Some might be surprised to hear that one of the top reasons people find our website, is because they’re looking for Welsh Harlequin ducks…either to buy, or to just find out more about them. Our birds are primarily for high egg production, and are not to show standard.
Besides being gorgeous, the Harlequins are particularly sought after for their high egg yield. We found them for the same reason. Knowing that duck eggs are so high in fat soluble vitamins A, D and many other goodies, we looked for a breed that would lay like a chicken, so we’d have eggs most of the year around.
BUT, just because you start a flock of a high-yield breed, does not automatically mean you will get maximum egg production. Like any creature, the ducks have basic and dietary needs.
One is that they need space. You likely wouldn’t want to be confined to an area the size of your bathroom, and neither do most pets/livestock. It’s not hygienic and it’s also kinda depressing to be confined. It’s easy here at Birdsong, where the we have the space for the ducks to have their own paddock (pictured above), but much harder if you’re in suburbia…unless you are willing to free range. We did this on a suburban block when we started out, letting our two ducks roam all over the back yard. They just need to be locked up at night, safe from predators.
Be warned, they do make a mess. They poo everywhere (which is fantastic for your garden/lawn by the way). But if you have a pretty, landscaped yard, they may not be compatible!
They need water, and it won’t stay clean long. Pictured is a young drake using the drinking dish we have in the duck paddock, but we also have a half 44 gallon drum for them to swim in, and a half IBC that we fill for them when needed. You’ll fill it up, and it will usually look brown within a few hours! But it doesn’t have to be changed every day. Their drinking water does, but they can go a couple of days before you refresh the swimming water (especially if you live in a low rainfall area like us).
Feed…ducks are high-protein eaters. They are also enjoy frequent meals. We’ve tried a variety of brands and seen a variety of results. I’ve tried dedicated duck feed, which was pretty good. We’ve tried a barnyard mix, which just didn’t meet the ducks needs and the laying suffered.
Then we tried a high protein layer mash. Not bad, but again, the laying still suffered after a while. Then we went organic with their diet, which boosted egg production for a short while. Then we had months of nothing…like 6 months of no eggs. I didn’t know what to do, and so contacted Country Heritage Feeds at Pittsworth. They told me if we were willing to bulk buy, I could purchase the same organic high-protein mash that organic commercial chicken farms successfully use. It was worth a shot, and it’s been about a year now that we have been using this feed, and we’re very impressed. So many people have told me their birds have stopped laying now (because it’s almost winter), but our chickens are ALL laying (note, they only reached POL at the end us Summer just gone) and about 1/3 of our ducks are still laying.
We’ve never seen them lay so consistently for so long before. I don’t get any benefits for plugging this feed, but want to mention it because I know there are others like us, who would love to see some return on all the cash they spend on feeding their flock!
This feed is quite powdery. So we soak it, and feed it to the flock as a mush/slurry. They prefer wet feed anyway, as ducks require access to water while they eat, so they don’t choke. We break their daily quota over 4 feeds. It works for us because we work from home and are always nearby. If you weren’t home all day, I would at least try and break up their mush over two feeds, morning and evening.
And then they love greens. Some have ample table scraps for their birds, some grow extra greens to feed their flock, and some find a fruit shop or supermarket that they can get damaged produce from. There are likely many more ways you can access greens/produce for your flock. We tend to give them bolted or spoiled produce from the market garden. They adore cos lettuce, mesclun mix and things like oversized zucchini when they’re in season.
Water: we had an interesting season where on top of the feed we were using being a problem, we also had a water problem. I had the ducks water connected to the market garden supply, and that is fertigated (that just means that soil supplements were being dosed into the irrigation). One day the thought struck that perhaps the water was affecting their laying. I switched over to pure bore water, and within 10 days, started seeing some eggs again. For most people, this will never be an issue, but I thought I’d mention it in case anyone else has treated or enhanced water.
Ducklings grow super fast. It seems as though you put them to bed, and then get up the next morning and can see the growth. One warning with using a chicken feed for ducks, is that they often don’t account for the B3 requirements of ducks. The feed we use is excellent, but it is a chicken feed. So when we have growing ducklings, that feed needs to be supplemented with a little brewers yeast to meet the babies B3 requirements. I just buy brewers yeast from the supermarket, or a herbal supplier and put about a Tbsp of the yeast into 1kg of feed. This is our guesstimate, and it worked when we had 4 ducklings go lame from B3 deficiency last spring. Within days of supplementing the B3 into the feed, they were able to walk and function as normal again.
If you have ducks and have found other dietary/lifestyle ideas that have worked, drop us a comment 🙂
Maybe you’re sick of hearing about the corona virus, but there’s no doubt it’s affecting the world around. We are blessed with a wealthy country that can supply most of it’s own food and has a government that tries to relieve the economic burden when disaster strikes.
But it’s not like that for everyone. We’re not viewers of mainstream news, so I don’t know exactly what sort of picture is being painted for those who are…but from our friends abroad, we’re hearing about a lot of genuine hardship they’re facing.
Some relatives of mine support a pastor in India, who said civilians were being hit with sticks by the police if they tried to leave their home during this isolation…even to get food for their family.
We were also told that in India they’re expecting masses of people to die of starvation as a result of the virus shut-downs, because the destitute, who used to beg for their daily food/provision, no longer can. The bus stations, market places and the like where they could ask for help are no longer open to them. And then there are all those who were already surviving on next to nothing, but the small income they had was lost when their businesses were shut down, or jobs were lost as isolation was implemented.
We have friends who are native Nepalis, in Kathmandu, who regularly feed and support street children. When Nepal’s border closed and tourism shut down, their world very quickly broke down. Again, people who were already just scraping by, now had nothing. And no government support. One of our friends emailed in a panic saying so many people couldn’t afford to feed themselves, and could we please help?
There are many countries facing severe hardship and expecting mass starvation of the poor. So while we may be inconvenienced here in Australia, I have yet to see anyone who is truly destitute and facing starvation.
Many people I talk to already reach out and help others in need, especially to those overseas, where the need is so much greater. I wanted to write this post in case you are someone who didn’t realise what’s going on in so many less fortunate countries, or in case you are someone who would love to help, but doesn’t know where to start. Because it’s so simple for the vast majority of us. We can just jump on a computer/device and send help almost instantly.
The photo with this post is from our friend Rajendra, in Kathmandu. He regularly travels to remote villages, like the one pictured. He often reaches out to the Chepang people, who are the lowest caste and generally forgotten and ignored. He teaches them, sets them up with micro businesses so they can support themselves and not see their young women lost to trafficking. He helps them out with blankets (did you know for many families, they share a blanket at night, because they can’t afford one each?) and other necessities. To help Rajendra, send me a message through the contact form on our website. We send help to him directly, as he’s a personal friend of Ricks.
Thank you for your time. We have a special privilege to be able to change the lives of others for the better!
With all the flour shortages in stores, what a blessing it is to have been able to get this in for all you bakers!
20kg bags of Kialla’s Certified Organic Premium Baker’s Flour 11.0. This is high grade bread/pizza flour (but also great for everything else you use flour for). $79/bag and it’s listed online now, for pickup (or delivery in Toowoomba/Highfields on the Wednesday run).
Rick also managed to get hold of 500g bags of yeast. 500g is enough for about 60kg flour. $8/bag, and we’re only selling it alongside the flour at the moment. When you go into the flour listing, there is a variation in the drop down box which allows you to select “flour plus yeast.”
We are around this Easter long weekend for pickup. Just let us know in the comments box of your order when you would like to collect.
NOTE: Flour and the flour/yeast combo do not qualify for delivery. Although they’re over $50, the profit margin is obviously nowhere near that! If you are a delivery customer wanting flour, contact me about your options.
