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Storing Your Preserves

By Farm Gate StallNo Comments

Pickles, ferments, relishes…how do you store them?

I’m getting asked about this semi-regularly, so thought it was time to make a post so you know how to safely store your bottled goods.

Ferments: (ie. sauerkraut, lacto-fermented pickles, lacto-fermented beets, beet kvass). These are created using the vegetable, and then a macrobiotic salt brine. The product is left to lacto-ferment at room temperature for about three days, and then moved to the fridge. Even if unopened, the ferments need to remain refrigerated.

Relishes/Chutneys: (ie. the caramelised onion and beet relish, or corn relish). These are made using vinegar and sugar, which together do create an unfavourable environment for bacteria to grow…but this doesn’t last forever, unless the product has been pressure canned. I do have an use a pressure canner for some preserves, but not these. I prefer to use less processing for higher nutrient retention. Your relishes/chutneys are shelf or room temperature stable for about 3 months, if unopened. Once opened, they need to be refrigerated. I keep them all in the cold room regardless, because the summer heat here is more of a risk than I want to take with leaving preserves out. If you are keeping them on the shelf, choose a place free from excess heat or sunlight.

Pickles: (ie the bread and butter pickles). Again, these pickles are based on vinegar and sugar, so do have some shelf stability, about 3 months, like the relishes. But the fridge is definitely preferable, and ours are always stored in the cold room. And of course, once they are opened, they definitely need to be refrigerated.

Birdsong After the Rain

By Market GardenOne Comment
It’s a jungle out there!
In the 7.5 years since we bought this property, this is the first time this garden bed has flourished.
It’s taken about 2 years, but the greenhouse is finally planted out.
Retractable shade netting, instead of the poly-film we originally intended to use.
The citrus grove
Inside the stone fruit/apple orchard
Rick bought an array of unusual varieties of apple, that should thrive in our climate.
The trees are only a couple of years old, but fruiting heavily already.
Another apple tree
Looking back down at the market garden from the top paddock
Not willing to budge! The broody duck refuses to get out of the way for her friend, who also wants to lay in this nest.

We live in what is typically a drought zone. Excellent bore water, but very little rain to speak of. This last month of rain has really beautified our area, so I got outside to ‘take a picture, it’ll last longer’, as the saying goes.

Christmas/ New Year Trading Hours

By NutritionNo Comments

Christmas/ New Year Trading Hours:


Christmas Eve, 24th Dec: Open, last delivery run. Please place orders by Wednesday night.

Christmas Day: Closed

Boxing Day: Closed

Sunday 27th: Closed

Monday 28th: Closed 

Tuesday 29th: Closed

Wednesday 30th: Open from 11am, and I plan to do the Wednesday delivery run.

Thursday 31st: Open from 11am-6pm

Friday 1st Jan: Closed

Saturday 2nd Jan: Closed 

Sunday 3rd Jan: Open again as normal.

Have a safe and happy Christmas!

Beet Kvass

By NutritionNo Comments

https://eatingeuropean.com/how-to-make-beet-kvass/

I’ve tried beet kvass before, and found it really earthy and…not something I’d voluntarily want to drink on a regular basis.

Our recent beetroot surplus had me looking at a variety of ways to preserve or ferment beet, which led me back to beet kvass. The recipe at the above link surprised me. It’s not only beet, but garlic, bay leaves, allspice and pepper. And it actually is pleasant to drink. It’s even effervescent!

Just be warned that beet is a pretty potent detoxifier and if you drink more than your body can handle, you’ll know it. Start with a shot glass of kvass and work your way up to more if you desire.

You don’t really need any special equipment to make the kvass, a large non-metallic vessel will do the job of fermenting, and then use a basic sieve for straining the finished product.

If you try it, let me know what you think.

Gifts from Where Deep Calls to Deep

By NutritionNo Comments

With Christmas approaching, it’s always lovely to find local cottage/family industries to buy from. Elizabeth, at Where Deep Calls to Deep, is just such an example. Drawing from her own experience of spending years battling autoimmune disease, and then being healed, she has created calendars and journals which offer encouragement to others on their journey.

Here’s where you can check out the range.

