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Racheal Cameron

Healing Autism- One Family’s Journey, Part 1

By NutritionOne Comment

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

Hello everyone,

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 by Weston 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’s book 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 to you 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 and the 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 9th January 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 the 17th May 2019, I am excited to say that Zaria is now officially off her medication for autism!!! I have been gradually reducing it since the 9th January 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 – we have a long way to go and its been two steps forward and one step back etc. 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!

Karen

Maximum love: Part one – Living with severe autism | 60 Minutes Australia

Overcoming Psychiatric Problems by Healing the Digestive System – Dr. Campbell-McBride

So what do you guys eat?

By NutritionOne Comment

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.

Plastic Free July

By NutritionNo Comments
(Mostly) Waxed Boxes…very reusable!

Here we are in Plastic Free July again.

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.

Large capacity (1kg+) glass jars can be sterilised and reused also

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.

Back when we were starting to convert to glass containers in our own pantry…

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

The Birdsong/Grassrootschef Tour

By NutritionNo Comments

Our first “paddock to plate” type tour was just over a week ago, with Asher and Jess from https://www.grassrootschef.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!

There’s definitely the possibility we’ll hold another similar event, so keep posted at https://www.grassrootschef.com.au

Simple Slow Still

By NutritionNo Comments

A talented friend of mine from Simple Living Toowoomba (local ministry teaching people self-sufficiency, DIY and basic skills), Margy, has just started her own business, teaching workshops.

If you love to learn something new, create a project and spend time with others who enjoy the same, I’d encourage you to check out her website…there’s 3 workshops coming up soon.

https://www.simpleslowstill.com.au/workshops.html

For Those Who are Looking for Farm Work (Why we’re not hiring)

By Market GardenNo Comments

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!)

Making the Most of your Seasonal Mixed Box

By Farm Gate StallOne Comment

$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 🙂 

Pumpkin and Cashew Dip

By RecipesNo Comments

Pumpkins! They thrived this year, and we had hundreds of them.

We’ve had pumpkin in salads, roasts, desserts…and this week since we also have loads of violet cauliflower, which is gorgeous eaten raw with a decent dip, I’ve just made a pumpkin and cashew dip.

Here’s the recipe:

About half a kilo of pumpkin and sweet potato, roasted. You can use pumpkin alone, but we just happened to have them both leftover after a roast. If you are purposefully roasting the pumpkin to make the dip you’ll need to peel, seed and dice the pumpkin, then roast at 180C for about half an hour.

1/2 Cup Cashews…or another nut if you prefer

2 Tbsp Seasoning. I used YIAH Cinco Pepper Enchilada seasoning (which is completely herbs and spices). Otherwise Moroccan Seasoning is a good option.

3/4 Cup greek yoghurt. Try coconut yoghurt if you’re going dairy free

Method: Using a blender or food processor, mix all ingredients until smooth.

Simple, isn’t it?

 

Market Gardening- What About Food Waste?

By Market GardenOne Comment

Many of you have seen it on the ABC’s War On Waste series. Or you’ve seen it with your own eyes and through your own research….modern agriculture practices, combined with stringent supermarket criteria, produce a LOT of food waste.

Woolworths made a step in the right direction, with their The Odd Bunch vegetable/fruit selections. We used to buy them before we went organic, and were pleased to see that at least some of the stranger or undersized looking produce items were making it to the shelf!

But what about in the market garden setting? What food waste do we produce, and what do we do with waste?

For starters, we create very little food waste. You can never predict exactly how many lettuce will sell, or how many people will want cauliflower next week, but you can get a rough idea and plant accordingly. Rick puts a decent effort into crop planning (his engineer traits come out in this- you should see the spread sheets!) and as a result our production is fairly well suited to customer demand.

Sometimes there will be a glut. Right now it’s cos lettuce, most likely because it’s winter and people aren’t really eating cold salads and aren’t used to using cos lettuce in any other way. What do we do with the surplus?

Generally one of three things:

-Feed the sheep. The sheep LOVE lettuce, cabbage…even pumpkin as we discovered this week. And as we’ve not had decent rain for months, our paddock is quite depleted of pasture. The surplus lettuce are saving us from buying lucerne for the sheep.