Update: I now can deliver the flour in Toowoomba or Highfields on the WEDNESDAY delivery runs (not enough room in the van on Fridays). Orders need to be in by Tuesday night for these delivery runs.
So much has happened in our region and country in the past 12 months.
The drought, the fires, and now the virus. Bad news abounds.
But no matter what we face, it’s time to shine. Time to be the one who’s still smiling, who offers hope, who sees someone in need and stops to help and who lives not in fear, but in peace. Someone who works on the solution rather than being overwhelmed by the problem.
For Rick and I, our hope is in Christ, Jesus. The bible refers to “a peace which surpasses understanding” and that’s what we experience in Him. Life can throw all sorts of curve balls, but we choose to trust Him and live in His peace. It’s an awesome state to be in. I’ve really felt it in the past during times like when Rick told me he wanted to quit his full time engineering job and start farming. He suggested borrowing money to set up Birdsong, and I honestly thought we could lose the property if it failed. But I prayed and chose to trust Jesus. Property or no property. And now, 3 years into running Birdsong, it’s doing quite well.
Then there was 2018, when Rick broke his neck (C1) in a chainsaw/tree lopping accident, and I sat in emergency beside him, while he was strapped to the bed and we waited to hear from the spinal team in Brisbane whether his fracture was stable. One doctor told me that theoretically, Rick should have been dead after that accident. But I wasn’t scared, and chose to trust. Many wonderful friends and family were praying for Rick’s healing, many friends and even Birdsong customers supported us with meals, offers of farm help and much more. There was no need to fear. Many people were praying, and a year later, we can’t even tell he ever had the accident. He’s healed.
One more amusing example was our engagement. Many of you probably don’t know that Rick and I never dated before we married. And it wasn’t an arranged marriage by our parents either. I’d met Rick’s mum at church, and she invited me to a prayer group her son Rick was holding in his home each week. I had no idea who he was, but my cousin Steve was going, so I went along with him. Months later, after attending this group each week, I was going to bed and heard God speak to me. He told me I was going to marry Rick. I actually cried myself to sleep with the shock. I hadn’t been expecting that at all! I asked Him what I should do and He didn’t say anything. ‘Ok, I won’t do anything then’, I thought. I had no doubt that God had spoken to me, and that He was perfectly capable of bringing this to pass without my interference. So I kept up life as usual, and about 6 months later, Rick turned up on my doorstep. As it turned out, he’d rode up our street couple of times that morning, and then turned back, not sure if he was game to say what he wanted to say! He eventually got to the front door, knocked and I answered. He asked if I wanted to go out for coffee, to which I answered that I didn’t drink coffee (then realised that was a stupid answer…haha). So we arranged to meet up at a place I was housesitting later that week.
He arrived there looking very preoccupied with thought. Before long, Rick took the plunge and asked me if God had told me who I was going to marry (by the way, we didn’t personally know anyone who had got engaged this way, it wasn’t at all the norm).
“Yes” I answered.
“Have you met him yet?” he pursued.
“Yes” I answered.
A smile came across his face as he then asked “It’s me isn’t it?”
“Yes” I answered again. The funniest part came next, when Rick wondered aloud “But do you even like me?” I really hadn’t give him any indication, as I was intent on letting God bring to pass what He told me He was going to do without any manipulation from me!
So we were engaged that night, Rick rode straight off to my parents place to ask my Dad’s permission. I was 20 and he was 21…and we were married about 3 months later.
I clearly remember the shock from one of my friends as she said “But how do you KNOW?” (referring to marrying someone so unexpectedly like that, or knowing that it was God that had spoken to me). It’s that peace which ‘surpasses understanding.’ I had no doubt in my mind, even though for most, it looked like madness. And that was almost 16 years ago 🙂
I love how constant God is, “the same yesterday, today and forever,” the bible says. So no matter what’s going on in the world or how messy life gets, He is still faithful, still listening, still ready to forgive and to offer His love, hope and peace to His children.
This week has been non-stop! Orders, emails, messages, pick-ups, deliveries, homeschooling, harvesting…
On top of all our regular customers, we’ve had a lot of people we haven’t seen for a long time come back, and new people too. So we’re overwhelmed with demand and don’t have the supply to meet our usual orders (which are mostly seasonal mixed boxes).
I’m taking seasonal mixed boxes off the website for a while. I’m not sure how long, it depends on how the market garden goes.
But what we do have is listed online and you’re welcome to order from that.
Thank you for your patience as we all try and adjust to these changes.
Once in a while I’m asked if we deliver to Highfields. We haven’t been, but do now have the opportunity to try this out.
While I can’t squeeze any more runs in myself, my dad is able to deliver to Highfields on a Wednesday from around 2-3:30pm. Because I need to pay him for this, there will be a charge of $5 per order, but no minimum spend.
Orders for this run also must be paid for up front (upon ordering online), as I can’t send the payment facilities with my dad (need them here) and it will keep things simple.
Just add items to your cart as usual, and then add the Highfields delivery item also. Leave your address in the comments box of your order 🙂
Maybe 4 years ago I was reading Cure Tooth Decay, by Ramiel Nagel. It was fascinating, but what really got my attention diet-wise, was his info on how duck eggs are wonderful for tooth remineralisation. My eldest son, who normally had a high pain tolerance (has been bitten by about 4 different types of spiders, sliced himself badly while building a cubby in the bush etc and would never cry or complain much) had been a writhing mess on the floor when he had toothache. Now we were growing our own veg and chicken eggs, eating a very “from scratch” sort of diet and I didn’t get how we could have tooth decay creeping into the family. Cure Tooth Decay made it clear that excess of poorly prepared grains in the diet and a lack of tooth-building foods in the diet was just as much a problem as an excess of sugar and junk could be.
We were wanting to produce more eggs here, so decided duck eggs would be the optimal choice, as they’re 4 times higher than chicken eggs in fat soluble vitamins A and D…and generally helpful for tooth remineralisation.
Next step was to research which types of ducks were the top layers.
Being fond of the less common varieties, we went for Welsh Harlequins, and were blessed enough to find someone with a few hours drive of our place selling a small flock of these gorgeous ducks.
Fast forward a few years, and we now have a beautiful flock of Welsh Harlequin X (excellent layers, but they’re not show standard), which has just increased by 16 this Spring, after a successful incubator hatch.
The egg laying has been sporadic over the years, ducks being far more particular with their diet that chickens are (in our experience anyway!). Once we went for about 6 months with barely an egg from them, which was such a disappointment when they were costing so much to feed! I tried organic chicken feed from a local organic store, and it worked beautifully…for about a month. Then we were back to meagre production.
A slight increase in production occurred when I started using a different hose for their water. Sound crazy? We’re an organic market garden, and Rick has a fertigation system (a way of pumping liquid nutrients into the irrigation pipes for the crops) and I had been using one of the hoses connected to this system for the ducks water. Certain minerals have the ability to promote either fruiting or leaf growth in crops (male or female qualities) and I wondered if there was something in there that was stopping egg (like fruit) production. 10 days after switching to a hose that pumped up pure unfertigated bore water, I started getting some eggs.
Eventually I contacted Country Heritage Feeds, a local organic chicken feed producer and they got me onto the high protein organic mash that they sell to commercial egg producers. That was about 3 months ago, and we haven’t looked back. That feed has made an incredible difference. We went from a few eggs a day, to almost every duck laying almost every day! And this has been going on steadily for 3 months! UPDATE: Excellent egg production for over a year, and increased broodiness. They have just slowed down over the last few weeks.
Now we get more eggs than we need…and they’re all fertile. That batch of 16 we had hatch this Spring were from 21 eggs that we incubated in a Janoel incubator (I will note that we put an extra thermometer/humidity reader in there for the incubation, as the incubator wasn’t doing a good job of regulating temperature by itself).
