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Racheal Cameron

What to do With all That Pumpkin #9: Pumpkin Cobbler

By NutritionNo Comments

I must admit it sounded strange “pumpkin cobbler“?? But it’s not. In my search for more ways to utilise our abundance of pumpkin, and sourdough discard, I found this recipe from farmhouseonboone.com. I baked and tested it on our family this week, and it went down well. There are an abundance of sourdough recipes on that blog, so head over and check them out, if you too are accumulating a lot of surplus sourdough starter!

Olive Leaf Oxymel

By RecipesNo Comments

Olive leaf extract (which this is NOT a recipe for) is something I’ve found very effective in the past. Sure, it tastes nasty, but anytime a cough/cold was coming on, I’d take some and feel the difference. I wondered if it could be made at home, as so many extracts are as simple as steeping herbs in vodka.

Last year Rick gave our olive tree a heavy pruning, and mentioned there was a substantial pile of organic olive leaves that were available to use. Sadly they ended up shrivelling up and being forgotten.

This week, while we’ve had sickness passing through our family, I stumbled across a recipe for an oxymel (‘oxy’=acid + ‘mel’ = honey). This is as simple as mixing equal parts of apple cider vinegar and raw honey, and infusing this with a herb/root of choice for about four weeks. Fantastic! It sounded like just the way to create a homemade remedy with olive leaf. Olive leaf is also great for reducing inflammation, lowering blood pressure and reducing arthritis symptoms.

To make:

Grab a clean glass jar with a lid. Make a label, so you don’t lose track of what you’re brewing in there!

Fill up to half the jar with olive leaves, chopped nice and small (the more surface area, the better).

Add equal parts of apple cider vinegar and raw honey.

Mix well and let steep for about 4 weeks, in a cool, dark place. If you can remember to pull the jar out and give it a shake every few days, this is helpful.

Strain out the leaves.

To use, pour a teaspoon-full and take as a preventative, or if you are ill, take up to three teaspoon-fulls a day.

*Note: if you are keen to try this with some other herb/root, please do your research first and make sure it’s safe to be taken internally.

Birdsong Whippets

By Nutrition, Plant Performance ExperimentsNo Comments

It all started with rabbits. Too many rabbits. They can up and decide to descend upon your freshly planted seedlings overnight, feasting sumptuously until hundreds of dollars (and weeks of growth) is wasted.

We considered the idea of introducing a predator to keep a check on the feral wildlife at Birdsong. Rick researched what type of dog would not only take care of the bunnies, but also be low maintenance, safe to have around customers (because there’s always people coming and going here, collecting orders) and hopefully minimally destructive! Enter the whippet.

We read about how they don’t eat too much, spend a great deal of time sleeping, are very affectionate, LOVE chasing rabbits (they’re a sight hound, so anything that moves is fair game for a chase!) and how they tend to be couch commandos.

We didn’t actually meet anyone who owned a whippet however, until we were on holidays in NSW and the neighbour had two beautiful, older hounds. It was enough to confirm that this was the breed for us.

Our primary concern was that a sight hound may be high risk to coexist with our chickens and ducks…the fowl are in a fenced paddock, but a dog that is hard-wired to chase, may not be easy to train to respect our other pets!

 

Rick and I have bred all sorts of animals at Birdsong…sheep, pigs, chicken, ducks, guinea fowl…but never dogs. And with six children to help love and care for our animals, having a go at breeding dogs, in addition to just having our own as pets, seemed like a very realistic endeavour.

From a nutritional perspective, I was very curious as to how diet plays a role in a dog’s health, reproduction and offspring. I started looking at what the whippets could and couldn’t eat and was convinced that although kibble (dog biscuits) are super convenient, that kibble alone is neither a natural nor optimal diet for hounds.

I decided there would be fresh meat, vegetables, bones and eggs in our hound’s diet.

We considered organic kibble, which we may still try at some point, but the local organic bulk supplier only had organic kibble that was grain based, rather than meat/veg based.

It took a long time before we actually were able to welcome whippets into our home. The covid lockdowns were in place while we were on the whippet-hunt.

I had contacted a local breeder of show-quality whippets, and was gobsmacked at how many questions they asked about us and our property before they would even consider selling us a whippet! How high was our fence? Would someone be home most of the time for the whippets companionship, what did we plan to feed the whippet? Did we plan to breed them in the future?

