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Racheal Cameron

Zucchini Chocolate Cake…with Walnuts

By RecipesNo Comments

Zucchini…it’s prolific! It seems like one day you’ll have a few tiny zucchini forming, and within the next day or two you go back to the patch and they’re almost 1kg each!

We’ve been having zucchini in a lot of meals lately, but I thought it was time to try zucchini chocolate cake. This is a recipe I adapted from a less healthy version.

2 cups plain flour (we used biodynamic stoneground flour)

300g coconut sugar

65g cacao powder (we sell this)

2 tsp bicarb soda

1/2tsp salt

1tsp ground cinnamon

4 eggs (we used duck eggs)

350ml macadamia oil (we sell this)

100g chopped walnuts (we sell this)

500g grated zucchini (you already know we sell these!)

Turn your oven to 180 C (fan forced) and prepare your cake tin or muffin tray.

In a large bowl, mix all your dry ingredients.

Now add the eggs and oil and mix in well.

Lightly mix in the zucchini and walnuts until evenly distributed

Bake for about 55 minutes.

Hide from your children 🙂

When cool we iced it with a chocolate Vienna cream icing…not so healthy…but it was organic sugar, so at least there was no roundup in there (sugar cane is sometimes sprayed with roundup as a desiccant after harvest).

This is a really moist cake, and I love the touch of crunch provided by the walnuts.

Save $ on Aesthetically Challenged Produce

By Farm Gate StallNo Comments

One thing that’s easy to forget when you see the massive fruit and veg displays at the supermarket, is the truckloads of produce that didn’t make the grade and had to be chucked.

At Birdsong, we get some produce that isn’t as pretty or perfect as we’d like too. But we don’t let it go to waste. Some goes to the chooks, ducks and sheep. Some gets mown back into garden beds to boost the organic matter in there. Some goes in the compost pile.

But sometimes we get produce that’s too good to just throw to the animals or the compost, but not quite good enough to sell with the regular produce.

For example, if you get to pick 2 garlic bulbs for $3, you’re going to go for the biggest ones you can find. But not all the garlic bulbs are big. Some are runts, and get left behind.

And when picking a cabbage, you’d naturally go for the most perfect one you can find. But after this rain, a good deal of our cabbages split. They taste the same, but look different. So they’re harder to find homes for too.

That’s what we have this week. Tubs of split sugar loaf cabbages, and about 3kg of small purple garlic bulbs.

So they’re both available at excellent prices. Small garlic bulbs are $22kg (you need to buy at least 1kg) and if you’re looking for them on the website, click on the garlic image and the price variations are in there.

And split cabbages are $2.50ea. This is an excellent way to buy organic cabbage for fermenting…or coleslaw. They weigh 500-900g each on average. And if they’re a bit smaller then I just give you an extra one for the same price.

To find the split sugar loaf cabbage on the website, just clock on the sugar loaf cabbage image, and look for ‘split cabbage’ in the price variations.

Organic Cotton

By NutritionNo Comments

This doesn’t have a whole lot to do with our vegetables, but a few weeks back I thought I’d try organic cotton socks for the family. Synthetic ones just aren’t nice. So I found Blessed Earth and bought some. Every one of my children that tried them said the same thing “These are SO comfortable Mum!” And they are. And they were only $3-$5 a pair! That was impressive, after spending much more on bamboo socks that weren’t any higher in quality.

By the way, I don’t get any incentives from Blessed Earth for writing this, I’m just letting you know, because a lot of our customers are the type of people who would want to know about these products.

Anyway, right now they have 60-70% off all their organic cotton sheets, and they also have a clearance page with loads of organic cotton clothes very reduced. It’s worth checking out if you’re looking for organic cotton. Especially as gifts…there’s a lot of baby/children’s items on clearance.

Happy shopping 🙂

Glyphosate, a Major Piece in the Puzzle

By NutritionNo Comments

“It’s called leaky gut. The gluten proteins escape through your stomach lining and into the bloodstream. Your body then treats them as foreign matter and has an autoimmune reaction. You’ll have to go off gluten, and probably for the rest of your life.” This is what I was told by my doctor several years ago. I was very impressed he told me WHY I was sick, instead of just offering some band aid solution. I was also impressed he offered a dietary remedy.

So I went off gluten. And it helped a lot. But I still had autoimmune reactions sometimes. I worked out it was soy and quinoa mostly, that were causing the trouble. Within an hour of eating them, I’d have brain fog, anxiety attacks, rapid heart rate, insomnia (when I tried to go to bed), and a goiter (inflamed thyroid).

Why were these ‘gluten free’ foods triggering autoimmune responses too?

The penny dropped at the Sustainable Agriculture forum with Dr Arden Anderson, a month or so ago.  He talks a LOT about glyphosate (street name:Roundup). Yes, other sprays like pesticides and fungicides are nasty too, but glyphosate seems to take the cake. And it’s far more widespread than you’d think.

Farmers (and everyone else) are told that it breaks down in the soil and is harmless. It’s a blatant lie. Now it’s been found glyphosate has a half life in the soil of about 22 years. And if it’s not sprayed on the crop itself, but just at the base of a tree…maybe an avocado tree for example, it gets into the roots, into the trunk…into the fruit. And peeling the skin doesn’t make your produce chem-free. You remove some of the toxins, but it’s in the whole fruit, vegetable or nut. You can’t just scrub it off.

As an example (forgive me if I mentioned this in another post), I know a lady with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. She can only eat organic or she gets some pretty severe symptoms, sometimes landing her in hospital. She was telling me how pricey decent organic meat is. We have graziers in the family, so I suggested that I could give her some beef to try from a family farm. The cows aren’t given grain or pharmaceuticals. So I thought it would be a nice safe choice for her. Then the farmer mentioned the lantana in the paddock had been sprayed 8 months prior to that cow’s butchering with Roundup. But it’s supposed to break down in the soil…and it was 8 months since the cow had potentially eaten grass near that sprayed lantana.

Well, this lady reacted to the beef, and quickly. She knew right after eating this meat that there had to be glyphosate in there. After all these months, and just from grass near a little lantana that was sprayed.