Last Spring we had 10 hatch, out of about 11 eggs, under chicken hens, who then went on to raise the ducklings for us. So funny when the ducklings jump in the water for a swim and their “mother” hen freaks out because she can’t understand why any chick of hers would want to get wet!
Onto the fertile eggs. So long as our ducks are pumping out fertile eggs like this, we have our surplus available for sale. And it doesn’t matter where in Australia you live, because we are able to safely express post them anywhere in the country.
Our Fertile Welsh Harlequin X eggs, from organically fed, free ranged birds, are $30/doz.
Eggs are most fertile for the first 7 days from being laid, so I post eggs on the day, or day after they are laid. For example, if you wanted 2 dozen, you’d get the eggs from the day I post, and from the day before I post.
AUTUMN 2020 UPDATE: I get slightly less eggs throughout Autumn, so it can take an extra day to get enough eggs to fill an order. I’m also using Sendle rather than Aus Post, because Aus Post express service has been taking too long due to COVID-19 creating a spike in online sales and therefore an overload on their postal system. They were also being too rough with the parcels.
JANUARY 2021 UPDATE: The laying has just dropped back again, after about 6 months of the girls laying close to maximum output. I may not have surplus eggs for a few months, I’ll see how they go!
I can post 1 doz anywhere in Australia for $20.
I can post 2 doz anywhere in Australia for $25
Demand is high in Spring (and this Autumn), so sometimes there’s a waiting list.
So far we’ve sent out over 15 doz, and only had 3 eggs have any breakage (UPDATE: We’ve had a few parcels with more breakages now, but this was using Aus Post. No trouble yet with Sendle). I achieve this by lining a box with either fabric or bubble wrap, and then individually wrapping each egg in cloth, taping that on with packing tape, and then placing them in the box, filling gaps with more bubble wrap or fabric (I use old clean sheets and bubble wrap from business packages that we’ve received, so we’re keeping it eco-friendly), and sealing the box.
I try to always add an extra couple of eggs to the box, so that in the unlikely event of breakage, you still will have as many eggs as you paid for.
NOTE: the cotton wrapping of the eggs insulates heat, and therefore can start the incubation process early. Be aware your babies might hatch out about 3 days early!
This week I’ve been getting lovely feedback from buyers who’s ducklings have just hatched. The hatch rates have been impressive (as shipped eggs usually have the reputation of less fertility).
“Hi Racheal, it’s David. I got a dozen eggs from you last month remember? Just thought you might like to know our babies have arrived, 2 days early. 7/12 all safe and well. Candled after a week and all 12 forming well, at 2 weeks 2 had turned bad, by the end of week 3, 2 looked malformed and were dry and we lost 1 after he’d almost pipped his way out yesterday. It was looking like we might be lucky with 10 near the end but not to be. The ducklings are little beauties but don’t they take a long time pipping! Kind regards, David”
“Hi Racheal, thank you very much for selling your Welsh Harlequin duck eggs to us. We have lots of them. Your ducklings are the best hatch. Thanks again Racheal, Phillip and Cheryl.”
To order, contact Racheal at email@example.com
NOTE: If you don’t hear from me within 2 days, check your junk mail folder for a reply. This seems to be happening to a few people!
(7 Months on the GAPS diet & 7 years since last holiday)!
Thank you all for your continuing prayers and I just wanted to let you know how Zaria is going on the GAPS diet. Well, Zaria has finally turned the corner and is doing extremely well! For a very long time we just couldn’t seem to move forward on this diet and we seemed to of been on the first 2-3 stages of the diet for what seemed like forever (7 months)! At the time we just couldn’t see much hope in ever moving forward. When we tried to introduce a new food into the diet, the aggressive behaviour would come back, although not as severe as before. As long as she was following stages 1-3 of the GAPS diet and we did not introduce any new foods, she was autism free. Obviously Zaria’s digestive system really needed this time of healing! We have managed to introduce quite a few new foods into the diet recently, which seemed to of happened all of a sudden and we have found that SHE IS STABLE – No Aggressive Behaviour –No Autism – NoMedication – Moving Forward – Hallelujah andPraise God! We are finally on stage 6 of the GAPS diet now and we are finally going forward, which has taken us 7 months to get to this point!!! Dr. Natasha said that symptoms will eventually get less and less, or less severe each time and not as long lasting. Well this is exactly what we have been seeing in Zaria.
There are 6 stages in the GAPS introductory diet and you have to go through each step, symptom free, before moving onto the next stage. The introductory diet is a very crucial first step to take for those dealing with severe digestive issues as it includes all the important foods in order for the digestive tract to heal. It can be quite time consuming because you have to start out slow, introducing one food at a time, to see if there is any reactions, and this can take up to 3-7 days for each food. If there is a reaction you have to wait another week or so before trying again to give your digestive system some more healing time. The most difficult part about the diet I’ve found however is going through severe die off symptoms. This occurs when you takeprobiotics to replace the bad pathogenic microbes in the gut with beneficial ones. This is an important step in the GAPS diet because you need this in order to heal the gut wall apart from the diet itself. Introducing good bacteria creates a war inside the gut, it’s the good guys verses the bad guys. As you work towards healing the gut and re-populating the digestive system with healthy bacteria through nutrient-dense foods (no processed sugar, no dairy, no grains) and probiotics, (sauerkraut, fermented veggies, kefir) the bad bacteria are dying as they are being starved of their fuel. But as the bad bacteria die off, they release toxins that the body must process and eliminate before it can begin to rebuild and heal. This process makes you feel like you are getting worse (healing crisis) before you get better and you can have all sorts of horrible symptoms which range from rashes, itchy skin, flu like symptoms, headaches, fatigue, ear ache, moodiness, aggressive behaviour etc. Die-off symptoms can come in waves and must be managed carefully! Therefore taking probiotics has been a slow process for us as we are slowly working our way up to a therapeutic dose.
Perhaps a good explanation as to what has been happening in Zaria’s body before the GAPS diet can be found in the video called “overcoming psychiatric problems by healing the digestive system,” In this video Dr. Natasha gives a good explanation as to what happens in a child to make them become autistic. In the video she explains that most children are born with perfectly normal brains but they acquire abnormal gut flora from day one from there mother at the moment of birth. So their digestive system instead of being a source of nourishment becomes a major source of toxicity in the body. A river of toxins flood these bodies of these children in the first and second years of life. These toxins get into the brain and clogs it up. If the brain of a child is clogged with toxicity, all that sensory information can come into the brain is not processed appropriately and it turns into mush, into a noise that the child cannot decipher anything useful. The brain develops screen saving procedureswhich manifests themselves into self stimulation which means the child is involved in repetitive movements and other commondaily autistic behaviours.
So while Zaria is now free from these autistic behaviours, we still go through some ups and downs. There are times when shestill struggles as toxins are still working there way out of her system as we try and slowly increase her probiotic intake! So she can sometimes come across as cranky and short with people at times, but it is usually caused from one of two things; either we have introduced a new food into the diet that her body is not quite ready for and you can see how this affects her brain instantly, or we have increased her probiotic intake which reacts in the same way. We have found that things like Epsom salts (in a bath, spray bottle, or oil rub) and magnesium has worked wonders in helping her get through these difficult times!We have also found that 7 months without any form of sugar (including fruit) has really been beneficial, as it has helped eliminatesome of the nasty pathogens (eg candida) and we can certainly notice a difference in our overall health!
