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July 2017

War On Waste Toowoomba Workshop

By NutritionNo Comments

Don’t you just love when you can visit or holiday at a location that’s still pristine? No rubbish, very few people, lots of trees and wildlife. That’s what we go for when going on holidays.

But places like that are becoming few are far between because of the excessive waste our culture produces. Many of you would have seen the ABC’s War on Waste series. And I know it’s making a difference, we have a handful of plastic-free customers at Birdsong.

But what else can you do? Simple Living Toowoomba are hosting a War On Waste Workshop in August, aimed at empowering people to make changes in the way they shop and live that will cut back on waste and give future generations a better world to live in! http://simplelivingtoowoomba.weebly.com/

Here’s the details:

War on Waste Workshop

Date: 19 August

Time: 10.00-12 noon.

Cost: $5

Where: Range Christian Fellowship, 15 Blake St, Wilsonton

What: This workshop will be full of ideas on how to reduce your waste. In the first half of the workshop we will have heaps of tips, tricks and products to help you reduce your plastic and disposable product use. Racheal will be demonstrating how easy it is to make beeswax wraps which can be used instead of Clingwrap.  This part of the workshop is really a forum where we are hoping that lots of people bring their hints on how to reduce waste. With plastic free July wrapping up you may have lots of ideas on what ‘disposable’ products can be replaced with reusable/washable ones.

The second half of the workshop will be presented by Ann from the Toowoomba Regional Council.  She will be talking about composting, worm farming and yellow bin recycling. There will also be time to ask any questions that you may have.

Bookings Required: 16 August to simplelivingtoowoomba@gmail.com

We will also have a home grown and hand made swap where you can bring up to five items that you have grown or made and then swap them for other items that are brought along. The swap will begin at 9.50am so you will need to have your items on the table by 9.45am.  

 

Hand-Harvested Carrots

By NutritionNo Comments

Have you ever seen organic carrots at $9/kg? We have, and though ours are priced lower, I can understand why some are valued so high.

Friday just gone saw Rick, myself and our eldest 3 children harvesting a twenty meter bed of rainbow mix carrots. Now how long do you think that would take 5 people, to pick, trim, wash and weigh one bed of carrots (by hand)?

Just over 3 hours I think it was. 60kg of carrots came out of that bed, and five of us were working solidly for that 3 hours to get the job done!

For years I was one of those people who didn’t want to pay more than $2/kg for carrots (broad acre carrots of course). It’s all done by machine on those farms…big diesel powered machines chugging through the crop.

But at Birdsong it’s all hand harvested, and that takes time, and lots of helping hands! So at $5/kg, our 60kg of carrots from that bed are worth $300. Now, $300 divided by the 5 labourers gives you $60 per labourer, and about $20 per hour for each labourer…BUT, that doesn’t include all the time Rick spent preparing the bed for planting, sowing the seed, setting up irrigation, weeding etc. So it’s actually much less than $20 per hour per labourer. That also didn’t take into account the cost of the seeds (have you seen how expensive rainbow carrot seeds are?!), the cost of the irrigation set up, the mineral balancing (our mineral mix compost pile cost about $5000 to make for example) and the rest.

Thankfully we have lovely customers who don’t complain about the price (which is very low anyway, when you see all the work and costs associated with growing decent veg), but I just wanted to give you this little post to consider, because our culture is bombarded with cheap food. I know most people think food is too expensive, but the people saying that are generally the ones who haven’t tried growing veg themselves, or raising and butchering their own meat. Your view might change once you have. I know that after we killed, gutted and plucked 11 roosters for the freezer one day, I decided I would never again complain about the cost of store bought free range/organic chicken. It’s really not expensive at all when you know what goes into producing it!

Inspired by Little Seed: Tempura Cauliflower

By RecipesNo Comments

Last week Carnivore Rick and I did something different and went out to dinner with some friends at Little Seed (next to Wray Organics for all you locals).

I say different, because when Rick says he wants to go out for dinner, he’s generally already got his heart set on the Reef and Beef at the Meringandan Hotel! But this time we both wanted to try Little Seed, a vegan/plant based restaurant in town. They’ve started buying our produce recently and we were keen to see what they were creating with it, and also to taste more of their range (because the first day we went there the salads and hot chocolate they gave us to try left a very positive impression! Yum!).