This bothers me, because I know it’s common practice for farmers to spray the unwanted noxious weeds in their paddocks with Roundup…right where the cattle are grazing. For example, another family member, who sells their beef to one of the major supermarket chains sprayed heavily throughout their farm to deal with blackberry bushes. So it’s in the system now, and it’s not going to just disappear.

“Farmers are some of the sickest people on the planet, due to their chemical exposure and poor diet.” This from Dr Arden Anderson. We then went on to hear how in Bundaberg, the farmers spray the tomato bushes (after harvest) with glyphosate before mowing the bushes back into the ground. To help break it down of course. Brain cancer is so rampant among those tomato farmers that the specialists in Brisbane that they see know them as the Bundaberg Tomato Cancer Patients. Once again, the spray wasn’t applied on the tomatoes themselves, but it’s in the ground, and therefore seeping everywhere else now.

Did you know glyphosate has been patented as an antibiotic? Since August 2010…and this was right after claiming that glyphosate has no detrimental affect on biology. Um, ANTI- BIOTIC…anti-life. And if you’ve used Roundup in your garden, have a little dig in the soil around where you sprayed and see what life you can find in there. Healthy soil should be crawling with life.

How does it work? Chelation. Chelation can be described as binding…like taking a prisoner, throwing them in a cell and chucking away the key. Glyphosate chelates manganese, a mineral that it vital to both soil and human biology. I’d been told gluten binds or locks up other minerals and nutrients in your body…but is it really the gluten, or the glyphosate, which is in so much of what we eat?

Anyway, with that chelation going on, the beneficial microbes in the soil (or your gut) are destroyed. Which then allows pathogens to proliferate…this kills weeds. Just think what else it is killing.

Though we’d been eating semi-organically (like our high mineral organic veg, some organic dried fruit and nuts etc), I’d not realised just how dangerous the glyphosate is to human health and how great the need is to be sourcing ALL of our foods organically. But it’s a baby-step process! There’s so much to learn.

I just sit there thinking, how many people…how many families who have food sensitivities, are actually sensitive to the glyphosate and other chemicals in their food? It would make sense. I know people who are so careful with avoiding gluten or dairy but still have pretty constant symptoms. Is it because glyphosate is still in their gluten and dairy free alternatives? Especially soy products.

You might have heard that this generation (my children for example) are not expected to outlive their parents. That’s how sick our culture is. Dr Arden mentioned how cancer is children is escalating rapidly, and he even knew of a baby BORN with cancer. It’s heart breaking.

So…what was the conclusion of the seminar…what can we actually do about this?

-Source and buy (or grow) organic food. I know it can seem expensive, but as more and more people say no to GMO and chemical ridden produce, it creates a sustainable marketplace for organic farmers to be able to produce more of what the people need. And start small. Bananas were one of the things we started with. Wrays sell them at $2.95/kg. That’s pretty reasonable, and they’re MUCH sweeter than supermarket bananas. Panama disease in bananas is glyphosate induced. And here most of us are not even aware that bananas are sprayed with that garbage too.

Dr Arden said veg are more important than fruit, and to try and get as much colour and variety in your produce as possible.

-Drink lots of clean water…distilled water is great. Try and get off town water. Or get a filter. Or find a friend with tank water who can share.

-Cut back on meat. Um, we’re still working on this one! Eating it now and then is ok, and seafood (if well sourced) is a good option.

-Supplement. Dr Arden mentioned that the minerals and nutrients are just not in our food…but there are a growing number of people like us who are working at getting the soil back to it’s former glory so supplementation won’t be needed. I actually stopped supplementing because I wanted to see what our veg did for my health without any outside ‘crutches.’ But in general, you will need to supplement. And you’re probably wasting your time with supermarket multivitamins. Talk to a naturopath who should have a much better idea of which products are actually going to make a difference to your health.

-Sleep. For some that doesn’t come easy. There are things you can do to help though. Like getting outside around dawn and trying to spend 1/2 hour out there in that morning light. I use that time to feed the animals and do a bit of yard work. You can also pull electronic devices out of your bedroom. Green/blue lights interfere with sleep. You can try essential oils that support sleep, like lavender or sandalwood. You can try music like Wholetones, which plays frequencies that bring peace and relaxation (and even healing) to the body. I found these so helpful when I had autoimmune induced insomnia.

Exercise. They always say that, don’t they? He advised walking, as it’s renewing for the mind while exercising the body. I find it really hard to go for a walk just for the sake of exercise, but doing something like spending 30 minutes outside loading wheelbarrows of mulch for the garden, or walking around checking on the state of various crops is much easier to do.

 

Though the conventional agricultural situation is a mess, there’s still time to turn it around, and turn your health around while you’re at it.

How to….

By Nutrition2 Comments

Yesterday was the Simple Living Toowoomba October workshop…Sourdough. It was delicious 🙂

But it reminded me that maybe I haven’t mentioned Simple Living Toowoomba before on this website? And it seems like more and more people are getting interested in learning some DIY skills, especially due to health reasons…like when you start reacting to chemicals in food, cleaning or beauty products and wonder what alternative you have.

Or maybe you’re looking to save money…learning to DIY items that you are presently probably paying to much for is really empowering and cheaper than you’d think.

Simple Living Toowoomba meets one Saturday morning a month with the purpose of passing on basic skills in a variety of areas. It started out as a cooking class, but now goes way beyond food. Local people sharing skills with other locals.

So, sample classes are

  • Rag rugs
  • Knitting
  • Sewing
  • Crocheting
  • Cooking from scratch
  • Building a chook shed
  • Growing vegies
  • Soap making
  • Bread making
  • Jam making
  • Reupholstering a chair
  • Basic home maintenance
  • Homemade toiletries and cosmetics
  • Frugal living
  • Growing herbs
  • Pressure cooking
  • Creating a budget
  • Mending clothes and darning socks
  • Making ginger beer and lemonade
  • Sewing Bee
  • Preserving /Bottling
  • Shopping and feeding your family without spending a fortune.
  • Propogating plants

And that’s just a sample. Classes depend on who’s available to teach and how much interest there is for attendance. The sourdough class just gone was very popular!