Caramelised Onion and Beetroot Relish

By RecipesNo Comments


1/4C extra virgin olive oil

1kg onions, thinly sliced

1/2 C coconut sugar (or brown sugar, but I’ve been using coconut)

1/3C raw sugar

1/2 C Balsamic Vinegar

4 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked

1 bay leaf

1/2tsp ground cloves

450g tin of beetroot (we use home canned pickled beetroot)

salt and pepper to taste


1) Heat oil in a large heavy based saucepan over a medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, for 20 minutes, or until just softened. Stir in sugars, vinegar, thyme, bay leaf and ground cloves. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved.


2) Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring, for 20 minutes until relish is thick. (I don’t stand over the stove the whole time, but stay nearby and stir periodically)


3) Meanwhile, drain beetroot, reserving 1/2C of the liquid. Finely chop beets and add, along with the reserved liquid, to pan. Cook, stirring for a further 5 minutes until rich in colour. Season to taste.


4) Ladle into sterilised jars and seal tightly. Store in a cool place for 1 month. Once opened, keep chilled and consume within 2 weeks. (I don’t heat process them, but do put the jars in the cold room once they’ve cooled down, just to be careful. We also don’t usually consume a whole jar in two weeks, but have not had any go off yet!)

Bread and Butter Pickles

By RecipesNo Comments
3 different varieties, made on our organic produce

The Bread and Butter Pickles here at Birdsong have been so popular! Occasionally I’m asked if we share the recipes…yes, we do.

We’ve made B&B pickles on both zucchini and cucumber, it works both ways. Just be aware that the first step involves salting your veg overnight…it’s a 2 day process making these pickles.

You will need:

Approx. 6 Lebanese cucumbers, or 3 medium sized zucchini, sliced finely (food processors make short work of this)

2 Capsicum (optional, but adds a beautiful colour contrast), seeds removed and finely sliced

A large onion, sliced finely

50g macrobiotic sea salt (Himalayan pink salt is fine too)

400ml Apple Cider Vinegar

200g either raw sugar or coconut sugar. Coconut sugar will give you a darker pickle.

1tsp each of turmeric, mustard powder, fennel seed

  1. Slice your cucumber, onion and capsicum finely. I do it all in the food processor.
  2. Put all these vegetables in a casserole dish or bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Toss the salt through, then cover the dish with cloth/wrap and leave overnight. This step is important, as it reduces the water content of the finished product.
  3. In the morning, put your salted veg in a colander and rinse them under cold water, then place out on clean tea towels to drain.
  4. Take a large saucepan and combine the vinegar, sugar and spices. Bring to the boil and then let simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Now you can add in the sliced vegetables to the pot and let the mixture come to a boil for one minute. Then turn off the heat.
  6. Using sterilised jars with vinegar-proof lids (and a canning funnel if you have one, they save a lot of mess!), pack the mixture and then pour over remaining liquid to submerge the vegetables.
  7. Seal, label and store somewhere cool and dark (3 month shelf life stored like this), or store in the fridge for longer shelf life. And always store you opened jars in the fridge.

For Tash

By Market GardenOne Comment
Tash and some of the children at Bella’s fairy garden party

This is what I shared at Tash’s funeral. I want to post it here, for more people to get a glimpse of her life and how she shared it.

“I am so thankful God placed Tash in our family, and for the 34 years we were blessed to spend with her. 

It’s been said that children are an excellent judge of character. Some people are just magnets for them. Tash was one of them. I remember one day she joked about taking my 5 year old Archie, home to live with her. His eyes lit up and he exclaimed “Yeah! I wouldn’t miss my mummy.” 

Our family is close and Tash especially, was a family girl. As an aunty, she was incredible. Working full-time, with a half hour drive to work each way, every day…and yet she still had the love and energy to pour out on cultivating friendships with my children. She would have them for sleepovers, build lego together and take them to lego exhibitions, at one stage was having nerf wars with them, would make crazy movie trailers with them, wrote a book for them and would play board games with them. It was beautiful how when my youngest would see Tash, he would run up to her and jump into her arms for what he called a ‘koala cuddle’. 

While so many of us grow old and boring, Tash never did. She was fun, and never seemed concerned about what other people thought of her, or like she was trying to prove anything.