  • Feed the chickens and ducks. Man can not live by bread alone, just as the fowl can’t live bye grain alone. They adore greens, and are daily the recipients of extra or damaged produce. Thanks to all these greens, our eggs have beautiful rich orange yolks, and the fowl are in good health.
  • Return the crop to the soil. I used to struggle with this as it seems like waste, when you’ve been brought up not to waste food! But there’s nothing wasteful about enriching your soil. Sometimes we even grow a green manure crop, purely to mow back into the soil and boost the soil structure and nutrient levels. Presently we have a half a row of overgrown bok choi and mesclun mix. Rick actually likes it when this occurs, because we started out with heavy black clay soil. It was like trying to dig into a big block of modelling clay. Organic matter was desperately needed to remedy this soil, and 18 months later, here we are with completely different soil structure. It makes sense that if you are constantly removing produce from the soil, that you should also be often giving back to the soil.

Rick is also a big fan of doing any trimming of veg (beet greens, brassica leaves etc) at the harvest site, so all those greens go right back to the soil.

The only time food ‘waste’ leaves our property is when I offer it for sale as pet greens, or on odd occasions might sell seconds cabbage for sauerkraut.

A completely different story to mass agriculture isn’t it? And as for undersize or unusually shaped produce, we’re finding that we have less and less of that as our soil improves, but what we do have can still be used. If I have a few cabbages that are undersized, I can ask a customer if they mind having 2 smaller cabbages rather than one big one. Or I can add a few extra beets to the bunch if they’re little. It’s a small enough business that we can talk directly to the customers about their produce and work together to reduce the chance of food waste.

Beeswax Wraps and Cold Process Soap Making Workshop

By Farm Gate StallNo Comments

May at Simple Living Toowoomba…

This month SLT are offering two classes in one, DIY beeswax wraps with Suanne from Green Dandelion, and cold process soap making with me.

If you haven’t heard about beeswax wraps, they’re an eco friendly alternative to glad wrap. Much better looking than glad wrap too! Suanne will even have kits available for sale on the day with the wax/resin mix so you can go home and make your own. Suanne is regularly at local farmer’s markets and the like selling not only her beautiful wraps, but also other ‘green’ solutions for you home.

And soap making, like I’ve said before, is so much easier than you think and can be made with ingredients from the supermarket. No need to order pricey unusual ingredients (unless you want to go down that path). Homemade soap is also very allergy friendly. I have yet to meet a person, no matter how bad the eczema, who reacts to basic homemade soap. I’ll have some soap available for sale on the day.

This class will take place on Saturday 26th May, 9:45am-Midday at 13-15 Blake St, Wilsonton, 4350. It’s going to be capped at about 30-35 participants.

Cost is $5 per adult (need cash as there’s no electronic payment facilities), which is amazing value. Soapmaking will be up first and we’ll start at 10am sharp, so please be on time! Suanne will then start her wraps demonstration at around 11am.

To RSVP, email Michele at simplelivingtoowoomba@gmail.com

Seasonal Mixed Box – A Value Comparison

By Farm Gate StallOne Comment

We get both- customers who want specific produce each order, and customers who just want a box of whatever is fresh and seasonal.

One customer, upon taking home her first $50 mixed box, decided to list and weigh every item in her box and find out how the value compared to buying the same items organically at the supermarket. I was really excited by this, it’s one of those things I probably wouldn’t get around to doing at the moment, but am very interested to see the results of.

So I’ve just received the list this customer wrote, and will share it with you so you too can see how our seasonal mixed boxes compare with supermarket buying.

NOTE: Contents of seasonal mixed boxes change frequently, depending on what’s in season and how much of each item we have available.

This customer was not asked to do this, she just happens to be very thrifty and wanted to know for herself what kind of value she was getting.

It’s also worth noting when you buy a seasonal box, I ALWAYS put more than the dollar value you paid in there, ie if you buy a $50 box, I’ll put at least another $5-$10 worth of our produce in there.

Both Coles and Woolworths online were used for her comparisons, as neither supermarket stocked everything in her box from Birdsong. The comparisons are made with Organic produce (except for the eggplant and cucumber, which she could not find organically from supermarkets at the time).