Classes are generally $5 per adult, run for 2 hours, it’s ok to bring children (but you need to watch them/be responsible for them) and are very inspiring. Just to be around so many people with so much knowledge, creativity and tips is amazing.

We meet at Range Christian Fellowship, in Wilsonton.

You can find out more here

If you want to be in the loop, go to the contact and booking page and request to be added to the mailing list.

I will also mention that right now SLT are looking for someone with some experience to teach on herbs. Growing them, using them etc. We had someone lined up and it fell through, so we’d love to find someone else to share with us on that topic (for next year).

Our last class this year (3rd Saturday Nov) will focus on some homemade Christmas ideas. Margaret will demonstrate some Furoshiki (hope that’s correct spelling!), it’s Japanese wrapping using fabric. Very interested in that! We waste far too much paper as a culture, wrapping everything in disposable wrapping paper. I’ll be demonstrating flavoured salts. Easy to make, and great little gift. And there will be a third demo also.

Maybe we’ll see some of you there 🙂

Water Fasting- my unexpected detox

By NutritionOne Comment

Maybe it sounds a bit backwards writing about water fasting when our business is selling food.

But I know a lot of our customers are buying from us because they are either dealing with an illness and need fresh chem-free veg to assist with healing, or they’re very keen on living a disease-preventative life. Which is why I thought you might like to hear a bit about my experiences with water fasting.

It had been years since I’d fasted. Mostly this was due to the fact I always seemed to be pregnant of breastfeeding and didn’t consider fasting safe in those conditions. It was also partly due to the fact I have low blood pressure, low iron count and often low blood sugar too, so can get light headed if I don’t eat for too long.

This year, while looking into what could be done about my mummy tummy, I came across water fasting again. As a Christian, I’d water fasted often back in the day, but always for spiritual reasons. I’d never really looked into the health side of fasting.

Side note: what do I mean by water fasting? It means the only thing that enters my mouth for the fasting period is water. Not tea, not broth, or any other variation…just water. And preferably filtered water, because living on straight town water with all it’s nasties isn’t advisable.

Intermittent fasting was said to be excellent for weight loss (and I don’t just mean the initial weight you lose by default when you don’t eat) and eating fat in stubborn areas.

Rick noticed I was looking at fasting again and advised me to read the Franklin Hall classic “Atomic Power with God Through Prayer and Fasting.” So, I got the book and started what was to be a single day fast. I wasn’t far into that book before I felt totally empowered to fast longer! I wanted to try for 3 days. It should also be noted that Rick and I had done an extended fast before. To dive straight into a longer fast with no previous fasting experience can be very hard on your body, and detox symptoms will abound. But even with that previous experience, I wasn’t expecting what came.

Spiritually, it was amazing. I’d sit down to pray and just burst into tears, and start seeing and hearing from God far more clearly than usual. The most surprising instance, was when in the early hours of the morning I was praying for a friend with cancer and God showed me a picture of her leaving with an angel on either side of her. It was hard, but I knew she was going to die. Later that morning, I found out she’d passed away at 4am…right about when I’d seen that picture.

Physically, it was also amazing, and such a detox! I’ve since read up lots more on water fasting and found explanations for things that were going on! On the second night of the fast, I started feeling funny. Cold, shivering, trouble sleeping, and by morning I could feel a fever coming on. So I broke the fast, and the symptoms stopped. Knowing now what was going on, I should have continued the fast, as those symptoms were the manifestation of my body dumping toxins and the like, and it would have blown over eventually.

A few days into a fast, your breath can start smelling metallic. Heavy metals literally leave the body during a fast. The other way to detox them is to use a sauna about 3 times a week for 12-18 months, I’m told. Much less running around if you just fast the metals out!

Was it hard to abstain from food? Yes! I used to fast a day a week when I was about 19, and that was far easier. I was single had no children, and I fasted on my day off of college. So I could just laze around and read a book or whatever on my fast days. Not so now, with 6 children who think they need to eat every 2 hours. And the responsibility of cooking for a large family, selling food as a job etc. So habits were hard to break. I’d be preparing snacks for the younger children and have to stop myself putting that bit of cheese in my mouth. Or be chopping veg for dinner and have to refrain from eating that carrot slice.

And leftovers! Our fridge seemed to abound with leftovers when I’d fast (just goes to show how much I must have been eating on an average day!). I hate waste, but there was all that food sitting in the fridge…that I couldn’t eat.

And we’re a ‘from scratch’ type of family. I don’t have instant food sitting around, except fruit and veg really. So even if I was fasting, I still had to prepare food for the family. And for the first month or so of fasting a day a week again, cooking actually started to bring some relief. If I couldn’t eat it, then at least I could smell it. And touch it. And have it all prepared for when the fast ended 🙂

During fasts, I started getting agitated when the children would complain about being hungry…only an hour after their last meal.

And then the flu hit. You all know it was bad this year. Rick was the sickest I’ve ever seen him and all the children caught it and spent the bulk of 48 hours sleeping on the couches. But I didn’t have nearly the ferocity of flu that the rest of the family got. I was a bit tired and had a bit of a sore throat…felt a headache attempt to come on once or twice, but that was all. Seeing how sick they all got made me surprised that I didn’t suffer the same fate. Until reading more on fasting. Fasting gives you such a detox and rejuvenation for your immune system, that you can be living with a house of sick people and yet not fall ill yourself. It’s amazing.

Did it get easier to fast? Yes. I’m on a fast as I type this, and haven’t eaten in about 22 hours. I’m not hungry. True, those cookies my 7 year old just baked look and smell lovely, but I’m not actually feeling like I need sustenance. If you fast regularly, your body adjusts to that. I also get full easier when I’m not fasting, which is a blessing!

You might also find you have a lot more spare time when you fast. I’m astounded how much we achieve when I’m on a fast! Even though food still has to be prepared for the rest of the family, there still seems to be extra time available.