We were very impressed. They are definitely gifted chefs. One of the entree’s, the fried cauliflower wings, was especially delicious, and inspiring, because we had a stack of cauliflower at home to play with. Rick strongly suggested I try making the fried cauliflower at home.

Ours wasn’t quite the same as Little Seeds (theirs was amazing!), but it was still delicious, and the children loved it! This was encouraging, because they usually whinge like there’s no tomorrow if I tell them we’re not eating any meat for dinner!

Excuse the photo, I’d been working in the paddock that day and couldn’t be bothered with stylish food photography!

Here’s what we did:

Tempura batter:

200g organic stoneground flour

4 eggs, separated

4Tbsp cold pressed olive oil

Extra oil for frying

And your cauliflower of course. This much batter should see you through a large cauliflower. We used several smaller purple cauliflower from the garden.

If you are using a standard cauliflower from the shops, you should cook your florets in boiling water for 2 minutes before battering them. Our homegrown cauliflower didn’t require pre-cooking.

Grab a large bowl and add your flour and a pinch of salt

Whisk your egg yolks and 350ml water together. Then whisk this into the flour and add the oil.

Sorry to make more washing up, but now you need to grab a clean bowl and whisk those 4 egg whites until they’re stiff, and then you can fold them into the rest of the batter.

Now the fun part, heat that frying oil and start coating your cauliflower florets in batter and frying them for a couple of minutes until they colour the way you like them 🙂 If they’re big, you may need to fry each side separately. Now place your cooked tempura cauliflower on a plate with paper towel and try to make sure you save some for the rest of your family!

PS I’m sorry to say we’re sold out of cauliflower until the next rotation is ready for harvest! But I wanted to share this with you anyway.

Cauliflower Rice

By RecipesNo Comments

Crates of purple cauliflower. That’s what I was faced with in the cold room the other day. Yes, it’s been selling (who wouldn’t want purple vegetables?!), but there’s so much of the stuff that we needed a new way to use it.

One customer mentioned she was making cauliflower rice with her cauliflower, so we decided to give that a go.

It’s so easy! You just remove the bulk of the stem from the cauliflower, grate the rest (we simplified things and used the food processor) and then heat a few tablespoons of oil/butter on the frypan or a large saucepan and gently cook the cauliflower ‘rice’ for 6-8 minutes. We also added some garlic for a flavour boost. Rick and I loved it. The children were a little disappointed they couldn’t have ‘real’ rice with the butter chicken…but they got over it!

And I did have a pic of the finish product…but it mysteriously disappeared from my phone!

What about you, how do you like to use your cauliflower? I notice on the menu for Little Seed Restaurant is fried cauliflower wings in sesame and lime…sounds amazing!

Cooking With Kale by Rena Patten

By RecipesNo Comments

Book Review

All you home gardeners will know what it’s like to be hit with a glut of a certain crop…or crops. I’ve always hated waste, but having this market garden, you just gotta get over that, because there will be surplus veg now and then that goes to the chooks.

Kale is something we have an abundance of right now, and I often saute it with other veg in butter…mmmm, butter…hang on, back to the kale! Yes, kale…I was wondering what creative ways kale can be used in other dishes. So off to the local library we went, and found “Cooking With Kale” by Rena Patten.

I must say I’m impressed with the book! As a homesteader and one who’s in favour of agrarianism and using what we have, it’s entirely refreshing to find a book of recipes that are so full of basic, common ingredients. Pantry staples.

And listen to some of Rena’s recipe ideas…Kumera Boats with Kale and Mustard Chicken, Sweet Potato and Kale Stir-Fry, Banana, Chia and Kale Smoothie, Kale Pesto, Potato Kale and Chickpea Curry….lots of good stuff.

Cooking With Kale is also well illustrated with photos that are making me hungrier than I should be at this time of day 🙂

This book is available at the Toowoomba Library (when I return it, that is!) and if you’re looking for some inspiration for your kale crop (or kale you’ve bought from us) then this book is definitely worth checking out.