Her last weekend spent in Toowoomba was just such an example of her love for family. We spent a good portion of Saturday playing board games together, then Tash took some of my children for a sleepover. I had Bella for Sunday, so she could spend the day running around with her cousins. 

Tash loved a party…a themed party in particular! Looking through the photos, I had to smile at her karaoke party, mafia party and her 80’s themed 30th. It wasn’t just her own birthday parties either. One year she organised a beautiful fairy garden themed party for Bella, where all her friends were able to make their own mini fairy garden to take home. Looking out at all of you who are joining us now to celebrate Tash’s life and seeing the beautiful floral themed outfits, reminds me of one of Tash’s parties.

Parting with Tash reminds me of a verse, Isaiah 40:6-8 All flesh is grass, and all it’s loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the Lord blows upon it. Surely the people are like grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of the Lord endures forever. None of us know how long we have on this earth, and our days pass by so quickly. What are we doing with the time we’ve been given? Tash is like a flower picked in her youth before she had the chance to fade.”

Losing Tash (Natasha Amy Thorpe)

By NutritionOne Comment
Mother’s Day 2020, Tash (with the beautiful smile) in the black leather jacket

You hear these tragic things on the news, but never expect it to hit so close to home, to someone you love. The “young mum from Toowoomba” on the news, who drowned at Coolum on Monday morning, is my sister Tash.

We’ve never lost someone so close to us before, so the grieving process is like unchartered waters. Tash was loved by so many. I’ve just got back from being with my family at Coolum and we were visited by waves of our beautiful extended family and friends. So much support and love.

For now we will keep Birdsong open, and I will keep you posted if/when we need to close or make adjustments to our usual routine, while we move through the next few weeks.

I’ll keep this brief today, but definitely want to write more of a tribute to Tash soon. I just needed to let you all know.

One of the last photos Tash sent me, the day before she passed.

Meringandan Deliveries?

By NutritionNo Comments

We’ve had a request for deliveries to Meringandan, along with the Highfields deliveries. Anyone interested? We’d need at least 3 orders going out there (on the Wednesday 3-4pm run) to make it worthwhile.

Like the Highfields run, it would be a $5 fee, and no minimum spend. The Highfields delivery run item would need to be added to your cart.

BUT, it’s not definite yet, we’re looking to see if enough people are interested first. You can either comment on this post or email me at racheal@birdsongmarketgarden.com.au to enquire.

Quick Baby Spinach Salad

By NutritionOne Comment

The beautiful mild weather we’ve been having means that salad is still on the menu here 🙂 Here’s a quick and tasty salad, based mainly on pantry ingredients…

Quick Baby Spinach Salad

200g baby spinach

1/4 C Sun-dried tomatoes

1/2 C toasted walnuts

1/4 C pitted kalamata olives

Sprinkle of Styrian pepitas

Sprinkle of parmesan or remano cheese

Salad dressing of choice (we often use a balsamic vinaigrette)

Directions:

Arrange spinach on a platter (we find using a salad bowl with baby spinach just causes all the smaller ingredients to get lost under the leaves).

Then sprinkle the remaining ingredients over the spinach and serve.

Australian Grown

By Farm Gate StallNo Comments

In light of recent events and more people stopping to think about where some of their produce is really coming from, I want to give you a quick highlight of the Australian grown dry goods that we have on offer at Birdsong.

First up is the Certified Organic Sunflower Kernals.

Our rolled oats are also Certified organic and both grown and milled in Australia.

The macrobiotic sea salt, harvested from the Great Barrier Reef and the Great Australian Bight.

Our raw almonds are also Certified Organic and Australian grown.

And the sultanas are also grown right here in Australia 🙂

Hints and Hacks to Optimise Your Birdsong Order

By NutritionNo Comments

Some of you have been ordering produce from us for years, but others are newer to Birdsong and ask how they go about ordering or when is the best time to come. This one’s for you, some background info to help you get the most out of your Birdsong order.

Birdsong is open for pickups Sunday-Friday, 11am-6pm. Market gardening involves a lot of tasks that are best undertaken first thing in the morning. This is partly why we don’t open until 11am…we’re often working from dawn until school starts. The second reason is that we homeschool, and I’m teaching 6 grade levels, from prep-grade 10. So I need a few extra hours of morning to teach uninterrupted by pick-ups or phone calls.