Choosing when to fast…obviously there are some days that will work better than others if you’re looking to regularly fast. Early on, I did a fast (it may have even been on a 3 day fast) on a Friday, and that was awkward. Friday is our town day. I’m preparing orders, delivering orders, taking the children to gym and piano, often having lunch in the park with friends, often visiting my parents (who offer me food) and running around doing town errands. It’s a full day, and the Friday I fasted was exhausting! I didn’t feel very alert when driving, felt like I might pass out while shopping…not good. Having said all that, now that I’m used to fasting again, maybe I could do it on a Friday. But it’s best to just pick a day when you know you’re not going to be too pushed.

Did I lose weight? Yes. I dropped 4kg and am about the same size I was in high school, which is a good thing after having 6 babies 🙂

The idea of doing all this, from a health perspective, is not so you can then afford to binge on your regular days (just remind me of that when I go out and am offered dessert, which we normally don’t have!). It’s amazing to see and experience the cleansing of your body, and it’s best to support that by eating as organically and wholesomely as possible as a lifestyle.

I’d also read that women in particular can struggle with binging on their regular days in between fasting. I did experience this for a month or so. The feeling of looking at food and knowing you can eat it was too much, so I’d eat it. And eat that…and eat that other one too. Not good. But thankfully that struggle seems to have passed.

If you’re looking for an effective detox, to deepen your spiritual life and start fasting, short fasts can be best to start with. Fast a meal, or a half day. A whole day if you feel you can, and then work your way up from there. People do 7, 21, and 40 day fasts even. But often those longer fasts are either supervised, or only undertaken by experienced fasters.

Birdsong at the PCYC markets

By Farm Gate StallNo Comments

There it is…our first market stall!

It was lovely to meet people who’d been following us online, or had heard of us through the Toowoomba food coop…or who were just happy to see some organic produce at the PCYC markets and stopped by to say so.

A lot of people asked if we’d be back next week. At this stage market stalls will be occasional for us. Though it went pretty well, it’s a huge time commitment, and just about a whole day is lost. Then there’s getting babysitting for the bulk of our children, losing half of our only day off (Saturday) preparing for the markets…I think we’d have to restructure our week and cut back on farm gate hours to be able to regularly attend markets!

The market atmosphere was lovely, and we were blessed to have our stall right near the lady who sells heirloom seedlings (so interesting to talk to!) and Henricka, who sells the best organic sourdough I’ve ever tried, plus her beautiful ferments. Henricka came over to us periodically to let us know how we could ferment our produce. I had no idea cos lettuce was fermentable! And she also gave us a try of her delicious radish ferment.

The next market we’d like to try will be the Sunday Cabarlah markets (on the 29th of this month).

Brix Testing – The simple window into how a plant is performing

By NutritionNo Comments

If you’ve ever spoken to Rick or myself about soil nutrition you’ve probably heard us mention “brix.” We may have even brought out the refractometer and shown you a sample reading from our garden.

Pictured above is a brix reading on one of our rainbow carrots. We were pretty impressed with this reading, considering our garden is relatively new and it takes 3-5 years to reach the optimum soil nutrition. This carrot grew in soil that had been amended over about 2 years.

But what on earth does this reading tell us? As you can see, the reading is around a brix of 10. Compared to a supermarket carrot, you’d notice a carrot with brix 10 is sweeter. Brix readings give you a refractive index of the plant tested with sucrose as the standard.

Why does the sugar reading matter? Sugar production is the chief purpose of photosynthesis and 75% of the time, the higher brix reading will mean higher nutrient density in the plant or crop…and that other 25% where it’s not effective occurs when the plant is dehydrated (will automatically push the sugar levels up) or there’s an operator error.

Plant growth is about taking CO2 and H2O around the plant, combining it with sunlight and generating sugar in that plant…not protein, fiber or anything else, but sugar. And from that sugar the conversions happen…everything we know as crop or harvest comes from that sugar.

So what kind of brix reading are we looking for? Once we start getting readings around 12, that’s good news (though certain plants, especially fruits, can go a LOT higher). We were happy with brix 10 on that carrot because this soil has only been balanced recently, so to already be getting a 10 is very encouraging!

Some people can get an idea of the brix just by tasting a plant, but to get a definite reading, you need a refractometer. They’re not expensive, you can pick one up for about $40 and they’re pretty easy to use.

A sample of the plant leaf or fruit is taken, the sample squeezed through a garlic press or the like to extract juice, and then some of that juice is dripped onto the prism of the refractometer, the daylight plate closed over, and then you look through eyepiece to check out your reading.

What will high brix mean for a plant? Drought tolerance, frost tolerance (no matter what the tag says on the plant when you buy it, higher brix will give the plants higher tolerance to extreme weather conditions than that species is otherwise known to cope with), higher yield, better flavour, pest resistance, disease resistence, higher pollination rates.

And we saw this throughout winter. Yes, it was unusually warm, but we still copped a handful of frosts down here, and it didn’t kill anything. We had some lettuce with frost bite around the leaf tips, but nothing died as would usually happen in our area. Then we’ve had 5 months of drought, and that hasn’t killed the veg either.

Interestingly, bees like to work in flowers with a brix reading of 7 or higher. When the reading drops below that, the energy they have to expend to get the nectar is more than they will recover from the nectar…so they don’t bother.

Milk can also be tested, and cows milk should come in at around brix 15-16. Our 2 year old just broke our refractometer, but when we replace it I’m very keen to check out the brix on organic shop-bought milk.

Diabetics who would rather not test blood levels all the time apparently use refractometers to test saliva or urine sugar readings.

Where to from here? While testing the brix of a plant (or milk/saliva etc) is simple, the corrections needed for your soil/plant/body are more complicated. And I’ve seen this is the health industry. You go into a health food store and there’s shelves of different minerals, vitamins etc to ‘fix’ your health problem. But the thing is, nature holds an intricate and complex balance. You can’t just throw a single mineral (or an erroneous ratio of mixed minerals) at your body or the soil and expect everything to be fixed. For example, I’ve had 6 children and experienced anemia throughout years of close pregnancies. Iron is what they say you need, and so I’d take floradix, or spatone and try to eat more meat. But that again was an allopathic approach to the root issue. It helped some, but didn’t fix me.

