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April 2017

Book Review: Tomato, a Fresh From the Vine Cookbook

By RecipesNo Comments

Tomatoes…if you’ve ever grown them, you’ve probably found yourself in a place where you have more than enough and are looking for new ways to make the most of your harvest! We’ve never grown tomatoes on this scale until this last summer, and we’ve got plenty of late season tomatoes still coming….oh, what to do?

The pantry shelf is lined with canned tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, pasata, tomatoe sauce and ‘sundried’ tomatoes. But still there are more tomatoes harvested every few days.

So thank God for the online library catalogue, where I was able to find “Tomato, A Fresh From the Vine Cookbook” by Lawrence Davis-Hollander. what grabbed my attention was the fact that his recipes are based on heirloom tomatoes. Yes, you can make most tomato recipes with any kind of tomatoes, but the flavour variety of heirlooms is much more contrasted and I think the sugar content of homegrown vine-ripened tomatoes is higher also.

Lawrence has really gone all out in providing a wide range of tomato recipes. It’s expected you’d see recipes for tomato soup, paste, salsa etc, but then there’s some unusual (yet intriguing) recipes such as Bloody Bull (a beverage of Irish pale ale and tomato juice) and “Green Tomato Chocolate Cake” (fully intend to make that one when I get my hands on some suitable beer…yes, it has beer in there along with the green tomatoes!). There are about 150 recipes!

He also tucks in snippets of tomato trivia about various tomato festivals, health benefits of tomatoes and some info on which varieties of heirloom tomatoes you might like to try growing for yourself.

Mmmm, just looking at a picture of the ‘Tomato, Watermelon and Ricotta Salad’ right now!

Many of the recipes within this book have been contributed by celebrity chefs, and throughout the book there are profiles on some of these chefs. Most of the recipes are for fresh dishes, but there is a chapter on preserving the harvest…in case you’re like me and want to save some of the tomato goodness for later in the year!

So if you’re looking for a one-stop tomato recipe book, give this one a go 🙂

Also at the Farmgate- Essential Oils

By Farm Gate Stall2 Comments

Chances are you’ve heard the buzz about essential oils. They’re gaining popularity fast…but they’re nothing new. Being a reader of the Bible, I’d heard names like frankincense, myrrh, hyssop, spikenard, cassia and the like many times but for a long time not realised how incredible the essential oils of these plants are!

Put very simply, essential oils are the life force of a plant, gently distilled and bottled to be used for healing, cleansing and vitality. We’ve used them for years, but only in the past 2 years have used pure therapeutic grade oils. There is most definitely a difference. We were skeptical to start with, especially Rick! He thought the expensive oils were all just a marketing ploy until I gave him a cheap ebay lemon oil and asked him to smell it, and then to smell a doterra lemon oil. I did the same experiment with peppermint oil. That silenced him, and he eventually added “you can smell a filler oil in the ebay ‘essential’ oil.” Yes, the therapeutic grade oil had a strong and lively scent while the ebay generic oils were like a watered down and dull scent.

So we started trying the doterra oils for all sorts of ailments in our family of 8. I was especially impressed by DigestZen, which alleviated two of my daughters tummy pains within literally seconds. It worked just as well for me when I had gastro pains one day.

And helicrysum oil! Wow! It stops bleeding! So when my 9 year old accidentally swung a maddock into his little brothers face (!!) and split his lip, I grabbed that helicrysum and dropped one drop into the lip and the bleeding stopped right away.

I could tell you a lot more stories of how these oils have helped us…but the point I’m getting to is that if you’re interested in natural/alternative health care and first aid, talk to me. I have a selection of oils in stock here at the farm gate stall, and also can do 1ml sample vials (free, unless it’s for a particularly costly oil) so you can try for yourself before deciding to buy anything.

I also carry copies for sale of Modern Essentials 8th edition. This is the book to have if you want to be using essential oils regularly. It lists what each oil is good for, what to use for each type of ailment and links to studies on each oil too.

It’s important to note that essential oils aren’t a cure-all in themselves. Nothing replaces a healthy diet and looking after yourself properly. As an example, there was no oil that could fully alleviate the symptoms I faced after eating gluten back when I had an autoimmune disease. I had to watch what I ate and deal with the emotional and spiritual root of the illness to be healed. But when it comes to promoting healing in a lot of other areas, like colds, wounds etc…the oils are amazing! Just be aware of that 🙂

Birdsong Classes

By Farm Gate StallNo Comments

I love homesteading. There’s something very satisfying about making things from scratch, living out of town and raising animals and growing our own veg. For years we’d dreamed about doing this and before we even planned on moving out here I started learning various skills like bread making, cheese making, soap making and how to make our own cleaning and toiletry products.

But back then I didn’t know about groups like Simple Living Toowoomba where you can go to a class to learn these sorts of things. It was just the local library, google and I! Any new skill I desired had to be learned from books…though I must give credit to my good friend Jen who taught me how to make soap.

So knowing that not everyone learns effectively through reading and books, the idea to teach various DIY skills classes to others interested in this sort of lifestyle and these sort of skills came to mind. Once a month we’ve been holding classes here…things like soap making, homemade cleaning products, homemade self-care and beauty products, using essential oils for DIY healthcare, making bone broth and things like that. Eventually maybe Rick will teach some home gardening and self sufficiency courses too.

We’re keeping costs down…usually around $10 per person per class. We’ve lived on welfare before and know what it’s like to live on a shoestring, so I like to keep classes at a cost that’s affordable to pretty much everyone!

If this sort of thing interests you, please contact us via this website and we can let you know next time a class is on. Alternatively, join the Simple living Toowoomba mailing list. They hold monthly classes, usually $5 per person and cover a wide variety of skills. Their classes are held one Saturday morning a month, great for those who work during the week. Our classes are always on a weekday, catering to those who can’t do weekends.