We close at 6pm because that’s about when we’re feeding the tribe dinner, and it allows for those customers who drop in on their way home from work to make it here before closing time.

The best days to come? Sunday-Tuesday at the moment. These are our quietest days and therefore we have the largest variety available. Six days a week we small-batch harvest, but on Sunday we’ll do our biggest harvest and make sure the cold room is all stocked up for the week ahead.

With Covid-19 restrictions we’ve been careful about letting customers into the cold room, but when all is normal, if you are someone who likes to shop out of the cold room, Sunday is the best day for it. There’s more variety and we have more time to accommodate you on a Sunday.

The best order to make, if you are after maximum variety, fresh produce and value, is a $50 (large) seasonal mixed box, on a Sunday-Tuesday. There’s always produce available then that never makes it to the website, and that there’s not enough of to go around on a delivery day. For example, a customer this Monday just gone who ordered a couple of large mixed boxes, received sweet corn, violet cauliflower, and sugarloaf cabbage. None of that is listed online, or available in much quantity right now, but because she happened to order on Sunday for a Monday pickup, she got those extras.

How much notice to give? It is by far best to order the day before you want to pickup (or have delivered if you qualify for delivery). We harvest herbs to order, so they’re not just kept on hand in the cold room. If you placed an order at 10am, hoping to pickup that same day, and asked for herbs, I wouldn’t have them harvested for you. And it is inconvenient to have to run back up the paddock when we’ve already completed the days harvesting and have many other tasks that need doing. It’s also not the best for the herbs, which are far more likely to wilt if they’re picked later in the day.

What time are you coming? Our business is also our home, and it is incredibly helpful if you can tell us what time you’re coming to pick up your order. It might just be a window, like ‘between 2-4pm.’ If you’ve ever had someone coming over and they’ve simply told you “I’ll come on Tuesday,” but you have no idea what time Tuesday they’re coming, and so have to limit where you go and what you can do that day because you don’t know when they’re coming, you’ll understand where we’re coming from. If we know when you’re coming, we can plan our day far more efficiently.

It is definitely ok to order more than a day in advance. I do have some very organised customers that do regular orders and give more notice…like 3-5 days. This is great, and helps us to know what and how much to harvest and order (for those organic produce items that we buy in).

How does delivery work? Presently we have two delivery areas and two delivery days. Wednesday afternoons we service Highfields. It’s $5 delivery fee, and no minimum spend. Also on Wednesday afternoons we service Toowoomba, for orders $50+ (free delivery). Friday is the same…free delivery in Toowoomba for orders $50+. To order for delivery, select the appropriate delivery run from the website and add it as an item to your cart. Then leave your delivery address in the comments box of your order.

Why don’t we deliver outside of Toowoomba/Highfields? Time is valuable, and in order to be able to juggle family, business and farm, we don’t have time to spend in the car taking orders too far afield. BUT, if you live in the Toowoomba surrounds and would like to pickup your order from South Toowoomba on one of my delivery runs, rather than driving out to Birdsong, that can usually be arranged.

When do we pack orders? Ideally, I’m packing orders from about 6am each morning, that were ordered the day before (or very early the same morning). Orders made later in the day (for a same-day pickup) are packed when I can fit them in.

Customising your mixed box: This is possible through the ‘comments box’ when ordering. You are welcome to mention if there are items you see online that you definitely want in your box, or don’t need, or that you use extra of. For example ‘Can I have extra potatoes, and no lemons.’

The Wednesday stock up. Every Wednesday, I receive our order of organic items that we buy in like dutch cream potatoes, sweet potato, onion (when ours are off-season) and juicing carrots. Usually we keep on top of stock levels and have enough to go around, but sometimes I run out of these, or have something extra coming in like cabbages, in which case customers may wait until Wednesday-Friday because there will be something extra available. Generally it’s mentioned in our weekly customer update (via email) if I know we’ll be running out of an item, or if I have something different arriving that customers may like to wait to order for.

The most difficult day for pickups or last-minute orders? Friday. With notice, we can do it, but because Friday is our biggest delivery run it can be difficult. We usually have a cold room full of orders on Friday, and far more people to spread the greens and unlisted produce between. Friday is the day I’m most likely to run out of certain items.