What fixed me in the end, was eating my placenta after my 6th baby. Now you’re probably grossed out, and my dad even called me a cannibal! But seriously, I’d heard about placenta encapsulation and was already familiar with the encapsulating process from capping my own  herbs etc, so gave it a go. For 4 months I had a few caps a day of dehydrated placenta and I felt like superwoman! Never had I recovered after having a baby so fast. In that placenta, was a hormone balancing, correct ratio of vitamins, minerals, energy and goodness knows what else. I wasn’t using isolated supplements, but a whole ‘food.’ And it worked.

Now, I’m not advocating finding lots of placentas to fix your soil (though after my first homebirth we planted the placenta next to a citrus tree which thrived ever after!), but making the point that your soil is a complex system and it takes some effort (research, observation, experimentation) to balance and restore it. You can’t just expect a product to fix everything for you. No doubt the products help, and we use some ourselves, but they’re tools, not instant miracles.

This is where Rick’s math/science brain comes in very handy…he has a decent understanding of this realm, and is implementing these changes in the balance of our soil. I on the other hand, am starting from scratch. I’m trying to understand all this better, so I can understand our farm and our health, and pass that understanding on to others who are trying to amend their soil or health.

So there will be more to come!

Soap Making Class- Tuesday October 10th, 7pm

By Farm Gate StallNo Comments

Cold process soap making…it’s easier than you think, and you can find everything you need at the supermarket.

This is the way to go if you have skin sensitivities…you can custom make soap that’s free of toxins and allergens.

If you’d like to learn how, now is a great time. It takes 6 weeks to cure, which means if you start now, you can have some beautiful homemade Christmas gifts for friends and family 🙂

We’re trying a night class this time. Tuesday 10th October, 7pm at our place, 118 Boundary St, Cranley. Bookings essential, you can book and pay via our web store. Class takes approx 1 hour.

Cost $25, which will include an instruction sheet and some goodies to take home and use for your first batch of soap.

If you have any questions, email me at racheal@birdsongmarketgarden.com.au

The Hidden Physicians- Farmers

By NutritionNo Comments

“The food farmers produce determines the health of the people”

As many of you know, Rick and I spent 3 days last week at the Sustainable Agriculture Forum, learning from Dr Arden Anderson (physician, agricultural consultant, author of Science in Agriculture, Real Medicine Real Health, Life and Energy in the Soil and more).

It was mind blowing. I’ve heard snippets of what Rick studies and implements on the farm here at Birdsong, but never delved right into it myself. When this conference came up, I knew it was time to get an education on soil health, because I need better understanding of this…and so do the people…the customers, the general public.

So, back to the title “The Hidden Physicians- Farmers.” We have such an allopathic view of health in the west. You get sick, and then you run to the doctor for a diagnosis and remedy. Some people will run to a naturopath or homeopath instead for the same…a diagnosis and remedy. And that’s ok, most of the time, but the real issue is why did you get sick in the first place? And do you think just taking some drug/supplement/remedy is going to fix everything? We’re a band-aid society, just wanting quick fixes to mask the symptoms we experience of deeper issues.

And the Agricultural industry has the same problem as a whole. Farmers are becoming increasingly powerless, as they fall into depending on chemical companies to tell them what seed to buy, what poisons to use to keep weeds away, what “supplements” to put out on their crops in order to make them grow and yield higher profits (so they think).

When illness hits, the real question is “why am I sick” rather than “what can I take to make me feel better?”

When a plant is ridden with insects, disease and failure to thrive, it’s not random. It’s not an accident. It’s a very clear sign to the gardeners and farmers that there’s a deficiency in the soil. Something is seriously lacking.

Insects do NOT have the same digestive system as humans and do NOT go seeking out food that is optimal human food. Most insects seek out free nitrogen (not joined to a carbon) and free amino acids. Simple nutrients. A plant that has failed to optimally photosynthesize, provides them with just this. If your crop has properly photosynthesized into complete proteins, insects just aren’t interested. The structure of your crop is too complex for their digestive system. If you are interested more in the way insects seek out suitable food for themselves, there’s a book “Tuning into Nature” which goes deeper into that. Insects antennae actually tune into signatures given off by plants as to whether those plants are suitable food for them or not. Ammonia in particular, gives off an amplifying signal to the bugs.

And weeds. A lot of you have probably heard weeds have a purpose. If your soil is lacking suitable nutrition for the crops you’re attempting to grow, the crops will suffer and the weeds will come in to “fix” the soil by sending deep tap roots to draw up deeper nutrients.

This is our paddock before the market garden went in. Virgin soil.

Same paddock, about a year later. Rick’s made soil amendments, put up 12% shade net, gives foliar sprays to the crops. It’s by no means “arrived” at perfection, but it’s come a LONG way!

Anyway, back to the fundamentals. Why are we sick? Why are you sick? I have a friend who gets headaches frequently, and she uses some natural remedies to heal them. It does take away the pain, but when I asked her “Have you looked into what’s causing them?” She said “No.” Like, if the remedy is working, people don’t seem to care what the cause is. But that headache or symptom is your body’s way of sending you a very clear message “something’s wrong in here!”

Your body, and everything else in this Universe, is made up of minerals and elements…all listed on the periodic table of elements. Your body does not create it’s own minerals however. You need to replenish them with food. But if your food is lacking these basic nutrients, your body will lack them too. Your body can put up with a lot of garbage…years and years of nutrient depletion, before it manifests a problem. A lot of people think they are healthy, when really they are just “pre-disease symptoms.”

Most people probably believe when they’re eating their veg that they’re getting the nutrients they need…but the majority of farms are not only failing to replenish their soil, they’re also using chemicals like glysophate which chelate whatever minerals were in the crop. Chelation is binding or inactivating. So for example, manganese is a mineral your body needs and should be in your food. But if that food also contains glysophate (which most of it does from the excessive spraying of crops with poisons) then the manganese is chelated by that gylsophate and oxidised and made unavailable to your body!