There was seriously about 20 questions the breeder wanted answers to! At the time I thought it was a bit invasive, but after talking to others who have bred dogs or bought puppies and heard stories from breeders, I saw the very good sense in questioning potential buyers. Some people just don’t have a lifestyle that is compatible with these hounds, and it’s terribly unfair and sometimes even harsh on the dogs. Some just are not at all prepared for the work, training and ongoing needs of a pet dog. It can sound like a fun idea to own a dog, but research needs to be undertaken first, to see if it’s a realistic prospect.

One of our customers, with a wealth of experience with dogs and breeders, said she would keep an ear-out for any upcoming whippet litters. Sure enough, months later a contact of hers was expecting a litter. We put a deposit down on a female pup.

In the meantime, Rick hunted for an unrelated male whippet. Eventually he found a beautiful blue/grey boy, who we named Winston. He was all the way down near Canberra, so we hired dog movers to collect and escort him up to us, here in Queensland. He arrived at 4am one morning, absolutely adorable (and fed up with driving, I’d say!).

For the first month, Winston was our only dog. Fawn, the female we waited for, is a month younger than Winston, and wasn’t ready to move to her new home yet.

Winston quickly settled into large family life. He decided our couch existed for his unconditional use. Whippets appear to just adore being involved with their human’s life. They’re not the type of dog that you keep out in the back yard and just visit occasionally. They really identify as family members!

Now, a month of being the much-loved sole pooch at our place, meant that when Fawn arrived, there was some pecking-order issues to be established for Winston! Winston is definitely the more emotional hound, while Fawn is quiet, affectionate, polite…and was raised with many brothers, so was totally capable of rough play and defending herself when needed! We had such an amusing time, watching these two learn to become friends. But as you can see in the photos, they have bonded beautifully, and I don’t have the experience to know the difference between introducing a new dog when your original dog is a pup, or fully mature…but I think it’s unfolded quite nicely. I like that we got the toilet training and destructive phase over all at once, rather than being done with one puppy, and then starting all over with another! I also get the feeling these whippet pups weren’t as destructive as they could have been, because they had each other to play with. Boredom is apparently reason number one for destructive behaviour. The fact that there’s someone home to keep them company almost all the time likely made a substantial contribution to this also.

Although whippets spend a great deal of their day sleeping, when they experience a burst of energy, there’s no stopping them! Oh my goodness, they can run. And bound. I’d never seen anything like it, when Winston excitedly ‘bounded’ over our onion crop. I had no idea a dog could jump so high vertically! Not just leaping forward, but leaping straight up over a mature onion crop!

Digging: We had heard whippets don’t dig. Ours do. Not often, but they do. You should be aware of that potential if you’re looking at owning a whippet. It’s primarily happened when they have a bone they want to hide for later.

Poultry: I mentioned earlier that we were somewhat concerned about how we’d go raising poultry and sight hounds…who may not be able to resist those plump, feathery morsels. For months, while the whippets were pups, yes, they would try to chase the chickens or ducks if they got out. They have never killed one, but have removed a few tail feathers. Now it’s not an issue. Fawn can even come in the poultry yard with us, and she won’t chase a bird. She and Winston will sometimes watch them, but they know not to chase. So it is possible to train whippets to respect your poultry. I think the fact that our dogs have enough to amuse them helps. A bored whippet may be a different story.

Safe off-leash?: We had also been told that due to the nature of sight-hounds, you can’t let them off leash, or you may not retrieve them…if they see a bird or a bunny they want to chase, that could be it. They’ll run like an Olympian sprinter and be difficult to catch. We are now able to walk the dogs off-leash along our service road, without any trouble. We had one evening, months ago when Winston did chase a bunny through a couple of neighbours yards and we didn’t see him for about an hour! I prayed he’d come back (we couldn’t see him anywhere!), and he did. Phew. But now it’s fine, both hounds love to come along for an off-leash walk. BUT, there’s virtually no traffic on the service road and I don’t advise trying this on roads where there’s traffic to contend with. It’s also going to be high-risk if you try it somewhere that you know there will be other animals to deal with…like neighbours cats, or feral rabbits.