When Richard and I first moved to the area of Toowoomba many years ago, we rented a place in town for quite a number ofyears. Our three children were born during this time as well. But over the years we faced some really scary health challenges. Some of these health issues were really quite scary and life threatening! A few examples include the time when the children were born and they would not thrive, or the time when Reuben was rushed to hospital unable to breath with croup. The children and I had always struggled with intestinal issues, but this wasn’t the only issue we were facing that was affecting our health at the time. What we did not find out for quite a number of years while living in this house was the fact that we were living in a house that was full of hidden toxic mold. This certainly became apparent when it started to show up on walls and under floor boards etc. In fact there was so much moisture in the house that paint was peeling from the ceiling and mushrooms were growing up from the floor boards. I was constantly vacuuming paint off the floor every day as paint was peeling from the ceiling! The real estate at the time showed little interest in trying to help us over come this problem. In the end all they did was repaint inside of the house which did little to kill the mold, but instead it actually increased the amount oftoxins which affected our overall health even more. Thank the Lord we were able to move away from this house to where we are living now, out of town where there isn’t as much fog or moisture in the air. The term “toxic mold” refers to molds that produce mycotoxins that release spores into the air which has been known to pose serious health risks to humans, evencausing death. Having lived with toxic mold for many years has certainly come with a price. In Zaria’s circumstances, it has certainly been an ongoing challenge to try and get rid of all of those nasty toxins out of her body that she not only was exposed to back then, but also from the result of a leaky gut. The good news is we have seen such amazing results in eliminating all of these toxins as we go through the process of healing her digestive system!
When you finish the 6 stage introductory diet, it is time to move onto the full GAPS diet, which is less restrictive and you can choose from a wide variety of foods to eat. It has only been recently that we have found we can finally move forward on this diet and we have been able to introduce many different kinds of foods, including our very first sweet thing – GAPS approved – first desert in 7 months, taking us from stage 3 to stage 6 in a very short period of time! As of September 2019 we are now on the full GAPS diet which means “VARIETY” which is EXCITING! But even though we are now on the full GAPS diet, we are finding that it is still quite a slow process as we still have to introduce one food at a time, taking things slow as we need to continue with the foods we know that will promote healing!
I think our turning point may have been when we were advised by a GAPS practitioner to take dairy out of the diet to see if this made any difference in Zaria’s behaviour! Dairy is really hard on the digestive system and the gut needed more healing time before Zaria could tolerate it. After 6 weeks without dairy, we reintroduced it again, starting with raw goats milk. We have heard that goats milk and camel’s milk is much easier on the digestive system than cows milk. It is important for us to avoid all dairy from the supermarket due to it being processed (pasteurised & homogenised)! Milk needs to be pure, in its raw state, so that the body recognises it as food as it naturally contains everything needed (enzymes) for the body to be able to digest it. Much of the food we buy in the supermarket today is so processed that the body has a hard time digesting it, which can lead to intestinal damage! Many different indigenous groups around the world were known to culture there milk which not only made the milk more digestible, but it also provided additional nutrition (probiotics) to the milk. We don’t want Zaria’s gut to get damaged again from processed milk after all the hard work we’ve put into healing her and getting her so well, so we’ve decided to get some goats of our own for milking! For those of you out there who turn up your nose at the thought of goats milk, you will be interested to know that there are some breeds of goats out there that have pleasant tasting milk!
So it seems as though things are finally progressing and falling into place. We have found that the Lord has gone before us and placed different people in different places at the right time to help us on this journey of healing! We are just so amazed at what the Lord is doing in our lives! We are finally moving forward and can see the light! All the glory goes to the Lord!
It is amazing to think that we have just come back from our first holiday in 7 years! Our last holiday was 7 years ago when we went to Mappleton near Maleny and we had to come home early because this was when Zaria first started showing signs of autism and she was so out of control that neighbours complained in the camp site, so we had to cut the holiday short, come home early and get help! We have now gone back to the area of Maleny (Witta) as a 7 year celebration!!! For the past 7 years, there was no way in the world we could even think about going away on a real holiday with Zaria, so this is a miracle! We had such a wonderful time and because we were on stage 6 of the GAPS diet, we didn’t have any problems staying on the diet while we were away. I was even able to take some GAPS friendly home made treats along for the trip which is so nice to finally have a bit of variety in the diet! Where we stayed there was a really big spa bath where we could continue to detox Zaria with Epsom salt baths. We were planning on going really slow and easy on holidays because we were worried about how Zaria would cope. In the end we packed so much in a day with lots of nature walks, a day at the beach etc. So how amazing is that – it just blows me away the transformation – what a miracle all this has been!
Many of you have been asking me if you could pass our story on to other people, as it may help others who are struggling with autism. By all means, we are more than happy for you to do that. I really do hope that by sharing Zaria’s story it may be of some help and encouragement to someone else that maybe going through something similar. It is really sad to think that when a child gets diagnosed with a condition such as autism, you automatically get put into a system. This system gives you a diagnostic label called “autism.” This diagnostic label is a distraction and can side track you from ever finding the real help you need to find a cure. This system keeps people in bondage without any real hope, keeping you busy with endless amounts of medical appointments such as regular paediatrician appointments, occupational therapy, speech therapy, psychology,medications and endless amounts of recommended autism seminars, making you go around in circles, when precious time is being wasted! I don’t want anyone to have to go through this roll a coaster ride!
The book that I would highly recommend, that has helped us to get this far in Zaria’s journey of healing is by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride “Gut and Psychology syndrome – natural treatment for autism, dyspraxia, A.D.D, Dyslexia, A.D.H.D, Depression, Schizophrenia” by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride This book could benefit anyone and not just those with autism! I just wanted to explain the title of this book because when you see the word “psychology” you may get put off or get the wrong impression! From my understanding, Psychiatrists have so many different names out there for so many slightly different symptoms such as those listed in the title of this book. By having separated these so called “conditions” (or symptoms) into categories with a different diagnostic label has certainly complicated things, as it prevents any chances of anyone seeing the connection between the gut and the brain. So when you have a leaky gut, your body can have an autoimmune reaction and this can affect parts of your body in so many different ways. These symptoms is your body’s way of warning you that something is wrong and is in need of help, as something bigger is going on inside the body. Dr. Natasha always emphasises that all diseases begin in the gut! Dr. Natasha’s book looks into the root cause of all of these problems and treats it as a whole, instead of treating every “condition” (symptoms) individually. There is also a really informative video by Dr. Natasha “Overcoming Psychiatric Problems by Healing the Digestive System.” which I highly recommend. I think this video explains things even better than the book in some ways and it would be really good for those who do not have the time to read! I’ll leave the link below! I also found the book “Gaps stories” – medinform publishingreallyencouraging, as I really needed this encouragement during my journey through the GAPS diet! Natasha did not write this book but was written by the people from the emails Natasha received explaining there journey as they cured there own conditions by implementing the GAPS diet as they focused on healing the gut! Many of these people have left there contact details in the book because thisdiet has healed them and changed there life so much, that they now want to share there stories and be able to help others.There is also a lot of good information which can be found on GAPSDiet Australia website. They have free articles and also a forum where you can get support and chat with others who maybe suffering with various conditions. GAPS practitioners sometimes give people advice on there which I have found to be very helpful. They also sell some products on there website that may assist you while you are on the GAPS diet depending on individual circumstances.
Many years ago before Richard and I had children, we read a really interesting book called “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price. This book I believe was the very first piece to the puzzle we needed to know in order to get to where we are today. So, when I found out that Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride was part of the Weston. A. Price foundation, I just knew that we were on the right track. This book is about a dentist who in the 1930’s travelled the world for 10 years, travelling to hundreds of cities in a total of 14 different countries in his search to find healthy people. Western A. Price was a dentist who was all too familiar with the common tooth decay, rotting teeth and poor health. But he wanted to find out why the isolated indigenous people around the world were in perfect health, while the civilised society around him was suffering from so many illnesses which ranged from crippling arthritis to degeneration. As Dr. Price travelled the world, he discovered that when isolated groups of people ate their indigenous foods they appeared to be in perfect health. They were free of chronic disease, dental decay and mental illness; they were strong, sturdy and attractive; and they produced healthy children with ease, generation after generation. Dr. Price had many opportunities to compare these healthy so-called “primitives” with members of the same racial groups who had become “civilised” and they were eating modern foods such as refined grains, white sugar, refined vegetable oils, canned goods, and pasteurised milk, these people had crowded and crooked teeth, narrowed faces, deformities of bone structure, arthritis and susceptibility to every sort of medical problem. This book along with the book called “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon seem to go hand in hand. Nourishing traditions is a book that is based on the work of Weston A. Price but it offers modern families a fascinating guide to wise food choices and proper food preparation techniques. It is said that this book is a challenge to politically Correct Nutrition and the diet Dictocrats!