I’m going to try and keep blogging more info as time permits, but for now, just understand that sickness indicates a weakness and depletion in your body. And know that if you’re eating food containing glysophate (roundup), then you are being robbed. It will bind, inactivate and oxidise what little nutrients should have been available to your body.

Birdsong Coleslaw

By RecipesNo Comments

Summer Staples

As soon as the weather starts heating up, out come our summer staples. One of which is coleslaw.

A few years back we held homeschool markets, and Rick made pulled pork and coleslaw rolls for lunch. Wow! They were good…and much of that goodness was due to the amazing coleslaw dressing recipe he used. We’ve tweaked it a bit since, and here it is…

The Dressing:

1Tbsp mustard, dijon is preferable

1Tbsp apple cider vinegar

2Tbsp lemon juice

1Tbsp honey (or natural sweetener of choice)

1tsp sea salt or Himalayan rock salt

1/2 Cup aioli (we love the flavour of Heinz Seriously Good Garlic Aioli, but it’s not organic, and made on canola oil…so if you have any wholesome alternative to suggest for me, post it in the comments!)

You can also add 1/4 cup sour cream if desired. Up until this point it’s a dairy free recipe though, so depends who you’re making it for!

Just mix all these ingredients well in a bowl and set aside while you prepare the slaw.

The Slaw:

This can vary according to what’s in the garden, but the pictured coleslaw is:

1/2 small red cabbage, shredded

1/2 small sugar loaf cabbage, shredded

1 coccozelle zucchini, grated

2 carrots, grated

1 shallot, finely sliced

5 small radish, grated

I usually do all the slicing/grating with a food processor, but it can be done by hand with a little extra time. Mix everything in a large bowl, pour the dressing over, mix it in…and enjoy!

Flavour Variations: Try various chopped herbs, like coriander or parsley for a little twist

Homemade Washing Powder…and Sourcing Ingredients

By Recipes3 Comments

Seems like more and more people are getting interested and getting started in avoiding commercial cleaning, beauty and health products and making their own at home. When you start seeing all the nasties hat go into the products you used for years unaware, it can be pretty scary! Hormone disruptors are particularly common…and we wonder why there’s so many hormone disorders around!

So I’m going to give you a recipe for one of the easiest (IMO) homemade cleaning products (actually, most of them are very simple to make)…washing/laundry powder. But first I’ll give you some info on where in Australia to source a lot of the ingredients you’ll see in DIY recipes like these.

Shea butter, cocoa butter, essential oils, carrier oils, clay powders like bentonite…these are things you’ll likely see called for in DIY recipes. But many of them are not things you’ll see on the supermarket shelf. Sometimes they’re at the health food store, but often not at prices you’d be willing to pay!

I think it was originally in my search for cocoa butter that I found N-Essentials 

I’d checked the health food store for cocoa butter, and it was $30 for this itty bitty package of it that would only make a double batch of the recipe I was hoping to try! So I looked online and found N-Essentials had organic unrefined cocoa butter at $33 for a whole kilo! Much better. And then in looking around on their site, it appeared they also had a bunch of other unusual ingredients I needed like essential oils, shea butter, castor oil, bentonite clay, jojoba oil, argan oil etc

Essential oils in particular, are used in SO many DIY recipes (including the one I’ll share later in this post). They have so many useful properties like being antifungal, antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antidepressant…and the list goes on. Exactly the types of properties you want when making your own kitchen sprays, washing powder, air fresheners and the like.

For medicinal/healing grade oils, we use doTerra, because they have GRAS status for internal use and are triple tested for purity, safety and more.

But they’re costly, and when making things like soap, DIY cleaning products and some of your beauty products, you often want to opt for oils that are quality and pure, but not necessarily therapeutic grade. What do I mean by pure? Essential oils can unfortunately be labelled as ‘100% pure essential oil’ and yet still have carrier oils added, or be chemically manufactured, or have other additives thrown into the mix. Some say only 10% of the contents of the bottle have to be the actual essential oil to label the bottle as 100% pure essential oil. It’s madness.

If you’re going to be making your own products at home, usually it’s because you’re wanting to avoid all the nasties commonly added to commercial products, and if the essential oils you’re getting are impure, it’s kind of defeating the purpose of making these products at home.

So here’s where N-Essentials can help. I’ve used their eucalyptus, bergamot, frankincense and sweet orange essential oils in a variety of applications in the past and recently I’ve corresponded with Kacie, the company Director and found out more about the purity of their essential oils. The oils they stock have nothing added. No carrier oils or additives of any kind, and I noticed especially with the frankincense oil I bought from N-Essentials that the scent was identical to the doTerra frankincense we had. Scent is important, as often if there’s additives present, it will be detectable by a quick smell of the bottle. Some ebay oils we tried were an excellent example of this. The scent was weak and clearly there were carriers present. But we didn’t have that problem with N-Essentials oils.

This company are Australian and based in Melbourne. All their oils are packed in amber glass bottles, or metal bottles for the larger quantities (you can buy one liter and five liter bottles of many of their oils). This is very important, as any essential oils packed in plastic will be compromised and any oils packed in clear glass are damaged by light.

They have something like 70 different essential oils to choose from.

It’s especially been for soapmaking that the oils at N-Essentials are handy. In looking through a soap recipe book I have, often 5ml, 10ml or 15ml of essential oil would be called for in a single batch recipe. Sometimes a recipe would call for three or four different essential oils at 5ml each! If you’ve bought and used therapeutic grade oils, you’ll realise following these recipes with therapeutic grade oils would be highly expensive! Like 5ml of therapeutic grade rose essential oil can cost about $350…there’s no way you’d pour all that into a batch of soap! That’s a pretty extreme example, and most therapeutic grade oils are under $100 for a 15ml bottle, but it’s still overkill for this type of application. Especially in soap where your oil is mixing with lye that has not yet fully completed the saponification process, and therefore could be damaging the viability of the essential oils you add.