Ever owned a whippet? Let us know your experiences in the comments 🙂

This Week at Birdsong

By Farm Gate StallNo Comments
Good Morning,
How are you all coping with the weather? We have not often been able to harvest between the rain and the slush that it creates in the market garden. We’ve yet to see what crop damage has been done.
This kind of weather even also means that farmers down the valley, where some of the organic produce that we buy in comes from, can’t harvest. So, there is the likelihood of a shortage on things like root vegetables in the coming weeks.
The Kin Kin Naturals cleaning products are listed online now. We have 5L options, and the 2.5kg dishwasher powder (which is said to do 160 loads). If anybody is interested in 20L drums of the laundry liquid or dishwashing liquid, we can arrange that. But we won’t be keeping the 20L drums in stock.
Deliveries:
Wednesday 18th May, 1-2pm for orders $50+ in Toowoomba. Please place your orders by Tuesday night.
Friday 20th May, 12:30-2pm for orders $50+ in Toowoomba. Please place your orders by Thursday night.
Thank you for returning preserving jars, large glass jars, waxed boxes and plastic crates.
Thank you for supporting Birdsong.

October Storms

By NutritionNo Comments

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First, the good news.

All the people, animals and vehicles here at Birdsong are unharmed. 

After Monday’s hail storm, however, I can’t say the same for our hail/shade netting!

I could feel this coming, and last week had asked Rick how he thought we should protect the cars if we had severe weather (our business is heavily reliant on them).

Just before the storm, we walked outside to view the skies and saw the tell-tale green tinge of impending hail.

India was running around frantically trying to make sure the chickens and ducks had enough shelter in case the hail was fatally-sized.

Chickens don’t happen to be the brightest of animals, and chose to stand about two meters away from the shelter, saturating their feathers in the heavy rain. Oh well, she tried!

Before long, hail was pelting down (very exciting for the little boys!) and thankfully it was only small.

Once the hail stopped and the rain slowed a little, I ran out to inspect the damage. Wow. We’ve had strong winds that have damaged the steel support poles of the hail netting before, but this was something else. Almost the entire acre of hail netting was down, and some of the steel posts were bent completely in half. 

Large piles of hail were caught in the netting- the netting did protect the crops, at least. Twenty-four hours later, there was still piles of hail that hadn’t melted yet!

Rick wasn’t phased at all. These things happen, and while they take time to repair/rebuild, it’s really no big deal in the scheme of things. 

So for the past few days, he has been out there in an excavator working at repairing the ruins. He says the shade net needed a remodelling anyway 🙂

The crops appear to have survived unscathed, and we had harvested a lot of produce just the day before, so business goes on pretty much as usual!

Nutrient-Dense Nut Bars

By RecipesNo Comments

I love nut bars, but the commercial versions often contain undesirable ingredients. Here’s a recipe for a customisable homemade version that is tasty and nutritious.

1 1/2 Cups chopped Brazil nuts (or another nut, but I choose Brazil nuts because they are one of the highest known sources of dietary Selenium, and most my children don’t like eating them plain!)

1/3 C chopped walnuts (again, you can sub out for whatever nut you like, but walnuts are another one that I take the opportunity to hide in these bars so the children will get some in their diet)

1/3 C Pumpkin seeds

1/3 C Sunflower seeds

1/3 C Dark chocolate chunks (or cacao nibs if you want a lower-sugar alternative)

1/3 C Sultanas (or another chopped dried fruit)

1/3 C Honey ( I haven’t tried this, but I’m sure maple syrup would work, if you’d rather avoid honey)

1/2 C Hulled Tahini

1tsp Vanilla Extract (or vanilla paste)

Heat your oven to 180C

Mix all your dry ingredients in a large bowl.

The next step depends on the viscosity of your honey. If your honey is runny, then you are just going to mix it together with the vanilla and tahini until homogenised. If your honey is too thick, then gently heat it in a saucepan until runny, and then mix in your tahini and vanilla.

Bake at 180C for about 10 minutes…slightly longer if you prefer a browner, slightly crunchier bar.

Allow to cool. Then enjoy!

Made For Mum

By RecipesOne Comment

Interested in making some delicious (and nutritious) goodies for Mother’s Day? Check out WholefoodSimply. We’ve been making a variety of the slices (like Raspberry Ripe Slice), which happen to be GF, DF and often V (Honey is used in some, but can be substituted for maple syrup if needed).

They are heavy on the nuts and nut butters…just saying, in case nut allergies are an issue for you. If you’re after something wholesome and special, Wholefood Simply is definitely worth checking out.

What to do With all that Pumpkin: #8 Maple Pumpkin Bread

By NutritionNo Comments

I couldn’t do a series of pumpkin posts without mentioning this recipe. We LOVE pumpkin bread, and this is my favourite recipe so far, from the Prairie Homestead.