At the beginning of the GAPS diet, we immediately saw incredible changes as Zaria’s autistic symptoms and aggressive behaviour became less and less. One of the first changes I noticed was when Zaria started to brush her own hair with a hard brush for the very first time, or when she could actually have a conversation without screaming or having a meltdown! While I wanted to scream out to the world that Zaria was cured, I just knew that I had done this once before, back in 2017 when she was free of autism for a whole month due to what I thought was from the yogurt cultures. But I truly think that this time it isdifferent, as it has been over 7 months now and she is now free of medication. I truly believe she has turned that vulnerable corner and things can only get better from here! I just can’t express how wonderful it has been to spend time with Zaria now and to be able to have a real amazing mother and daughter relationship with her as we spend time together in conversation and affection. This is the same girl who did not like any form of affection and would communicate with deafening screaming, meltdowns and abuse! You would appreciate this a whole lot more if you remember reading the desperate, heart breaking, hopeless letter I wrote in 2014 when Zaria’s list of autistic symptoms was pages and pages long! To be able to see the transformation in what she was back then to what she is today is just mind blowing to me and a miracle! The time we have spent with her now is just so precious and priceless. I just have to stop what I am doing and take it all in. The whole family has had to readjust our lives from just barely surviving, always being on high alert and cautious of what we say or do, to now relaxing and trusting that Zaria is now on the road to recovery! We also have a sense of freedom for the very first time as we can now go out without having to plan in advance or have to rush home to deal with a nightmare! All of these new changes are certainly hard to get use to! But while all of this is good, we all have to remember that while all this is exciting and although we are seeing such amazing, incredible life changing results through the GAPS diet, we realise however that we still have a long way to go. It is a long commitment that can take up to 2 years or even longer to get complete healing! We do not know what the future holds as life is full of ups and downs, but we know we can put our trust and faith in the Lord for all of our daily needs as we are truly thankful and grateful for everything!
I understand that when you know someone who has autism, you just wish you could do something to help them in some way, but most of the time you are left just feeling so helpless! There are times when I just wish everyone had this information so that people didn’t have to suffer so much. But while I want to scream it out to the world so that people can get some kind of relief, I also realise that even when people do have this information, there can be times in our lives when we just can’t manage it for whatever reason. It took us 5 years after receiving the book to do theGAPS diet. This is partly because Richard and I spent most of our time around the clock just trying to survive and we were completely exhausted. So to expect someone to be able to read a book or prepare meals under such circumstances can be overwhelming for those going through such trials!
It has certainly been a journey with the Lord and things happen in His good timing and for His purpose! Someone recently told me that we cannot predict what will happen to us in our lifetime, however, we can choose to either blame God or glorify Him and enable our messes to be turned into messages! So I really hope that Zaria’s story and journey has been an encouraging and inspiring message to you all!
All the glory goes to the Lord!
…when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. Job 23:8-10
* I have recommended a few books and videos that has helped us on our journey to recovery, but while these have been such a blessing to us in so many different ways, it does not mean that we totally agree with everything they say!
Overcoming Psychiatric Problems by Healing the Digestive System – Dr. Campbell-McBride
This is from a friend of mine who is happy to share her family’s story in the hopes it will help others struggling with autism. Racheal
I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you all for your prayers and to let you know that Zaria is now on the road to recovery from autism!
I know that many of you have been wondering how Zaria has been getting along as most of you have been aware of the extreme circumstances we faced over the Christmas holidays. Some of you may not have been aware of our circumstances and I’m sorry if our mannerism was a bit out of sorts or stand offish at times and we may have seemed like we made so many excuses, but our life has been so extreme and restricted! Some of you may of thought that Zaria was doing well after we introduced milk cultures into her diet some years ago, but didn’t realise that she went backwards. I’ll try and explain to you what happened regarding all of this in this letter.
Life has been extremely difficult as Zaria not only had extreme autistic symptoms, but she was also extremely violent. She verbally and physically wanted to kill us on a daily basis! Things were so desperate over the Christmas holidays that we had to make a difficult decision. My sister kindly offered to look after my other two children for awhile due to safety concerns. Shayna and Reuben had to lock themselves away in a room for hours and days on end for safety reasons. There were times when I wanted to call the police but restrained, instead I took all the blows because I did not want her to end up in some institution some where. There were days when I did not think I’d live to see tomorrow – yes it was that bad! It was so hard because the thought of being away from my children tore me apart, but at the same time I wanted them in a safe environment. We were all living in the most extreme circumstances but I thank the Lord that the family was able to stay together because the Lord answered our prayers and made a way for us in our darkest hour!
Now most of you know that in 2017, something quite remarkable happened which gave us a window of hope in our journey to try and help Zaria. We witnessed a transformation in her and at the time we put it down to the fact that we had introduced some yogurt cultures into her diet. These cultures were made at home that consisted of things like villi, Japanese matsoni, buttermilk, amasi, filmjolk, piima, Bulgarian yogurt etc. For a whole month it was like living with a totally different child with no autistic symptoms whatsoever! We valued this time as we got to know our daughter for the very first time without autism. But after about a month, for some reason she went backwards and slipped back into extreme autism again! Since then we questioned how can a child go from being autistic to being a perfectly normal child? It was always in the back of our mind that autism is caused from gut issues, but we just didn’t have all the answers to try and help her. We always understood the importance of nutrition and all, but we just didn’t know where we were going wrong! We just didn’t have the answers as we had many missing pieces to the puzzle. But this experience showed us that autism can be reversed and it gave us the hope we needed to keep going and to search for answers for a cure even though we were told that autism was not a curable condition and that we just had to live with it for the rest of our lives! Despite this we never gave up!
Five years ago a lady gave me a book called “Gut and Psychology syndrome – natural treatment for autism, dyspraxia, A.D.D, Dyslexia, A.D.H.D, Depression, Schizophrenia by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. When she gave me the book she said it was from the Lord and it was going to cure my daughter of autism. As you could imagine at the time, Richard and I spent most of our time (around the clock) just trying to survive and we already had books sky high claiming to cure autism. We also felt a bit discouraged because we had followed a nourishing traditions diet based on the books “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration byWeston A. Price and “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon before we had children. We nourished our bodies in preparation to have healthy kids. Later, we were to discover that it wasn’t the diet/nutrition that was the problem, but our already damaged and compromised gut! It wasn’t until recently that the Lord really directed our attention back to Dr. Natasha’s book in some really amazing ways!