How do you pay for your order? There are options. The easiest is generally to pay via credit card online when you order. But you can also pay cash, or pay via card on pickup.

Do we sell bulk? Rarely. At times I’ve had surplus produce, like tomatoes for preserving. But that doesn’t happen often. Our customer base has expanded greatly over the past few years, but our market garden is still the same size…so there’s less bulk these days. We supply households, but can’t take on stores, co-ops or restaurants at the moment.

If you are after something like bulk potatoes, it can be arranged, but I have to have sufficient notice so that I order enough to meet our regular customers needs. Requesting something like this by Sunday 7am, means I can order extra and have it available by Wednesday after 2pm.

Phone/text orders? Once in a while we have customers wanting to order by phone. It’s not ideal, unless you know exactly what you want, primarily because it’s far more time consuming (and with a higher likelihood for error), and time is a prized resource here.

Text orders are ok, but once again, there’s a higher chance or an error being made with your order. I’ve noticed recently that usually if a mistake is made with an order, it’s an order that was sent by text! When orders are made via the website, it means I have easy access to them on the iPad, with every item and it’s quantity clearly stated. It’s not too bad with simple mixed box orders via text though.

Lots of information there, but keeping these things I mind helps you to get the most quality and value out of your order.

Feeding (Welsh Harlequin) Ducks- What’s working for Us

By Nutrition2 Comments

Some might be surprised to hear that one of the top reasons people find our website, is because they’re looking for Welsh Harlequin ducks…either to buy, or to just find out more about them.

Besides being gorgeous, the Harlequins are particularly sought after for their high egg yield. We found them for the same reason. Knowing that duck eggs are so high in fat soluble vitamins A, D and many other goodies, we looked for a breed that would lay like a chicken, so we’d have eggs most of the year around.

BUT, just because you start a flock of a high-yield breed, does not automatically mean you will get maximum egg production. Like any creature, the ducks have basic and dietary needs.

One is that they need space. You likely wouldn’t want to be confined to an area the size of your bathroom, and neither do most pets/livestock. It’s not hygienic and it’s also kinda depressing to be confined. It’s easy here at Birdsong, where the we have the space for the ducks to have their own paddock (pictured above), but much harder if you’re in suburbia…unless you are willing to free range. We did this on a suburban block when we started out, letting our two ducks roam all over the back yard. They just need to be locked up at night, safe from predators.

Be warned, they do make a mess. They poo everywhere (which is fantastic for your garden/lawn by the way). But if you have a pretty, landscaped yard, they may not be compatible!

They need water, and it won’t stay clean long. Pictured is a young drake using the drinking dish we have in the duck paddock, but we also have a half 44 gallon drum for them to swim in, and a half IBC that we fill for them when needed. You’ll fill it up, and it will usually look brown within a few hours! But it doesn’t have to be changed every day. Their drinking water does, but they can go a couple of days before you refresh the swimming water (especially if you live in a low rainfall area like us).

Feed…ducks are high-protein eaters. They are also enjoy frequent meals. We’ve tried a variety of brands and seen a variety of results. I’ve tried dedicated duck feed, which was pretty good. We’ve tried a barnyard mix, which just didn’t meet the ducks needs and the laying suffered.

Then we tried a high protein layer mash. Not bad, but again, the laying still suffered after a while. Then we went organic with their diet, which boosted egg production for a short while. Then we had months of nothing…like 6 months of no eggs. I didn’t know what to do, and so contacted Country Heritage Feeds at Pittsworth. They told me if we were willing to bulk buy, I could purchase the same organic high-protein mash that organic commercial chicken farms successfully use. It was worth a shot, and it’s been about a year now that we have been using this feed, and we’re very impressed. So many people have told me their birds have stopped laying now (because it’s almost winter), but our chickens are ALL laying (note, they only reached POL at the end us Summer just gone) and about 1/3 of our ducks are still laying.

We’ve never seen them lay so consistently for so long before. I don’t get any benefits for plugging this feed, but want to mention it because I know there are others like us, who would love to see some return on all the cash they spend on feeding their flock!