It’s sweetened with honey and maple syrup, loaded with fragrant spices and delicious any time of day 🙂 It makes 2 loaves…enough to share or freeze.

It’s the kind of recipe you could add walnuts or pepita seeds too, though our children love it just as it is.

What to do With all that Pumpkin: #7 Cubed Roasted Pumpkin with Balsamic Glaze

By RecipesOne Comment

Simple, but tasty.

We were given a bottle of balsamic glaze at Christmas, and it’s added a lovely flavour to a variety of sides. It goes beautifully with pumpkin.

Recipe:

Approx 2kg of pumpkin, skinned and cubed

1 onion (red, if you have it), cut into wedges

Oil of choice, about 3Tbsp, we used macadamia oil

Salt, we used our Garlic and Sage seasoned salt

Balsamic glaze

Optional: crumbed feta cheese

Directions: Heat your oven to 180C (fan-forced)

Pour the oil onto a baking sheet, then add the cubed pumpkin and onion wedges and toss to distribute the oil.

Sprinkle with seasoning salt.

Bake for about 45 minutes (longer if you like a bit of char!)

Sprinkle with balsamic glaze and the feta, if you choose. Serve immediately (though it can be reheated).

What to do With all that Pumpkin: #6 Pumpkin + Cashew Quiche

By RecipesNo Comments

Pumpkin and Cashew quiche…we’ve been making this for about 10 years!

Pictured is the following recipe with the filling tripled. With such a large tribe at our place, the single recipe just wasn’t enough. The crust however, doesn’t need to be doubled unless you want to split the recipe between multiple dishes.

NOTE: The recipe calls for roasted, cubed pumpkin. So you’re prepped accordingly, make sure you have the pumpkin roasted (or at least in the oven) before you start making the rest of the recipe.

The Crust:

2 Cups organic baking flour

125g butter (or coconut oil)

1/2tsp salt (I use a seasoned salt, like our garlic and sage salt)

Approx 120ml of water or broth

Turn your oven to 180 C, fan forced.

In a food processor, mix the flour, butter and salt until you get a fine crumb. Then with the motor running, slowly add the water/broth. You may not need all of it, depending on your flour. What you’re looking for is a cohesive lump of dough, that’s not too sticky.

If the dough is too soft, you can refrigerate it for half an hour before rolling out. Otherwise, go ahead and roll it out straight away. It will be enough, with a little surplus, to fill a 12″ pie dish.

Bake for 10 minutes.

While that crust is baking, prepare your filling ingredients.

200g (minimum, you can use more if desired) cubed, roasted pumpkin.

1/2 C cashews (for extra crunch, you can roast these too, if desired)

1/4 C cream

150g tasty cheese

a spring onion or shallot, finely chopped

3 eggs

1/2 tsp nutmeg

In your baked pie crust, arrange the pumpkin and cashews.

Whisk up your cream and eggs in a bowl, then add the cheese, onion and nutmeg.

Pour this mix over your pumpkin and cashews. Bake at 180 C for approx. 35 minutes. All ovens are slightly different, so just check on the quiche after about 25 minutes, to check how much longer it needs. Our tripled recipe needed almost 40 minutes.

Can be eaten warm or cold…some of us even like it for breakfast 🙂

What to do With all that Pumpkin: #5 Pumpkin Cauliflower Gratin

By NutritionNo Comments

Pumpkin idea #5…Pumpkin and Cauliflower Gratin. I made this tonight as a side with our dinner, though it makes quite a decent portion and could be used as a vegetarian main course. It’s creamy and filling.

The recipe is from Well and Full, and grabbed my attention as it uses both pumpkin (puree) and cauliflower (which I had a bag of in the freezer from last year’s harvest). The only adaptions I’d make, are adding some crushed garlic and sprinkling the finished dish with sliced shallots or garlic chives.

What to do With all that Pumpkin: #4 Pumpkin + Ginger Chutney

By NutritionNo Comments

Pumpkin chutney? Yes. A friend once gifted me a jar of her pumpkin chutney, and it was delicious. You can use this chutney just as you would any other chutney, but it especially works as an alternative to mango chutney on curries.