The author of this book, Dr. Natasha Campbell – McBride has helped so many patients recover from so many different conditions. She was able to find the common link as to what was the real underling cause of all of their conditions/symptoms. Dr. Natasha had done years of medical training and was even a neurologist and neurosurgeon, but when her own child was diagnosed with autism she realised that her own profession had nothing to offer to help heal her child. So during her search for answers, she discovered that many people who came in to her clinic were all diagnosed with all sorts of slightly different conditions, but they all had one thing in common which was gut issues. Dr. Natasha was able to cure her own child of autism by first healing the gut. So she implemented a special diet for people to heal their gut and she called it the GAPS diet. Not every one necessarily had gut symptoms, but after they implemented the GAPS diet they no longer had symptoms of ill health! Dr. Natasha’sbook explains how all diseases begin in the gut!Not only is the gut and the brain connected, but over 85% of the immune system is found in the gut! If your gut is damaged you cannot digest food properly and therefore the person cannot absorb important vitamins and minerals to be able to function properly. So, you can try and provide your body with the most nutritious food in the world, but it will be of little benefit toyou while your gut is damaged/compromised and your gut flora is out of balance! When your gut is damaged, the stomach doesn’t recognise food as being food, so the body has an autoimmune response to try and protect itself by attacking it, causing toxins to be released into the blood stream and up to the brain. This in turn can attack parts of the body causing all sorts of auto-immune conditions such as arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, fibromyalgia, food intolerance, celiac, environmental allergies, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, autism, behavioural problems andthe list goes on and on… Dr. Natasha’s book was so successful that she was flooded with emails of people thanking her and telling her about their success stories. So Natasha published another book called “Gaps stories” – medinform publishing. Natasha did not write this book but was written by the people from the emails Natasha received explaining there journey as they cured there own conditions by implementing the GAPS diet as they focused on healing the gut!
Richard and I have always been aware of good nutrition even before we had children. What we did not realise however is that we can eat the most nourishing foods in the world but it will be of little benefit if the gut is already damaged and you lack important gut flora. This is the piece to the puzzle that was missing for us as we tried to work out what went wrong in the health of our children. Food intolerance is just one of many symptoms of a gut issue. It is not necessarily the food that is causing the problem, especially if you are eating a healthy diet of unprocessed organic foods, but the problem is caused from a leaky gut. Once the gut lining is healed, many people find that there symptoms/condition disappears and they no longer have food intolerance anymore as they find they can eat normally!
Our bodies are bathed in a sea of microbes, but our lifestyle is killing off these important microbes that have so many important functions in the body. It is extremely difficult to put them back in after they have been destroyed, even with the best probiotics, because they contain only a handful of different species! We all require very acidic stomachs which also makes it difficult for microbes to survive when we try to put them back in orally! Also, reintroducing good bacteria back into the system must be done very gradually due to die-off symptoms! Many professionals say that some species of microbes will eventually become extinct perhaps within the next 10 years. This is because we lack certain microbes in the body to be able to pass them on to the next generation and the ones we do have left are getting destroyed by things like antibiotics, medication,modern diet,pesticides and environmental issues etc. But all of these microbes are needed as they all play different roles in the body to keep it healthy! A baby gets its good bacteria from the mother. As a baby goes down the mothers birth canal during labour, the baby swallows the mother’s gut flora. But today a lot of babies that are born are not obtaining the good bacteria from their mother, which is causing so many problems in children today starting with the so called normal colic and food intolerance. We live in a world full of antibiotics as doctors have been pressured to prescribe it for just about anything and everything! Antibiotics can be hard to avoid as it seems to be everywhere, it is even found in meat! So while we are slowly killing off our good gut bacteria, each generation is getting sicker and sicker. This damage gets passed from generation to generation as abnormal gut flora is what will be passed onto the next generation of children. Probiotics= (Pro = For); (Biotic = life)=(For Life)= helps you live! Antibiotics= Against Life – kills the good and the bad bacteria! When the good gut bacteria is damaged, this makes way for pathogens and bad bacteria to multiply and take over the body because the body no longer has the good bacteria to keep things in balance. Each of these microbes is capable of causing various health problems which starts in the gut and from there causes all sorts of other toxic symptoms!
So the family has been on the GAPS diet since the 9thJanuary in support of Zaria to help heal her gut and to try and increase her gut flora. Since the diet, Zaria has shown huge improvements! I realise however that it is early days yet and we have a long way to go. There are 6 stages just in the introductory diet alone and we are only on stage 2-3! It hasn’t been easy, but now because we have been made aware of what causes autism, we can now clearly see what is going on in our daughter’s body to cause her to become autistic and this has helped us to persist as we see improvements. At the moment Zaria is stable for the most part with no autistic symptoms. The only time we really see any sign of autism is if we introduce a new food into the diet too early, her gut hasn’t had enough time to heal, or her body is not quite ready for that particular food yet and we can clearly see how this affects her brain as it reacts instantly! She has extremely bad behaviour the day before she shows signs of an upset stomach or headache (toxins) which is interesting! But besides that, she is a healthy, vibrant 9 year old child! For the most part, she has been waking up really calm and happy. But as you can imagine this restricted diet of endless amounts of stock, sauerkraut juice and fermented vegetables is asking a lot from a child and there can be times of frustration. We continue to reassure her and encourage her to persist with it and she is doing extremely well! We’ve also found that it is not just about a diet of healing the gut, but it’s also a life long journey of learning and developing healthy lifestyle choices, so that we can continue this journey of maintaining good health!
Some of you may remember the letter I wrote in 2014 when Zaria was four years of age. Zaria was 2 years of age when she started showing signs of autism and was diagnosed with autism. By the age of 4, we were so desperate to get help for Zaria as we had what seemed like an endless list of symptoms to manage. One of the hardest things we ever had to do was resort to medication, but at the time we felt like we didn’t have any other alternatives. I remember that day well, crying all the way home from the doctors thinking what a terrible mother I was having to resort to medication. But we were living in the most extreme circumstances. If you remember we had to pack everything away in boxes and practically live in an empty house and tape up all the glass due to safety reasons. We had to change our cutlery to plastic so they weren’t used as weapons to do us harm! We literally couldn’t go anywhere because Zaria would try and get out of a moving car and try to smash the car windows. She was full on around the clock, needing very little sleep – destroying things and getting up to endless amounts of mischief. On top of all of this, she was extremely violent as she physically and verbally wanted to do us harm on a daily basis! There were days when I wondered if we would live to see tomorrow as we experienced the physical and verbal abuse every day! This is just a small taste of what it was like living with her condition without medication! Due to lack of sleep and high energy levels, Zaria needed around the clock care, but she had worn out all of those who tried to care for her. This was becoming a huge concern for us and alternatively led us to medication. The medication did level out her brain and make her stable for the most part, but we know that with all medications comes side effects which creates more complications and we worked hard to try and find a cure to try and get her off it. During the Christmas holidays we were told by the doctor that we had to increase the medication because she had outgrown the dose. Over the years we tried to give her only baby doses of the medication so that the side effects weren’t so severe and therefore the medication wasn’t as effective. The day I was told to increase the medication was the day we implemented the GAPS diet.
This week on the17thMay 2019,I am excited to say that Zaria is now officially off her medication for autism!!! I have been gradually reducing it since the 9thJanuary when we first started the GAPS diet. I’m not saying that she is totally cured just yet and it remains to be seen what the future holds and whether she may need the medication in the future, but things look VERYpromising! That HUGE list of symptoms she had before the medication and what we were dealing with up until now is none existent as far as we can see which is a miracle! The diet can take up to 2 years to heal the gut in severe cases – wehave a long way to go and its been two steps forward and one step backetc. I am just more and more convinced that conditions such as autism is caused from gut issues, as I can now clearly see what happens in Zaria during stages of the GAPS diet.
In the book called “Gut and psychology Syndrome” on page 339 it says “In case of severe GAPS conditions like autism the longer this situation goes on, the more normal learning these children miss and the more they fall behind their normal peers. Normal children never stop learning, so for an autistic child to have any chance of catching up with them he or she has to learn at double speed.” Well, this is exactly what Zaria has been doing since she started the GAPS diet – learning at double speed! She was very behind in school, but she had the determination to catch up. Without any prompting from me or anyone else, she has worked around the clock to catch up with school and is now where she should be for her age – I really hope she keeps up with the motivation! She no longer struggles with dyslexia and other forms of learning disabilities! No more daily melt downs or deafening screaming all day, no more dodging heavy flying objects or having to protect ourselves or the house from endless amounts of abuse!!!
It has been a very long journey and the Lord has been so gracious and merciful towards us, helping us and directing us every step of the way! All the glory goes to the Lord!