Fermentation Bee

By Farm Gate StallNo Comments

Is there such a thing as a ‘fermentation bee’? There’s quilting bees, freezer parties (where you get together and make meals for the freezer) and the men of old had barn raisings. So, why not have a fermentation bee?

Our recent harvest has included a lot of sugarloaf cabbage, carrot, beets, chilies and other veg that just screams out ‘ferment me!’

My eldest two daughters and I have made what felt like a mountain of kimchi and various krauts already and I had the thought maybe there’s some people out there who’d like to come over and join us for a fermenting afternoon?

The proposal is this, you come along with your own chopping board, knife and glass jars and we provide the veggies, salt and some seasonings.

Here’s the details:

Fermentation Bee

Sunday 16th July, 1:30pm at Birdsong Market Garden (118 Boundary St, Cranley)

Cost: $40. This includes organic veg like cabbage, carrots and beets from our garden, himalayan pink salt, organic herbs from our garden and help if you are new to fermenting!

You need to bring: glass jars with lids (ie 2x1L vacola jars or 4x 440g tomato paste jars), a LARGE bowl, chopping board and knife (and a grater if you’d like to use carrot/beet)

Bookings Essential! And numbers are limited to 5. Even though we have a huge dining table, fermenting takes up lots of space!

How to book: I’m about to add this class as an item on our web store. So you will be able to buy and pay online. This will also show you if there are spaces available or not. If for some reason you have trouble with this, email me at racheal@birdsongmarketgarden.com.au and we’ll work it out from there!

Born this Morn

By Farm Gate StallNo Comments

It appears Rammy, our late ram, made the most of every last minute before he was butchered! We’ve had the birth of lamb after lamb this winter even though the ewes already had lambs when he was butchered months ago and we thought that would be it!

This morning Caramel, our most tame ewe, gave birth to this little cutie. The photos were taken about 20 minutes post birth. My apologies Caramel…I know it’s not nice to have post birth pictures posted of you on the internet! See her tongue hanging out there?

So, we have another healthy little girl in our flock! If you’re coming to collect veg and the lambs are in the near paddock, feel free to ask for a look 🙂

Sourcing Local Produce in Toowoomba

By Market GardenNo Comments

As Local as it Gets

We are very blessed in Toowoomba to be right next door to a vast array of vegetable farms. The Lockyer Valley is just full of them.

BUT, with the ever growing food-miles-consciousness, some are looking for produce that’s so close it’s practically on their doorstep…in their own backyard. And looking for produce that’s not only spray-free, but grown in soil that’s also not subject to overspray from nearby conventional farms.

This is where we can help. Birdsong Market Garden is only 8.9kms from Grand Central, Toowoomba…about a 13 minute drive. Close hey?

Our neighbours are not farmers, and therefore are not spraying anything nasty that could possibly waft onto our veggies.

Our soil has been analysed and is in the process of remineralisation (the minerals, microbes etc have already been added to the soil, but the assimilation can take time…already we are seeing great results!).

The only place this produce travels before you get it is from our back paddock to the cold room (less than 100 meters), and it travels there on a harvest cart that Rick pushes along by hand. Most produce is stored in the cold room for a maximum of 7 days, and then it is replaced with a fresh harvest. The exception to our 7 day rule is long storage crops like root veggies which obviously can live happily in the cold room much longer.

If you are a cafe/restaurant looking for local, seasonal, organic produce, we can help. Or if you are simply someone wanting to buy nutritious farm gate produce in the Toowoomba area, we can help.

We’re open every afternoon from midday-6pm (except Saturday) and you are welcome to drop in, check out the produce and find out more. Contact details are on the home page 🙂

Plastic Free July

By Market GardenNo Comments

How you can make a diference at Birdsong

As you’ll see in the photos, we’re definitely not purists in our waste reduction efforts.

But we’re getting there. Reusing glass bottles, making our own beeswax wraps instead of cling wrap, using eco mesh bags for some of our produce, and reusable stainless steel straws for smoothies are some of the efforts we’ve adopted.

But then there’s the market garden. That gets a little harder! We have a handful of plastic-free customers who we are happy to accommodate, and would be happy to see more. But as a business, do you know it can be hard to buy packaging that is eco-friendly, and yet not so expensive that is pushes the price of the produce up?

