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Food Preservation Workshop

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Food Preservation Workshop, Simple Living Toowoomba

Date:    14 September

Time:    10-12noon

What:  This workshop is being run by Rachael from Birdsong Market Garden and Robyn. There’s been a resurgence in preserving at home, and we’re going to look at some of the ways you can save your seasonal surplus. I’ll have some home preserves and common equipment on hand for you to see. Due to time constraints, we won’t be able to demonstrate all of these, but can definitely talk through them and try and answer any questions.

-Pressure Canning (which allows for long term shelf storage of low acid foods, including meat and broth)

-Water Bath Canning (for fruit and higher acid vegetables like tomatoes)

-Salting

-Drying/Dehydrating

-Fermenting

-Pickling

-Preserving in alcohol (tinctures and extracts)

We can also cover where to source bulk produce if you don’t grow it yourself.

As usual please feel free to bring along any handmade goods or excess homegrown produce you would like to share with those attending the workshops.

Where: Range Christian Fellowship, 15 Blake St, Toowoomba.

Cost:    $5

RSVP:   11 September to simplelivingtoowoomba@gmail.com or phone Michele on 0423858059

Birdsong Shut-Down Week

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I’ve emailed all our regulars, but for anyone who didn’t get that, Birdsong will be closed Monday 26th August-Saturday 31st August 2019 (open again Sunday 1st September). We are so low on stock, and the garden isn’t coping with the volume of orders we’re getting.

If you need anything before then, Sunday 25th from 10am-4pm we’ll be open for pick-ups and drop-in shopping.

So what do you guys eat?

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Now and then, I get this question. I can understand why people would be curious to know what the organic farmers eat (besides vegetables!).

Some think we’re self sufficient (we’re not!), but vegetables are only one of many food groups, and besides the eggs our ducks produce, we don’t really have much else (meat, legumes, grains, fats, dairy etc).

I guess the diet that our habits come closest to, is Nourishing Traditions (you may have read or heard of the book by Sally Fallon). We’re not 100% followers of this, but the general principles are definitely guidelines we use at Birdsong. We activate/soak our nuts, make ferments, eat seasonally, make bone broth, do our own dressings and sauces (to a point, I’ve never tried making my own soy sauce for example!) and eat organically as possible.

I also get asked if we eat only organic food. Almost, but not quite. It’s mostly organic, but there are 8 in our family, and some products we eat (like cream and cheese) that can be found in Toowoomba organically, are in such tiny and expensive portions that it’s not viable for us. When we go out for dinner at friend’s places, we eat what they’ve prepared for us with thankfulness…I don’t go checking to see if all the ingredients are organic! I’ve heard of people who get that obsessive, and it can be detrimental to relationships when it gets to the point that people can’t invite you over because you won’t eat their food and they possibly can’t afford to feed everyone organic.

We do eat meat, and sometimes it’s organic, sometimes just free range (when buying chicken I’m more particular about this) and when I buy in bulk I like to make sure it’s local. Like we’ll buy a side of beef from Bannock Brae (not organic but do grow their own feed for the cattle), who are neighbours of good friends of ours, and a family run business.

We do eat gluten/bread, rice and pasta (always organic at home). I was gluten intolerant for two years, in which we hardly ever had gluten in the house, but now that I’ve healed, we do buy bulk organic/biodynamic wheat flour to bake with. We don’t usually make our own loaves of bread (though the children love making their own naan, pita, wraps etc) and I’m so thankful the supermarket has certified organic bread at a reasonable price! Homemade bread is beautiful, but I’m not superwoman and can’t do everything. We make a LOT of food from scratch, but bread was one of those things we decided to just buy, rather than be subjected to the stress of trying to keep up with making it!

Nuts we eat, and always organic. Nuts are not always sprayed with pesticides/insecticides from my understanding, but I know they use fungicides, and they’re no good for your gut and health either. So we only buy organic nuts, and then activate them (soak for about 12 hours then put through a dehydrator until crispy to neutralise the physic acid).

Eggs are another one we definitely eat, and usually from our own backyard where the birds are fed an organic diet, drink clean bore/rain water and free range in a paddock. If I have to buy eggs, we get organic or at least free range. You can find documentaries about the conditions caged birds suffer, and I don’t believe the meat or eggs from birds treated like that and subjected to so much stress should be consumed by humans.