I doubled this recipe from The Crafty Larder, and it made 4x approx 700g jars, plus the little mason jar of chutney pictured. We tried it on Butter Chicken, and were happy with the results. 🙂

What to do With all that Pumpkin: #3 Chicken and Pumpkin Chowder

By RecipesNo Comments

With the weather turned cold and damp this week, soup is definitely on the menu. I was looking for some savoury pumpkin ideas, and came across this one. I was impressed that so many people mentioned their children liked this recipe. I made it yesterday, and about half my children tested it for breakfast (I know for some, the idea of soup at breakfast is weird, but to me it makes perfect sense to eat a nutrient dense, easily digested meal like soup for breakfast).

I will say that the base recipe from Wholefully is comforting, but also a little plain (no doubt why so many children enjoy it). To make a slightly more adult version, I added some homemade sweet chilli sauce, upon serving. Wondering if using coconut cream instead of dairy cream, and adding some adobo hot sauce during cooking would add a delicious twist…?

I loved the addition of quinoa to the soup…definitely like a chunkier soup, and quinoa thickened the mix beautifully.

A lot of pumpkin is used in this recipe. A whole small pumpkin cubed, plus a cup of pumpkin puree!

What to do With all that Pumpkin: #2 Pumpkin Pie

By NutritionNo Comments

I don’t know that I’d ever tried pumpkin pie before celebrating Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania, as an exchange student. Loved it!

We grow pumpkin each year, and often end up with a surplus, so recipes like this that call for at least 2 cups of pumpkin puree, are a wonderful way to put some of the harvest to good (and tasty) use.

Though most recipes call for a sweet crust, I don’t think it needs it…the filling is sweet enough.

Makes enough pie to fill a 12″ pie dish and often a little extra for a ramekin.

Heat your oven to 180 C (Fan-forced) and then…

For the crust I use:

2 cups organic bread flour

125g organic butter

a sprinkle of salt

Approx 120ml water

*optional 1tsp pumpkin pie spice

The food processor is the quickest way to blend this, but it can be done by hand if desired. In your food processor, blend the flour, butter and salt until it looks like a fine crumb.

Then add your water slowly, while the processor runs, until you get a nice ball of dough that holds together.

This can be refrigerated for half an hour if you need to firm it up, but I roll it out right away, using a dusting of extra flour to prevent it sticking to either the rolling pin or the pastry cloth.

You can roll the pastry onto the rolling pin for an easier way to transfer it to your dish without it tearing.

Bake the crust for 10 minutes, and then remove from the oven.

Filling:

2 cups pumkin puree

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups cream (or coconut cream if desired)

150g coconut sugar (or brown sugar)

1Tbsp pumpkin pie spice blend

I blend all these filling ingredients together in the food processor, and then pour into the baked pie crust. The filling will be runny at this stage, but will set as it bakes. Carefully place your filled pie back in the oven, and bake for 30-40 minutes. I start with 30 minutes, then open the oven door and give the dish a jiggle. You will be able to tell if the pie is set by watching the centre of the pie to see if it wobbles loosely, or looks set. Once set, remove from the oven and allow to cool.

The pie can be eaten warm, or chilled. Store in the fridge.

What to do With all that Pumpkin: #1 Pumpkin Porridge

By NutritionNo Comments
Pumpkin Pie Porridge

The end of summer is when we have harvested all (or most) of our pumpkins and you will be finding these pumpkins in your seasonal mixed boxes. But besides roasting them as a side at dinner, what do you do with all this pumpkin?

Our go-to pumpkin creations are pumpkin pie (I was an exchange student in the USA and took an instant liking to pumpkin pie!) and pumpkin + sweetcorn soup. But there are so many ways you can prepare this versatile veg.

Today we’re looking at incorporating pumpkin puree (very easy to make) in your porridge.

I based the trial on the recipe below, but made a few changes.

*I used dairy milk

* Skipped the maple syrup and used a sprinkling of coconut sugar and organic sultanas instead

*Used a teaspoon of a homemade pumpkin pie spice blend, rather than individual spices.

*Added more like 1/2 Cup of pumpkin puree

The result was far less pumpkin-ish than expected, which was fine. It was also only mildly sweet, which suits me, but if you’re a sweet tooth, you may want to up the sugar, or use the maple, as suggested in the base recipe.

If you regularly make porridge, the only change you would need to make to your regular base recipe, is adding 1tsp (or to taste) of the spice blend while cooking, and add the pumpkin puree close to the end of cooking and heat through.

A recipe to get you started, from DamnDelicious

Next up, will be our pumpkin pie recipe. I’ve got some savoury pumpkin recipes on the upcoming share list too!