I will mention two healing applications we used the N-Essentials eucalyptus oil for. We’ve diffused it when we’ve had sinus congestion, and it worked beautifully. We’ve also used it with great results in a homemade vapor rub.

So if you’re looking for quality, affordable essential oils to use in your DIY recipes, definitely check N-Essentials out. And it’s very handy you can get butters, carrier oils, clay powders and other supplies from the same place.

DIY Laundry Powder

Onto the recipe!

You will need:

6 cups washing soda. If you don’t use washing powder too often, just buy the washing soda from the laundry section of your supermarket. If like us you have a lot of people to wash for and need to work in bulk quantities, then I advise buying a 25kg bag of Bicarb soda from a rural supply shop like National Farmers Warehouse and converting in into washing soda. This is done by filling a baking dish or two with bicarb and putting in in the oven at 200 C for an hour. Then it’s turned into washing soda! Keep it in a sealed container, too much exposure to air will see it convert back into bicarb!

2-3 bars of soap Using homemade soap is great, especially if you are aiming t make a non-allergenic washing powder. But if you don’t make soap and don’t have someone to supply it to you (If you are in the Toowoomba area, I sell plain soap for laundry powder), you can use something like sunlight soap.

10-15 drops of essential oil. I usually use a citrus oil (like bergamot), because they have grease-cutting properties which means a lot in our household!

Ideally, you’ll also want to use a food processor to make this. You’ll get a much more even consistency.

First of all, grate your soap. I use the grating blade on my food processor. It can be done by hand on a grater if needed. If you do the latter, make sure it’s a fine grate.

Now pull out your grating blade and put in your regular mixing blade. Add 2 cups of the washing soda and give it a blitz. Try not to breathe the dust in. Though this is a safe washing powder, that doesn’t mean you’ll want it in your lungs! The reason I don’t add all the washing soda at once, is because giving this initial blitz makes it easier to be sure any lumps of soap that didn’t grate properly are broken up.

Add the remaining 4 cups of washing soda and your essential oil. Blitz until you have an even consistency.

In this photographed recipe, I used salt bar soap, which grates VERY finely. If your soap is a little chunkier than this, that’s fine. Just wanted to point that out so you don’t think there’s something wrong with your mix if it looks a bit coarser than the photo!

Now you need something to store your washing powder in. Make sure it has a lid with a good seal. We prefer to use glass over plastic, especially as essential oils are involved. Large moccona jars are great. There’s just about always suitable jars at op shops too.

I also find using a canning funnel makes getting the washing powder into the jar so much easier!

And it’s done!

How much to use? When we had a 7.5kg front loader, I used 2Tbsp per load. We now have a 10kg front loader (and children who are really hard on their clothes!), so I use 4Tbsp per load.

When buying bulk bicarb for washing soda and using homemade soap, this recipe costs about $4 to make almost 2kg.

Making Sense of Essential Oils- Modern Essentials

By Farm Gate StallNo Comments

Have you ever bought or been given an essential oil, and then not really known much about how it can be used? Or had a sudden injury/illness and wondered what oil you could use, but had trouble wading through the masses of information online to find out? Often if you do search online for remedies you’ll find a LOT of contradicting advice. One site says to swallow a drop or two of oil (therapeutic grade) in water, while another says you’re probably risking your life if you ingest oils! So how do you know what’s safe and what’s most likely to help you?

Enter ‘Modern Essentials.’ This is a reference book produced by Aromatools, a sister company to doTerra I guess you could call it. Its designed to be simple enough for newbies to make sense of, but to have enough detail that you can dive into topics like the chemical makeup of essential oils if you desire also.
It’s pretty much an essential oils bible. It’s full colour, hardcover and details every oil doTerra sells, which oils to use for just about any illness you can think of, what oils blend well for DIY perfume, the safety data for each oil, reflexology charts, references to hundreds of studies conducted on the effectiveness of the oils and a bit of the history of essential oils. And more…but the point is, this book gives you a wealth of knowledge with studies to back it up so that you can both make the most of the oils you have, and find safe and effective remedies for any ailments you’re trying to heal up.
One suitable example we had was when Micah was bitten by a spider and was swelling up fast and in a lot of pain. I didn’t have time to negotiate the flood of information online to try and find an oil that would help, but I had our copy of Modern Essentials, so within about 30 seconds was able to find out that Basil oil helps with spider bites. And it did. The pain went almost instantly, and the swelling left very soon after applying 2 drops of that oil. It’s times like that having a real book with reliable information is a huge blessing.
The 8th edition of Modern Essentials was released late last year, and is up to date with all the new oils doTerra are producing. If you use another top quality brand like Young Living, this book would work for their oils, with exception to some blends they produce that are slightly different.
You get a page per oil describing all the common and less common uses for the oil, it’s properties (antiviral, antibacterial etc), safety data of that oil and what it blends with. It also has a full colour botanical photo of the plant the oil is distilled/extracted from.
They have a page like this for each blend also.
And there’s some info on using your oils in cleaning recipes, culinary recipes and beauty recipes.
Then the back end of the book is an alphabetical listing of most ailments or needs you can imagine, with lists in order of effectiveness, of which oils you would use for that issue, and how to use them.
There’s also some explanation of how the olfactory (smell) system functions. All up the book is 480 pages.
We use this book almost daily, and if you’ve ever bought an oil from me, I’d have given you a photocopied page from this book about the oils/s you bought so you could use it properly and to it’s full potential. It’s sad to be in a place where you have solutions like the oils, but aren’t sure how to use them, so leave them stored away! I found an almost full bottle of a fairly decent grade of Ylang Ylang in an op shop a few months back, and thought it a bit sad the donor hadn’t been able to use it up!
Modern Essentials isn’t available directly from doTerra. Aromatools sell it, as do several other essential oil supply stores, but it’s usually coming from the USA and very expensive (if you live in Australia!). I have some in stock, (down to the last 5 actually!), and they are $55 each. Or free if you’re signing up with me with an enrollment kit.
I’m sorry I can’t do them any more economically (though a decent reference book is worth that anyway) but postage from the USA this time literally cost me several hundred dollars, so it’s pushed the price up a bit.
If you live in the USA, you can order from Aromatools at a much nicer cost! And often get free postage too, unlike us in Oz!
And lastly, if you are ever giving therapeutic oils as a gift, please consider telling the recipient about this book, or giving them info about the oils your giving so they to can get the most out of those oils.
If Modern Essentials is something you’d like to purchase to have on hand, let me know 🙂

Onion, Garlic and Leek

By Farm Gate StallOne Comment

The garlic is ready! It’s Australian, organic and it’s also our first time growing garlic! We’re so pleased it worked out, as we’d been told by a garlic grower that it can take 20 years to learn to grow garlic well.