Dairy…we eat that too. Organic milk, butter and yogurt (unhomogenised where possible) are pretty easy to source. I’d love to have our own house cow so we could make our own dairy products, but the lack of land here doesn’t allow for it! Like I mentioned above, cream and cheese are two products I don’t usually buy organically.

Vegetables…lots of them! We eat these seasonally, because I think it’s backwards to have a paddock full of produce and then go and buy produce that we’re not growing (and I know even most organic produce doesn’t come from soil as nurtured as Rick’s). The exception to this is fruit, because we hardly grow any fruit, and with 6 children, we go through plenty of it. I’m thankful for people like Dennis from Gran Elly Orchard who grow fruit with similar soil nutrition to our vegetables. But there’s no way I’d go and buy something like broccoli if it’s out of season. We’ll just eat what is available.

I do a lot of canning, so I guess it would be more accurate to say the FRESH produce we eat is seasonal, but then in summer for example, we produce a LOT of tomatoes, and I work overtime trying to preserve/can as many as possible into sauces, sun-drieds, pastes etc so that all winter we can cook with our own tomato products. Last summer corn was abundant too, so I canned a lot of that. In winter we make sauerkraut (when there’s enough cabbage! This year it was a bit sparse).

We don’t meal plan. I’ve tried that before, and it did save time years ago. But now we’re in this unique situation where we grow a lot of produce, and have a cold room for storage and buy floors, nuts, seeds etc in bulk. Plus all those home-canned goods are on the shelf. So I find that there’s a lot of raw materials to work with, and a meal can always be created with what’s on hand.

I guess the last thing that comes to mind is sugar. We use organic coconut sugar, organic maple syrup, our own honey from the hive out the back and sometimes some organic cane sugar (some recipes need something lighter than coconut sugar). I try to limit it a bit, and especially cut back if using a baking recipe. Often we can halve the sugar in a recipe and still find it’s sweet enough!

So there you go, a little look at what we eat at Birdsong.

Plastic Free July

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(Mostly) Waxed Boxes…very reusable!

Here we are in Plastic Free July again.

In previous years at Birdsong, we have had giveaway reusable mesh produce bags for certain sized orders and looked at ways we can reduce our single use plastic packaging.

This year, it would be great to make the effort to get everyone returning waxed boxes and glass jars that can be reused for future orders. Some customers are amazing at this…every order, without fail, they bring back their boxes, crates and jars. But for others it’s not a habit yet 🙂

Our one plastic use at Birdsong that we can’t do much about, is packaging loose-leaf greens. They’re moist, so paper just disintegrates. And while mesh produce bags are ok, the bags are worth almost as much as the greens in value, so it’s difficult to use them without raising our prices substantially. Many of our customers order for delivery, so everything has to be pre-packed before transporting into town, ruling out the option of customers bringing their own produce bags..having said that, if you are keen enough to shop on-site at Birdsong and BYO packaging, we can accommodate that.

If you are on our email list, you’ll have noticed I always thank people for bringing back their waxed boxes and large glass jars. The waxed boxes (especially the size pictured above) are very much reusable. So please don’t throw them away! If you are a delivery customer, you can leave boxes at your front door for me to collect when I next deliver to you, and if you’re a pickup customer, you can bring the boxes back with you on your next pickup. I know it can take a while to get in the habit. When supermarkets first discontinued single use plastic bags, it took me a while (and several trips back to the car!) to get used to bringing them in with me. But now it’s automatic, the habit has been formed.

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

Another way we reduce plastic packaging, is by packing our organic nuts/seeds/dried fruit etc in glass preserving jars, as pictured above. These too, can be sent back for cleaning and reusing. I love glass, because besides having a long life, it doesn’t alter the flavour of whatever is packed in it. And a row of glass packed foods look quaint on the pantry shelf 🙂

If you are bringing jars in that didn’t originally come from a Birdsong order, just keep in mind they need to be large and able to hold about a kilo of nuts. Jam jars and other smaller jars just don’t have the required capacity. The largest moccona coffee jars are great for 1kg dried fruit.

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

This Plastic Free July, let’s see if we can all form some helpful habits to reducing plastic waste in our lives.

For loads of inspiration and products to make the change to reusable packaging in your home, check out Green Dandelion, at 1 Station St, Toowoomba (inside the new Emerge Cafe) http://www.greendandelion.com.au