This feed is quite powdery. So we soak it, and feed it to the flock as a mush/slurry. They prefer wet feed anyway, as ducks require access to water while they eat, so they don’t choke. We break their daily quota over 4 feeds. It works for us because we work from home and are always nearby. If you weren’t home all day, I would at least try and break up their mush over two feeds, morning and evening.

And then they love greens. Some have ample table scraps for their birds, some grow extra greens to feed their flock, and some find a fruit shop or supermarket that they can get damaged produce from. There are likely many more ways you can access greens/produce for your flock. We tend to give them bolted or spoiled produce from the market garden. They adore cos lettuce, mesclun mix and things like oversized zucchini when they’re in season.

Water: we had an interesting season where on top of the feed we were using being a problem, we also had a water problem. I had the ducks water connected to the market garden supply, and that is fertigated (that just means that soil supplements were being dosed into the irrigation). One day the thought struck that perhaps the water was affecting their laying. I switched over to pure bore water, and within 10 days, started seeing some eggs again. For most people, this will never be an issue, but I thought I’d mention it in case anyone else has treated or enhanced water.

Ducklings grow super fast. It seems as though you put them to bed, and then get up the next morning and can see the growth. One warning with using a chicken feed for ducks, is that they often don’t account for the B3 requirements of ducks. The feed we use is excellent, but it is a chicken feed. So when we have growing ducklings, that feed needs to be supplemented with a little brewers yeast to meet the babies B3 requirements. I just buy brewers yeast from the supermarket, or a herbal supplier and put about a Tbsp of the yeast into 1kg of feed. This is our guesstimate, and it worked when we had 4 ducklings go lame from B3 deficiency last spring. Within days of supplementing the B3 into the feed, they were able to walk and function as normal again.

If you have ducks and have found other dietary/lifestyle ideas that have worked, drop us a comment 🙂

Perspective

By NutritionOne Comment

Maybe you’re sick of hearing about the corona virus, but there’s no doubt it’s affecting the world around. We are blessed with a wealthy country that can supply most of it’s own food and has a government that tries to relieve the economic burden when disaster strikes.

But it’s not like that for everyone. We’re not viewers of mainstream news, so I don’t know exactly what sort of picture is being painted for those who are…but from our friends abroad, we’re hearing about a lot of genuine hardship they’re facing.

Some relatives of mine support a pastor in India, who said civilians were being hit with sticks by the police if they tried to leave their home during this isolation…even to get food for their family.

We were also told that in India they’re expecting masses of people to die of starvation as a result of the virus shut-downs, because the destitute, who used to beg for their daily food/provision, no longer can. The bus stations, market places and the like where they could ask for help are no longer open to them. And then there are all those who were already surviving on next to nothing, but the small income they had was lost when their businesses were shut down, or jobs were lost as isolation was implemented.

We have friends who are native Nepalis, in Kathmandu, who regularly feed and support street children. When Nepal’s border closed and tourism shut down, their world very quickly broke down. Again, people who were already just scraping by, now had nothing. And no government support. One of our friends emailed in a panic saying so many people couldn’t afford to feed themselves, and could we please help?

There are many countries facing severe hardship and expecting mass starvation of the poor. So while we may be inconvenienced here in Australia, I have yet to see anyone who is truly destitute and facing starvation.

Many people I talk to already reach out and help others in need, especially to those overseas, where the need is so much greater. I wanted to write this post in case you are someone who didn’t realise what’s going on in so many less fortunate countries, or in case you are someone who would love to help, but doesn’t know where to start. Because it’s so simple for the vast majority of us. We can just jump on a computer/device and send help almost instantly.

Here are some charities that we know and trust, in case you don’t already know any: Open Doors, Voice of the Martyrs, Gospel For Asia

The photo with this post is from our friend Rajendra, in Kathmandu. He regularly travels to remote villages, like the one pictured. He often reaches out to the Chepang people, who are the lowest caste and generally forgotten and ignored. He teaches them, sets them up with micro businesses so they can support themselves and not see their young women lost to trafficking. He helps them out with blankets (did you know for many families, they share a blanket at night, because they can’t afford one each?) and other necessities. To help Rajendra, send me a message through the contact form on our website. We send help to him directly, as he’s a personal friend of Ricks.

Thank you for your time. We have a special privilege to be able to change the lives of others for the better!