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Losing Tash (Natasha Amy Thorpe)

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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.

Birdsong Closed, Sept. 12-19th (inclusive)

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Spring is here! The change of seasons creates one of the best opportunities for seasonal farmers like ourselves to take a break.

So Birdsong will be closed from Saturday September 12th- Saturday September 19th (inclusive).

Please make sure you place your orders this week (up until this Friday 11th September) if you need anything before we close.

Meringandan Deliveries?

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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 | Nutrition | One 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 Stall | No 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

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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

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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 | Nutrition | One 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!

This Week’s Delivery Runs

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Deliveries:

Wednesday 27th May – 2-3pm Highfields, $5 delivery fee, but no minimum spend. Please place your order by Tuesday night.             

 -3-4pm Toowoomba for orders $50+. Please place your order by Tuesday night.


Friday 29th May, 12:30-2pm for orders $50+ in Toowoomba. Please place your orders by Thursday night.

Just in- Kialla Certified Organic Premium Bakers Flour, 20kg bags + Yeast

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With all the flour shortages in stores, what a blessing it is to have been able to get this in for all you bakers!

20kg bags of Kialla’s Certified Organic Premium Baker’s Flour 11.0. This is high grade bread/pizza flour (but also great for everything else you use flour for). $79/bag and it’s listed online now, for pickup (or delivery in Toowoomba/Highfields on the Wednesday run).

Rick also managed to get hold of 500g bags of yeast. 500g is enough for about 60kg flour. $8/bag, and we’re only selling it alongside the flour at the moment. When you go into the flour listing, there is a variation in the drop down box which allows you to select “flour plus yeast.”

We are around this Easter long weekend for pickup. Just let us know in the comments box of your order when you would like to collect.

NOTE: Flour and the flour/yeast combo do not qualify for delivery. Although they’re over $50, the profit margin is obviously nowhere near that! If you are a delivery customer wanting flour, contact me about your options.

Update: I now can deliver the flour in Toowoomba or Highfields on the WEDNESDAY delivery runs (not enough room in the van on Fridays). Orders need to be in by Tuesday night for these delivery runs.

Time to Shine

By | Market Garden | No Comments

So much has happened in our region and country in the past 12 months.

The drought, the fires, and now the virus. Bad news abounds.

But no matter what we face, it’s time to shine. Time to be the one who’s still smiling, who offers hope, who sees someone in need and stops to help and who lives not in fear, but in peace. Someone who works on the solution rather than being overwhelmed by the problem.

For Rick and I, our hope is in Christ, Jesus. The bible refers to “a peace which surpasses understanding” and that’s what we experience in Him. Life can throw all sorts of curve balls, but we choose to trust Him and live in His peace. It’s an awesome state to be in. I’ve really felt it in the past during times like when Rick told me he wanted to quit his full time engineering job and start farming. He suggested borrowing money to set up Birdsong, and I honestly thought we could lose the property if it failed. But I prayed and chose to trust Jesus. Property or no property. And now, 3 years into running Birdsong, it’s doing quite well.

Then there was 2018, when Rick broke his neck (C1) in a chainsaw/tree lopping accident, and I sat in emergency beside him, while he was strapped to the bed and we waited to hear from the spinal team in Brisbane whether his fracture was stable. One doctor told me that theoretically, Rick should have been dead after that accident. But I wasn’t scared, and chose to trust. Many wonderful friends and family were praying for Rick’s healing, many friends and even Birdsong customers supported us with meals, offers of farm help and much more. There was no need to fear. Many people were praying, and a year later, we can’t even tell he ever had the accident. He’s healed.

One more amusing example was our engagement. Many of you probably don’t know that Rick and I never dated before we married. And it wasn’t an arranged marriage by our parents either. I’d met Rick’s mum at church, and she invited me to a prayer group her son Rick was holding in his home each week. I had no idea who he was, but my cousin Steve was going, so I went along with him. Months later, after attending this group each week, I was going to bed and heard God speak to me. He told me I was going to marry Rick. I actually cried myself to sleep with the shock. I hadn’t been expecting that at all! I asked Him what I should do and He didn’t say anything. ‘Ok, I won’t do anything then’, I thought. I had no doubt that God had spoken to me, and that He was perfectly capable of bringing this to pass without my interference. So I kept up life as usual, and about 6 months later, Rick turned up on my doorstep. As it turned out, he’d rode up our street  couple of times that morning, and then turned back, not sure if he was game to say what he wanted to say! He eventually got to the front door, knocked and I answered. He asked if I wanted to go out for coffee, to which I answered that I didn’t drink coffee (then realised that was a stupid answer…haha). So we arranged to meet up at a place I was housesitting later that week. 

He arrived there looking very preoccupied with thought. Before long, Rick took the plunge and asked me if God had told me who I was going to marry (by the way, we didn’t personally know anyone who had got engaged this way, it wasn’t at all the norm).

“Yes” I answered.

“Have you met him yet?” he pursued.

“Yes” I answered.

A smile came across his face as he then asked “It’s me isn’t it?” 

“Yes” I answered again. The funniest part came next, when Rick wondered aloud “But do you even like me?” I really hadn’t give him any indication, as I was intent on letting God bring to pass what He told me He was going to do without any manipulation from me!

So we were engaged that night, Rick rode straight off to my parents place to ask my Dad’s permission. I was 20 and he was 21…and we were married about 3 months later.

I clearly remember the shock from one of my friends as she said “But how do you KNOW?” (referring to marrying someone so unexpectedly like that, or knowing that it was God that had spoken to me). It’s that peace which ‘surpasses understanding.’ I had no doubt in my mind, even though for most, it looked like madness.  And that was almost 16 years ago 🙂

I love how constant God is, “the same yesterday, today and forever,” the bible says. So no matter what’s going on in the world or how messy life gets, He is still faithful, still listening, still ready to forgive and to offer His love, hope and peace to His children.