 

Ok, here it is:

Item                                                Supermarket Price     Total

1050g Dutch Cream Potatoes    $4/kg                           $4.20

995g Sweet Potato                        $10/kg                        $9.95

630g Salad Onion                         $7/kg                          $4.45

670g Butternut Pumpkin            $4/kg                          $2.68

1560g Tomatoes                            $17.50/kg                  $27.30

856g Corn, Small Cobs                $14/kg                        $11.97

425g Squash                                  $9/kg                          $3.82

777g Capsicum                              $9/kg                          $6.99

420g Purple Beans                      $18/kg                         $7.56

1305g Zucchini                             $9/kg                           $11.75

954g Eggplant                              $8/kg (non organic) $7.63

1140g Lebanese Cucumber        $5/kg (non organic)  $5.95

700g Beetroot                               $9/kg                           $6.30

808g Carrots                                 $6/kg                           $4.85

30g Herbs                                                                            $3

12.3kg Produce (Equivalent $4.06/kg)      TOTAL: $118.11

 

Wow, I hadn’t realised the price difference would be so huge!

Organic Dried Fruit/Nuts/Seeds/Flours

By Farm Gate Stall4 Comments

As many of you know, we supplement out produce range with some organic dried fruit, nuts, seeds, oils and sometimes flours.

Some of these items, like coconut sugar and pepitas have been selling out fast lately! We’re looking at ordering in more organic pantry items like these soon and we’re open to suggestions. What would you like to see in our web store?

It’s been a while since we’ve had dried fruit, so I’m considering giving organic figs a go. The wholesaler we deal with has a huge variety and if there’s something you’d like to be able to buy through us (and we keep the prices as reasonable as we can), then leave a comment or contact us and let us know your suggestions.

Earth Day 2018 and a big thank you to those who are helping us reduce plastic waste!

By Market GardenNo Comments

It’s interesting timing. I was just thinking this past week that in the approximately 18 months we’ve been operating, we haven’t had to order more plastic bags and containers. At the start Rick bought a couple of boxes of tomato punnets and various sized bags for packing produce. You’d think after all those orders we’ve processed, we’d have needed more plastic.

BUT, we happen to have a wonderful clientele that are more than happy to have their veg orders packed into cardboard boxes, which can be recycled. It’s only small items like beans, cherry tomatoes and the organic dry goods we sell that we’ve been using plastic packaging for. And I hope as time goes on we’ll find sustainable and practical solutions for those items…so we can eradicate the plastic altogether.

April 22nd is Earth Day, and I want to thank you all for helping Birdsong Market Garden reduce plastic waste by accepting your orders in cardboard boxes 🙂 It must be thousands of plastic bags that are not in local landfill, because you’ve been so cooperative with sustainable packing options.

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Birdsong Farm Tour, Saturday April 28th

By Market GardenNo Comments

Finally, we’ve got a farm tour happening!

We can thank Simple Living Toowoomba for getting us organised with that.

When: Saturday 28th April, 10am-Midday

Where: 118 Boundary St, Cranley

Cost: $5 per adult. Children are welcome, just keep an eye on them. I hope to have the lawn tamed before the day, but at the moment it’s long and we do get the occasional eastern brown snake! Cost includes light refreshments after the tour.

What: A walk around the market garden with Farmer Rick, and a chance to see how we go about Nutrition farming and ask lots of questions 🙂

RSVP: Please email Michele at simplelivingtoowoomba@gmail.com to book in for the tour.

NOTE: If it rains, the tour will be cancelled, as our garden becomes a sticky black-clay mess! Also, you might like to wear enclosed shoes (unless you like to earth-out).

And yes, you can purchase produce on the day if you like.

Thai Cashew Chicken

By RecipesNo Comments

Happy Saturday! It’s our day off, and today was one of those lovely days where we had nothing planned. So there’s been time to potter around in the kitchen.

Chilies abound at the moment, so I’ve been trying a few Thai recipes, and thought I’d share this one with you…

Thai Cashew Chicken…with coconut rice

Coconut Rice: 2 C basmati rice

4C liquid (I use 1 can of organic coconut cream and make the rest of the liquid up with chicken broth)

Chicken: 500g chicken (we used organic chicken thighs), chopped to your preferred size

2-3 Tbsp plain flour

1/3 cup macadamia oil (if you don’t have macadamia, use another oil with a mild flavour)

Vegetables: 1 Tbsp garlic, crushed or finely chopped

1 small tropea red onion, sliced length ways into wedges

5-6 Thai chilies, finely chopped

1 C raw cashews

1 C capsicums, julienned

1 C carrots, julienned

2 shallots, finely sliced

Sauce: 2 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp oyster sauce

1/2 tsp ground pepper

Dash of salt

Dash of honey

1 C chicken broth/stock

2 Tbsp cornflour

Method:

Get your rice going first. I put the rice and liquid in the saucepan and cook, absorption method, with the lid on. Just keep an eye on the rice to make sure the heat is shut off when the liquid gets low.

