over again. It’s very comforting.ReplyCancel

  • May 29, 2014 - 3:21 am

    Michelle - I love autumn. Just like the trees slough off their bark and leaves, I feel I do the same. It is all about preparation for mind, body and spirit.

    Loved your photos. And hoping you come to Canberra one of these days so I can hear you speak.ReplyCancel

  • May 29, 2014 - 4:07 am

    Cle-ann - smiley faceReplyCancel

  • May 29, 2014 - 10:21 pm

    Bec - Beautiful post. The changing of the seasons is something I really miss when I live in the city. Yeah, the weather’s cooling down, and some of the trees are losing their leaves but… but that’s it.

    I go home to Mum’s and it strikes me forcefully that Autumn is here. Winter is close.

    I can’t wait ’til this year is over and I can move back home.ReplyCancel

  • June 1, 2014 - 10:55 pm

    Louise - Another beautiful post, so cheering on a monday morning at work.

    Re wild mushrooms – We were lucky enough to spend easter up near Corryong. There is a pine forest just up the nariel creek road from colac colac. We turned in to give the dog a run. What a surprise – i have never seen so many wild mushrooms in my life – pine mushrooms and slippery jacks. We only took one bag full, sorry i didn’t go back to get some more. There maust have been thousands in there. Don’t know if the good folk of corryong are not into wild food, or whether it was a bumper year, but if that pine forest was closer to melbourne it would have been awash with foragers. Cna’t wait to go back and see next easter. I too have saved my broadbean seeds from last year and just planted them a few weeks back. Its a great feeling planting the seed you have grown and harvested. regardsReplyCancel

  • June 2, 2014 - 2:04 pm

    Ceire's Kitchen - I love this! Especially the idea of outdoor winter fire stories and warm bowls of food. Thanks for the inspiration.ReplyCancel

  • June 10, 2014 - 4:07 am

    Maia Irell - I like reading your blog!ReplyCancel

  • July 1, 2014 - 11:45 pm

    Dale Morgan - I know this cyclic thing too!
    I grew up in a little country town on the edge of the houses and played all day in the bush and the farmland. My Dad and brothers caught rabbits and fish and marron (big yabbies) from the country side. We kept chooks and ducks. And I climbed in my neighbours gardens up all the fruit and old ornamental trees. We grew up appreciating the slow life of the country and the bounty it offered us.
    As a young adult I went to the city to escape the ‘knowing everybodies business’ of the country. The anonymity was what I needed at that time and it was liberating.
    But as time passed I wanted the country life again but found I was stuck in the city and could not afford to go to the country, with work and mortgages.
    My first 25 years was in the country and the next 25 years in the city, I am now back in the country for the rest of my life.
    I have found the community here that was where I grew up and I appreciate it now. No I am over the moon to find it again, I thought it had died.
    So I know where you are Rohan and I know the calling and I know how wonderful it is to finally return and to know ‘home’.ReplyCancel

  • July 18, 2014 - 2:22 pm

    Emmy Herring - Missing Australian winters and all that goes with it – beautiful words Rohan!ReplyCancel