Over the Christmas holidays I was trying to find a video of someone who maybe going through something similar with there autistic child and to see if they had any answers, as we were so desperate for answers ourselves! This video although slightly different to our situation, shows the closest thing I could find to what we were going through and the desperation of it all! “Maximum love: Part one – Living with severe autism | 60 Minutes Australia”
The second video is the author of the GAPS diet “Overcoming Psychiatric Problems by Healing the Digestive System – Dr. Campbell-McBride”
Just Remember: “All diseases begin in the gut”
Thanks to you all!
Maximum love: Part one – Living with severe autism | 60 Minutes Australia
Overcoming Psychiatric Problems by Healing the Digestive System – Dr. Campbell-McBride
I’ve emailed all our regulars, but for anyone who didn’t get that, Birdsong will be closed Monday 26th August-Saturday 31st August 2019 (open again Sunday 1st September). We are so low on stock, and the garden isn’t coping with the volume of orders we’re getting.
If you need anything before then, Sunday 25th from 10am-4pm we’ll be open for pick-ups and drop-in shopping.
Now and then, I get this question. I can understand why people would be curious to know what the organic farmers eat (besides vegetables!).
Some think we’re self sufficient (we’re not!), but vegetables are only one of many food groups, and besides the eggs our ducks produce, we don’t really have much else (meat, legumes, grains, fats, dairy etc).
I guess the diet that our habits come closest to, is Nourishing Traditions (you may have read or heard of the book by Sally Fallon). We’re not 100% followers of this, but the general principles are definitely guidelines we use at Birdsong. We activate/soak our nuts, make ferments, eat seasonally, make bone broth, do our own dressings and sauces (to a point, I’ve never tried making my own soy sauce for example!) and eat organically as possible.
I also get asked if we eat only organic food. Almost, but not quite. It’s mostly organic, but there are 8 in our family, and some products we eat (like cream and cheese) that can be found in Toowoomba organically, are in such tiny and expensive portions that it’s not viable for us. When we go out for dinner at friend’s places, we eat what they’ve prepared for us with thankfulness…I don’t go checking to see if all the ingredients are organic! I’ve heard of people who get that obsessive, and it can be detrimental to relationships when it gets to the point that people can’t invite you over because you won’t eat their food and they possibly can’t afford to feed everyone organic.
We do eat meat, and sometimes it’s organic, sometimes just free range (when buying chicken I’m more particular about this) and when I buy in bulk I like to make sure it’s local. Like we’ll buy a side of beef from Bannock Brae (not organic but do grow their own feed for the cattle), who are neighbours of good friends of ours, and a family run business.
We do eat gluten/bread, rice and pasta (always organic at home). I was gluten intolerant for two years, in which we hardly ever had gluten in the house, but now that I’ve healed, we do buy bulk organic/biodynamic wheat flour to bake with. We don’t usually make our own loaves of bread (though the children love making their own naan, pita, wraps etc) and I’m so thankful the supermarket has certified organic bread at a reasonable price! Homemade bread is beautiful, but I’m not superwoman and can’t do everything. We make a LOT of food from scratch, but bread was one of those things we decided to just buy, rather than be subjected to the stress of trying to keep up with making it!
Nuts we eat, and always organic. Nuts are not always sprayed with pesticides/insecticides from my understanding, but I know they use fungicides, and they’re no good for your gut and health either. So we only buy organic nuts, and then activate them (soak for about 12 hours then put through a dehydrator until crispy to neutralise the physic acid).
Eggs are another one we definitely eat, and usually from our own backyard where the birds are fed an organic diet, drink clean bore/rain water and free range in a paddock. If I have to buy eggs, we get organic or at least free range. You can find documentaries about the conditions caged birds suffer, and I don’t believe the meat or eggs from birds treated like that and subjected to so much stress should be consumed by humans.
Dairy…we eat that too. Organic milk, butter and yogurt (unhomogenised where possible) are pretty easy to source. I’d love to have our own house cow so we could make our own dairy products, but the lack of land here doesn’t allow for it! Like I mentioned above, cream and cheese are two products I don’t usually buy organically.
Vegetables…lots of them! We eat these seasonally, because I think it’s backwards to have a paddock full of produce and then go and buy produce that we’re not growing (and I know even most organic produce doesn’t come from soil as nurtured as Rick’s). The exception to this is fruit, because we hardly grow any fruit, and with 6 children, we go through plenty of it. I’m thankful for people like Dennis from Gran Elly Orchard who grow fruit with similar soil nutrition to our vegetables. But there’s no way I’d go and buy something like broccoli if it’s out of season. We’ll just eat what is available.
I do a lot of canning, so I guess it would be more accurate to say the FRESH produce we eat is seasonal, but then in summer for example, we produce a LOT of tomatoes, and I work overtime trying to preserve/can as many as possible into sauces, sun-drieds, pastes etc so that all winter we can cook with our own tomato products. Last summer corn was abundant too, so I canned a lot of that. In winter we make sauerkraut (when there’s enough cabbage! This year it was a bit sparse).
We don’t meal plan. I’ve tried that before, and it did save time years ago. But now we’re in this unique situation where we grow a lot of produce, and have a cold room for storage and buy floors, nuts, seeds etc in bulk. Plus all those home-canned goods are on the shelf. So I find that there’s a lot of raw materials to work with, and a meal can always be created with what’s on hand.
I guess the last thing that comes to mind is sugar. We use organic coconut sugar, organic maple syrup, our own honey from the hive out the back and sometimes some organic cane sugar (some recipes need something lighter than coconut sugar). I try to limit it a bit, and especially cut back if using a baking recipe. Often we can halve the sugar in a recipe and still find it’s sweet enough!
So there you go, a little look at what we eat at Birdsong.
In previous years at Birdsong, we have had giveaway reusable mesh produce bags for certain sized orders and looked at ways we can reduce our single use plastic packaging.
This year, it would be great to make the effort to get everyone returning waxed boxes and glass jars that can be reused for future orders. Some customers are amazing at this…every order, without fail, they bring back their boxes, crates and jars. But for others it’s not a habit yet 🙂
Our one plastic use at Birdsong that we can’t do much about, is packaging loose-leaf greens. They’re moist, so paper just disintegrates. And while mesh produce bags are ok, the bags are worth almost as much as the greens in value, so it’s difficult to use them without raising our prices substantially. Many of our customers order for delivery, so everything has to be pre-packed before transporting into town, ruling out the option of customers bringing their own produce bags..having said that, if you are keen enough to shop on-site at Birdsong and BYO packaging, we can accommodate that.
If you are on our email list, you’ll have noticed I always thank people for bringing back their waxed boxes and large glass jars. The waxed boxes (especially the size pictured above) are very much reusable. So please don’t throw them away! If you are a delivery customer, you can leave boxes at your front door for me to collect when I next deliver to you, and if you’re a pickup customer, you can bring the boxes back with you on your next pickup. I know it can take a while to get in the habit. When supermarkets first discontinued single use plastic bags, it took me a while (and several trips back to the car!) to get used to bringing them in with me. But now it’s automatic, the habit has been formed.
Another way we reduce plastic packaging, is by packing our organic nuts/seeds/dried fruit etc in glass preserving jars, as pictured above. These too, can be sent back for cleaning and reusing. I love glass, because besides having a long life, it doesn’t alter the flavour of whatever is packed in it. And a row of glass packed foods look quaint on the pantry shelf 🙂
If you are bringing jars in that didn’t originally come from a Birdsong order, just keep in mind they need to be large and able to hold about a kilo of nuts. Jam jars and other smaller jars just don’t have the required capacity. The largest moccona coffee jars are great for 1kg dried fruit.
This Plastic Free July, let’s see if we can all form some helpful habits to reducing plastic waste in our lives.