I’m also pleased it worked out because the week that the garlic HAD to be planted (before the cooler weather set in), Rick fell ill with some sort of fever. Rick practically never gets sick, but there you go…right when the garlic had to go out, he was too weak to leave the house. So the task fell to me. And garlic is kind of particular about how it gets planted. Each bulb needs to be the right way up, and our Bazuka planters can’t do that. So I spent hours…and hours, planting out thousands of garlic bulbs by hand while Rick recovered.

It was such a relief to have all these beautiful successful bulbs harvested (thanks kids!) and know the effort was worthwhile. We’ve been impressed with the quality and flavour.

And leek! I love the delicate flavour of leek, and it’s all the more appreciated after waiting so long for the leek to mature. I could be wrong, but it seems like it’s been in the ground for over 6 months! Crazy. So good to finally get to eat the leek. We’re selling them at 3 for $3

These beauties are Trapea Long Red onions. Long alright…they grow a LONG way down into our soil. We had to harvest them with a shovel!

But it was worth it…onions were the one vegetable item I still was buying from the Sunday Markets, and now we have our own 🙂

Rick has recently been reading about the nutritional superiority of purple onions (I know the name mentioned red, but they’re really more of a purple), so he’s decided he doesn’t want to bother with white onions anymore. We’ve harvested them ‘green’ (not dried), so you can eat the greens as well as the onion itself, which we’ve been doing. They’re $3 for a bunch of about 4-5 (depending on size).

Anyway, that’s what’s new at Birdsong!

Another use for the Beeswax Wrap

By Farm Gate Stall2 Comments

Inspired by the SLT War on Waste Worskhop

So Saturday just gone was the SLT War On Waste workshop. It was big! Great to see so many people interested in what they can do for the environment and waste reduction.

Just before the workshop, Margy, the coordinator asked if I’d have something to give to the council reps who came to present on composting/recycling/worm farming as a thank you gift. Some homemade soaps were chosen, but when it came to wrapping them I thought “Hang on, it kind of seems backwards to have a war on waste workshop and then give a gift wrapped in paper that will be thrown out immediately after opening the gift!” There has to be an eco alternative.

At last months workshop, Margaret had briefly mentioned Furoshiki, a Japanese method of wrapping gifts, using fabric. Hmm, this trail of thought seemed promising. The thought came that it would be very possible to wrap the soaps in not just regular cloth, but homemade beeswax wraps. They would not only serve as wrapping, but also be able to be reused over and over as a food cover…or as gift wrap again!

And then my daughters helped me find something to tie a bow with…some pink wool we had in the craft box, which can also be reused.

And there’s some of the soaps that we wrapped.

Check out http://simplelivingtoowoomba.weebly.com/simple-living-blog to see how we made the beeswax wraps. I played with a few methods before settling on this one.

While we’re on the waste topic, thank you so much to all your customers that bring boxes back to us, or BYO reusable bags (no condemnation to those who don’t! I know how hard it can be to remember to BYO bags etc!).

Where We’re At

By Market Garden3 Comments

Winter is definitely not as I originally pictured it for this year! When Rick first started the market garden he’d had the (fleeting) thought that maybe winter would be our off season when we work on other projects/jobs etc.

But then books started coming in the mail with titles like “The Winter Harvest Handbook.” About a year ago Rick had designed a new kitchen to replace our 1980’s one, which is starting to fall apart. When winter harvest books started arriving, it became apparent that a new kitchen wouldn’t be coming this winter! But that’s ok, there’s no rush and in the first year of a new business, taking a season off isn’t such a wise plan.

So throughout winter the planting continued. The harvesting continued. The veggies kept selling. And more and more ideas and projects sprung up, just like the seedlings in the garden.

One is the strawberry patch. We’ve planted three rows, 3 different varieties, all of which are long season. We’ve just started harvesting the odd few now, though it appears we’re competing with the local wildlife for them! Maybe one day there’ll be enough to sell, but with 6 strawberry loving children, don’t get your hopes up!

The herb patch also came this winter. What is that ugly white barrier, you say? I know it’s daggy, but the morning after hares invade and devour your whole coriander crop, your first thought is not on the aesthetics, but on how you can quickly protect what remains with what you have on hand! And it’s worked, so that’s something. Actually, the barrier may have been the second thought. First thought was that Rick’s got a lot of live target practice hopping around out there.

Anyway, the new crop of coriander is up, and safe 🙂

And this is the proposed tomato patch for this spring/summer. We’ve got a decent variety of colours and sizes coming in the tomato department this year. I’m so looking forward to it, because the surplus is what I make our tomato sauce, tomato paste, canned tomatoes and more out of. And it all has a much better flavour than the supermarket versions, as it’s come from homegrown tomatoes.

The trellis hasn’t gone up yet, but now that our supports have arrived that won’t be far off…especially as the tomatoes will need to get in the ground soon. Those seedlings are huge!

The other unexpected factor this winter has been the warm temps. Looks like our mulberry tree thinks it’s spring already. And we still have a few cherry tomatoes fruiting from last summer!

Working through the winter season has been a good thing after all…the second half of the market garden is almost full now. Rick’s a machine and prepares row after row each week (and then thinks he hasn’t achieved much)! We have our surprises and set backs, but over all this venture is turning out beautifully.