Some other classes I hope to run this year are:

-making beeswax wraps (eco alternative to cling wrap)

-making sense of Nourishing Traditions (for those who want to improve their gut health but are intimidated by this cookbook/lifestyle!)

-making DIY chalkboard frames (rustic upcycling)

-soap making

-sausage making

So like I said, contact us if you’re interested in learning some more back to basics DIY skills 🙂

Beloved Candles

By Farm Gate StallNo Comments

It’s incredible how much of a toxic load we are faced with in our day to day activities and lifestyles.

It feels like almost every week we learn of another thing in our lives that’s doing damage to our health and vitality. Earlier this year Rick was reading about the effects of the blue and green light emitted from electronic devices and what that does to our eyesight and sleep patterns. Not good. This of course lead him to reading about the benefits of using natural forms of lighting, such as candles as a healthier alternative. But then further reading brought up a lot of info on how toxic ‘regular’ (paraffin) candles are for you and the air around you!

Turns out pure beeswax candles are the safe alternative. Did you know they actually clean the air? Negative ions are released from the beeswax as it burns (in spite of the name ‘negative’ ions are great for you and you can attract them by going outside in the rain too!), and as the dust, pollen, pollutants etc in the air are suspended there by a positive charge, the beeswax causes them to be drawn to it and then they’re neutralised. Nice 🙂 And apparently these are the only candles to do this.

There are stories out there of people who suffer from hayfever and asthma finding relief by burning pure beeswax candles in the room they sleep in or are working in.

Beeswax candles burn with very little smoke, are non-toxic, have no chemical processing, are carbon neutral and biodegradable. They have the highest melting point of all waxes, which leads to a longer burning time.

One question you’ll likely want to ask if you haven’t researched these candles before is “why are they so much more expensive than other candles?” Well, paraffin is a petroleum based product and very cheap to produce. Whereas beeswax can cost about ten times what a paraffin candle does, because bees have to fly about 150,000 miles to collect enough nectar to make about 6 pounds of honey which will yield about 1 pound of wax. If you’ve looked around our website a bit, you’ll have seen we keep bees at Birdsong. And I can testify that when we harvested 5kg of honey, we only got about 200g of wax! It’s precious stuff!

So Rick considered buying or making some beeswax candles. If you’ve met Rick you’ll know he’s a man of many projects. This is what what can happen when ADHD boys grow up…hahaha. Anyway, he’s got too much going on to be making candles, so it was very welcome news when our friend David announced he was now making 100% pure beeswax candles to sell. Now, when you buy ‘pure’ beeswax candles in stores, sometimes you’re only getting about 50% beeswax and the rest is a cheaper filler (like paraffin). I can tell you that David’s candles are genuine pure beeswax candles. The wick is the only thing in there that isn’t beeswax!

We’re presently stocking Beloved Candles at our farm gate store. Prices range from $2-$60 depending on the size. $2 being a tealight candle (larger than most tealight candles I’ve ever used) and $60 being for a very weighty pillar candle. Most of the candles are $30 and under and there are about 9 sizes/designs to choose from.

I will point out that at the moment we can only accept cash payments for these, not card. This is just until David gets an electronic method sorted out for his business…it will mess us up at tax time if we put the candle sales through our accounting/POS software!

So if you’re looking to try some air-purifying, ambiance-adding beauty into your home, give Beloved Candles a try!

Birdsong Beginnings

By NutritionNo Comments

Our first season is just about half way through!

(Photo: ‘Hand grenade corn’ as my daughter named it. By the way, corn is now finished for the season)

Thanks to all of you who have been out here supporting us and trying out the veg. Mostly it’s been pretty impressive (you’ll get differing opinions there though, as Rick is a pessimist and I’m an optimist). I think all that’s been achieved here is incredible, but he tends to look around and see how much is still incomplete or lacking!

We’re loving eating so much seasonal organic produce, and I’m noticing the boost in my energy levels because of this. For almost 2 months I’ve been naturally waking around 3-4am almost every morning, but not getting tired throughout the day!

Another interesting thing we noticed about the produce is that it has a longer shelf life than some of the supermarket counterparts. The beans in particular have been amazing. We’d harvested a large crate of them and the cold room still wasn’t complete, so we had to leave them inside at room temperature. I told Rick that one night at room temperature sends beans limp. But some of those beans were out for 3 days and they didn’t go limp! (By the way, we don’t sell you older produce like that, we pick fresh for orders, but I used those older beans in bone broth and other recipes at home)

The Brix reading on the beans was 6!! For beans, this is excellent. I’ve also had a few people comment on how long the beans lasted in the fridge…easily a week or more, yet supermarket beans tend to go slimy in the fridge within 3-4 days.

You may of noticed the website can be a bit difficult to use. We have played with this a lot, and yet it doesn’t always behave. Especially the product page. So we’re very sorry if you’ve tried to make a web order and struggled to make sense of it. We also have repeatedly updated the product page, and the updates don’t always go through to published status. So, in the meantime, if you want to know the latest product availability, then email me at racheal@birdsongmarketgarden.com.au

I write up a weekly product list and send out to regular customers, so if you want to be on that list, just email me and let me know.

During these easter school holidays we are open mornings as well as afternoons. As soon as school goes back we’re back to Sunday-Friday afternoon opening hours. BUT, if you really need to do a morning pickup during school term, give us a days notice with your order and try to come before 8:30am and we can manage it. I start teaching at 8:30am and it can be very disruptive to have people arrive during lessons…and Rick’s usually working in the garden mornings, so it’s just not the best time for us!

If any of you who’ve tried to veg have testimonials/comments you’d like published, let me know 🙂