For loads of inspiration and products to make the change to reusable packaging in your home, check out Green Dandelion, at 1 Station St, Toowoomba (inside the new Emerge Cafe) http://www.greendandelion.com.au
Rick spent the first hour, sharing his valuable knowledge on gardening, with soil nutrition as the foundation. We wandered through the market garden, and as we did, Asher picked fresh produce to prepare for the group, right there in the paddock.
A fire pit was set up, and fresh corn was barbecued; a kale and red cabbage slaw prepared, pumpkin slabs roasted, a beetroot hummus whizzed up and some beautiful chickpea flour flat breads cooked. Asher shared some cooking techniques and showed us all how we can eat local, clean and delicious.
We had perfect weather (it was just before the frosts started!) and enjoyed meeting others who were keen to learn more about growing and eating fresh organic cuisine. As pictured, we all picnicked on blankets, right there next to the paddock that the meal was gathered from!
Requests for work on our farm are becoming quite regular! Sometimes it’s backpackers turning up on our doorstep asking if there’s work available, but more often it’s people calling to introduce themselves and see if there’s any work going here. Many times it’s from people who are genuinely interested in working on an organic farm, and it’s great to see the interest out there and that people are being proactive looking for employment….
But, I don’t think it’s clear from our website (how most job seeking people find us) that we are a very small, family run market garden. The market garden is actually only about 1 acre in size and not generating enough work (or income) to support employees. Rick sometimes even works full time engineering hours on top of the farming, because the market garden is not often a full time job…and because he gets a lot of help from the children and I 🙂
Rick takes care of crop planning, garden bed prep, mineral applications and sowing. The children do a lot of weeding and some harvesting, and I take care of all the sales/orders, packing, a lot of the correspondence and most of the harvesting. And the great thing about this, is that we know what’s going on, right from seed to sales and can provide a higher level of customer service because of that. I remember reading in a market gardening book how beneficial it is, for example, for the farmer to be the one selling his produce at a market, and not just an employee. When people are shopping at a farmers market, it’s generally because they care about where their food came from, how it was grown, etc. And they often want information about the more unusual varieties, how they might use/cook certain produce and the like. The farmer and his family know these things, but a seasonal or temporary worker probably doesn’t.
So, the fact that there’s not enough work here for an employee is the main reason we don’t hire, and the other is that although the market garden provides enough income to keep us going, it’s not enough to warrant paying an employee. We laughed last year at tax time when we discovered our taxable income is technically below the Australian poverty line! We certainly never feel poor, and the massive tax deductions involved with the first few years of setting up a business had a lot to do with the tiny taxable income, but you get the point…it’s not worth hiring anyone when we’re this small!
If you are reading this and you are looking for work in the Toowoomba area on an organic farm, you could try Birchgrove Farm. They specialise in the best chicken eggs you can get in our district (even growing organic produce to feed to the chickens!) and they also sell various beautiful organic greens at the Sunday PCYC markets. I know they were setting up worker accommodation on site, so obviously they hire from time to time. I hope those of you looking for work can find it, but I just wanted to mention on our website here, that we’re not hiring (might save some of you the trip out here to ask!)
$50 mixed boxes are becoming a popular choice at Birdsong, and from the farmer’s point of view, it’s a wonderful choice, because it allows us to sell what’s in season and in abundance…and to get people trying produce they might not be accustomed to purchasing. You also learn to eat seasonally.
For those of you who’ve tried our mixed boxes before, you’ll know you end up with quite a bit of food, particularly greens in winter, to create with. So how do you deal with it all with as little spoilage and waste as possible?
I know some of you already give some of your produce away when the box contains more than you can use, which is a great way to save spoilage.
When you bring your box home and start packing the goods away, one of the first things to consider is “what is going to need to be eaten within the next few days to avoid spoilage?” The answer to this can depend on your storage methods. For example, I don’t actually keep much produce in our fridge, we’re blessed to have the cold room and I take a walk out there before preparing meals and select from the storage tubs out there. So something like loose leaf greens…any greens really, last especially well when they’re kept in the cold room in our plastic storage tubs. But if I take a mesh bag of mesclun and put it in the produce drawer of my fridge, it’s only going to last about 2 days. Same with just about anything green and leafy. BUT, if I put a bunch of kale in a large beeswax wrap, or a glass storage container in that same drawer of the fridge, it will last much longer, as if it was in the cold room.
Some produce is going to have a very lengthy shelf life, like your root vegetables, so there’s no hurry to use them.
Sometimes you’ll get produce that can be preserved for later. Tomatoes can be canned, corn can be blanched and frozen, lemongrass can be frozen, cabbage can be fermented into kraut etc
Now, how do you incorporate more of this produce into your meals so nothing goes to waste…and it’s not just about waste, it’s also about maximising your vegetable intake!
Between salads, stocks, soups, one pot meals and preserving, you should have no problem creating with all your mixed box produce.
Salads: Often I start with a recipe as a base, but change it to suit what’s in season and what’s in the pantry. Maybe there’s a lovely dressing recipe you want to try and then you mix and match with your veg (and can toss in some roasted nuts, seeds…even fruit).
Stocks: Many of you make your own stock. We’re big fans of chicken stock made on organic chicken frames and home grown produce. Using vegetables in your stock along with the bones creates a synergistic effect where the nutrients from the veg and bones combine to give you a virtual liquid multi-mineral supplement. And you can use SO many different veg. Have a bunch of kale you won’t otherwise use? Put it in your stock pot. It will turn the broth a little green, but that’s not a problem.
Soups: Like with salads, I’ll often start with a base recipe and then vary it to suit what produce is available. Or, start with the broth and then start slicing and adding produce that I have surplus of. This is a great way to use surplus leafy greens, chilli and herbs. NOTE: Add herbs at the end of the cooking when making soup so they retain their flavour and nutrient density.
Soup can be frozen, and in this way you can be both preserving your produce and giving yourself a ready-made meal to have on hand when you’re strapped for time.
One pot meals: Maybe that name isn’t the best description of what I mean…but any meal where you are combining the bulk of the sustenance in one dish like- Stews, bolognase, pies, stir-fry, quiche etc.
Our family now expect that I’ll probably sneak chard into the bolognase, or shredded cabbage into the ‘zucchini’ quiche…or a bit of everything into the ‘meat’ pie. Actually, we hadn’t made meat pies in a long time, and then a month or so ago I made one using about 500g organic beef mince and a LOT of veg, drowned in homemade gravy (which is broth based and nutritious)…they LOVED it! There was leftover veg in gravy that couldn’t fit in the pie crust (made too much!) and the children sat at the bench with spoons devouring every last mouthful. I think that pie contained carrot, chard, onion, sweet potato and potato.
It’s usually a good idea to shred or finely chop vegetables that you are wanting to bulk up a one pot meal with.
Preserving: Ah, I love preserving/canning. It was so satisfying at the end of last summer to see a pantry shelf full of tomato preserves like paste, sauce, passata, crushed tomatoes, relish etc Now here we are at the 8th month of the year and this week will be the first time this year that I’ll have to buy tomato preserves again! But it’s not just tomatoes that can be preserved.
Right now it’s cabbage season and our $50 box buyers have probably had a few womboks come their way. Besides wombok salad, did you know you can preserve your wombok by making kimchi with it? One of our customers gave us some kimchi they made on wombok…it was absolutely delicious. Such a fresh flavour.
Sauerkraut is wonderful for using up surplus cabbage, and there’s plenty of classes and online tutorials around now. You can also incorporate other veg, like cauliflower, broccoli, herbs, carrot and more into kraut.
Beetroot can be made into beautiful relish, or kraut or a fermented beverage known as kvass.
Dehydrating can also play a part. Last summer we had loads of damaged capsicums, so I saved the good parts and dehydrated them, then grind them to powder and had homemade organic paprika 🙂