Mix your sauce ingredients in a jar and set aside.

Pour you oil into a wok or large frypan and heat. While that is heating, toss your chopped chicken in the flour to coat.

Fry the raw cashews until they start to brown, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Now add your floured chicken and the chili to the hot oil in the pan and fry until golden and delicious. Remove the chicken from the oil and set aside.

To that same oil, add all your veg except the shallots and fry until the onion is translucent.

Add your sauce and while that cooks through, get your cornflour and mix with a little water and add this to the pan to thicken the sauce.

Your chicken and cashews can now get back in the pan. Stir until the sauce has coated everything and then add your shallots for just a minute or two of cooking before you serve.

I liked the heat level of this combo. It was mild enough that flavours other than heat could be enjoyed, but hot enough to have a kick to it 🙂 If you love heat and don’t have children to accommodate, you might like to add more chili.

Confessions of a Farmer’s Wife

By Nutrition2 Comments

He looks like I’ve been feeling…pooped! Here’s an inside look at life at Birdsong lately…hahaha.

We had a lovely 5 days away at the coast, and not the overcrowded QLD coast, but a kind of remote little coastal village in NSW. It was bliss. We swam, read books and generally recovered from the fast pace life that the market garden creates. The children think it’s wonderful, partly because of the beach, and partly because it’s the only time I’ll ever let them eat cocoa pops!

But then we had to come back to reality. I got hit with hayfever (maybe the change of seasons brought on new pollen in the air…I don’t know). Then started having very disturbed sleep, and less than a week after the holiday was not coping. Rick’s got a lot of engineering work on at the moment so I end up with more farm work. Like, all of the harvesting, packing and sales. On top of homeschooling 5 of our 6 children (but thank God I have Rick’s mum helping me with that this year), making all our meals from scratch and managing all the other needs and distractions that come up. It was really too much.

Then we had other issues, like the lawn is starting to look a bit Amazonian, but the lawn mower, ride on mower and then the 2 wheel tractor all stopped working! The 2 wheel tractor was the saddest part. I was mowing with it (since the other equipment had broke down) and accidentally mowed over a bicycle tire that had been completely submerged in grass. That didn’t go down well, and broke the clutch. I felt terrible, because this was the first time I’d ever used the 2 wheel tractor…and because I’d repeatedly told the children not to leave their rubbish around the yard!). The 2 wheel tractor is an unusual piece of equipment from Europe, so parts are costly. Rick was already pretty disillusioned and considering giving up the farm just before that happened. He started pulling the tractor apart to find what went wrong and was very blessed to have our neighbour stop by and help him. It’s almost fixed now, phew.

Then came Friday. Friday is a huge day. I get up at dawn (that’s normal) and then get out in the market garden to harvest whatever else is needed for the delivery orders. Most of the packing is done Thursday arvo, so it’s not so stressful on the Friday morning. I have a very mature 9 year old who gets her 5 and 3 year old brothers fed and ready for the big day out while I work outside. Our 12 year old came out to help harvest. Most stock is ready to go in the cold room, but things like herbs are harvested to order. And leafy greens can’t be packed until the last minute.

Eventually all the boxes are ready (and I hope I haven’t missed anthing!). This week it was 8 boxes of veg, overflowing the boot of the van onto children’s laps! Then we start delivering. We try to get out of the house at 8am and need to be finished delivering by 9:15am for my eldest to have her piano lesson. While she’s there, the rest of us go grab some groceries, then collect her from piano and head straight to homeschool gymnastics. I really didn’t feel like being there this week, but once a fortnight the under 5’s have a class…and that was this week. My 3 year old was so excited that he’d get to use the gym equipment too that I didn’t have the heart to skip it on him. Then it’s lunch in the park with a stack of other homeschool families.

Next things start to slow down a bit and I drop the children off to my sisters for the afternoon so I can do any town errands by myself!

Busy. And I can totally understand why there aren’t more small farms and market gardens. It’s hard work, but doesn’t make enough money to hire help.

By the way, this was written more in a effort to help people understand some of what’s involved in small scale farming, not to have a whinge. Overall we have a great life, and I’m so thankful for the produce (and the opportunity to farm), as I doubt I’d have the energy to maintain this schedule without it!