We do have several sizes of paper bags, but these are only good for certain items. Anything too moist, and it disintegrates the bag! And there’s a lot of energy/water etc that’s pretty much wasted in the process of making paper too.

We also have cardboard boxes (and often reuse boxes that we received mail or other items in for veg orders).

We also have reusable mesh produce bags from www.ecoproducebags.com which are available for sale for $2ea here. These are strong, washable and breathable. The reason Rick chose these over cotton bags is because there’s actually a lot more of a negative environmental impact in the production of the cotton bags. And the cotton wears out faster.

For Plastic Free July, we are now offering 1 free reusable mesh produce bag for every $20 you spend 🙂

Rick and I have talked about how to incorporate more use of eco friendly packaging. We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas! At the moment I can handle transferring peoples produce into their own bags, but as the customer base builds and we get busier, it’s too time consuming to do this.

But right now, the best ways you can help to reduce waste with your veg at Birdsong is to BYO box, green bags, eco produce bags…and, to let us know if you are happy to have your veg packed loose into a box for you to repackage yourself at home.

So for us, Plastic Free July is a great time to ponder these things and see what you all think too!

Monthly Homesteading Classes, Toowoomba

By NutritionOne Comment

Maybe this all started years ago because I started getting curious about how things were made. And I also had a love of baking, but knew if I baked sweets all the time, I’d likely end up with ill health. Then my husband started uni and we were living on welfare for 4 years, and knowing how to make things from scratch became a useful pastime and money saver.

Cheese making, bread making, upcycling, growing veg, making bone broth, soap making, DIY beauty products, DIY cleaning products, alternative medicine and healthcare…it all became my passion. Over the years I’d borrow books from the local library and spend my midnight breastfeeding sessions reading homesteading blogs and getting very inspired. Skill after skill was trialed and learned to live a more low-impact and mindful lifestyle…that is generally budget conscious too.

Rick and I love to learn through books, but some people’s learning style is completely different. They need to engage more of their senses to retain information or see someone do something to learn to do it themselves…so now we have monthly homesteading classes at Birdsong. This is the perfect way to learn a new skill with a more hands on approach. And to make new friends, we always have a lovely bunch of interested ladies turn up to these classes! We’ve already run soap making, bone broth and pressure canning, homemade winter skin fixes, sausage making, homemade cleaning products and more.

What is homesteading anyway?

Wikipedia defines it as this: a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of foodstuffs, and it may or may not also involve the small scale production of textiles, clothing, and craftwork for household use or sale.

But you don’t need a lot of land to try homesteading. You don’t need to raise your own meat. You don’t HAVE to can your own fruit and vegetables either! Maybe you’d like to do one or all of the above, but the essence of homesteading IMO is more about knowing how things are made, being conscious of where your food is coming from, finding ways to upcycle or recycle, avoiding being too wasteful and living simply. There’s even more aspects to add, but you get the idea. When I thought about the fall of Rome and how such an advanced civilization could descend into the seemingly backwards Middle Ages, it seemed apparent that there they had a lot of city dwellers who were entirely dependent on the outside country folk for their food and supplies. When that system fell apart, a lot of survivors may not have survived long when they didn’t know how to provide for themselves.

Homesteading doesn’t mean you have to make or grow everything yourself. You don’t. Maybe you can, but it’s more about learning some new skills and having the satisfaction of being able to create the things you need for yourself. Or barter for them. So you’re not completely dependent on others for everything. And there’s such a beautiful sense of community in getting together to learn skills and practice them. I love reading 19th century stories where women would get together to can produce, or make rag rugs and men would get together for barn raising days.

Now, if you are in the Darling Downs/Toowoomba area and want to learn some of these skills I’d advise you join the Simple Living Toowoomba mailing list https://education.weebly.com/weebly/main.php  

We’ll post classes on this website too, but Simple Living Toowoomba offers many homesteading related classes and they meet monthly. Classes are generally $5-$10 there.

Class prices here are higher, but are usually inclusive of materials/supplies to take home. Birdsong classes are advertised through the Simple Living Toowoomba mailing list, which is another reason to join that list. You’ll always know what’s happening and they don’t send many emails out. 1-2 a month.