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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

The Birdsong/Grassrootschef Tour

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

Rick spent the first hour, sharing his valuable knowledge on gardening, with soil nutrition as the foundation. We wandered through the market garden, and as we did, Asher picked fresh produce to prepare for the group, right there in the paddock.

A fire pit was set up, and fresh corn was barbecued; a kale and red cabbage slaw prepared, pumpkin slabs roasted, a beetroot hummus whizzed up and some beautiful chickpea flour flat breads cooked. Asher shared some cooking techniques and showed us all how we can eat local, clean and delicious.

We had perfect weather (it was just before the frosts started!) and enjoyed meeting others who were keen to learn more about growing and eating fresh organic cuisine. As pictured, we all picnicked on blankets, right there next to the paddock that the meal was gathered from!

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

Simple Slow Still

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

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

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

Confessions of a Farmer’s Wife

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gran Elly Orchard Tours

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A number of you already buy apples from Dennis Angelino’s biologically organic farm. But for those who don’t know, Dennis is into remineralising the soil, like us. He’s opening up his farm at Thullimbah for tours on March 3/4 (Saturday/Sunday).

Sounds like a great family excursion, and opportunity to see what goes into apple farming and processing without poisons.

Contact Gran.Elly.Orchard@gmail.com for more info

A Fowl Experiment

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“Three duck eggs? That’s it?! But there’s about 11 ducks in there!”

I’d bought all these extra ducks for eggs, and some days I’d had 7 or 8 eggs in a day, but never consistently, and I’d purposefully bought a breed of duck that’s known for outlaying chickens. So what was the problem?

We soak their grain for at least 24 hours before their feed, give them table scraps and market garden scraps…and sometimes even some milk kefir (which they love). And I was pretty sure it wasn’t a predator nicking off with the eggs.

After the Sustainable Agriculture Conference, one of the bullet points I’d jotted down was that we should start sourcing organic feed for our animals. The primary focus of the lectures was on human health, but it became pretty clear that feeding animals with roundup contaminated produce is dangerous too.

We found certified organic lucerne for the sheep during the drought (which turned out to be the same price as the regular lucerne we’d bought before that!), and eventually I took the plunge and bought organic chicken feed too. I’d been holding off, as it’s far more costly than even the special duck formula that we sometimes bought.

At the same time as starting the organic poultry feed, I started picking a fresh tub of produce for the chooks/ducks each morning. Especially after all the rain and hail, we had lots of lettuce that wasn’t suitable for sale, but was perfect for the birds. We have about 30 birds, so maybe table scraps weren’t enough, even though they free range in a paddock.

2 days later, that’s all it took to see a difference. I had 7 duck eggs that day. And 7 the next, and the next…and then 8, then 9. Plus all the chook eggs. It’s been about 10 days now, and I’m still getting 7-9 duck eggs a day, plus chook eggs.

I’m sure the organic chicken feed has helped, but the real difference, in my opinion, is the fresh produce every morning. I made sure there was variety in the tub too, by using kale, chard, mesclun, and cabbage greens on top of the lettuce.

And every day, they polish off just about everything! It’s usually a bit of chard that gets left, if anything.

I say all this, because if you can see results in fowl health after only 2 days, by ramping up their fresh chem-free vegetable intake, what do you think it will do for human health? For your health?

I’d love to hear of anyone’s experiences with incorporating more fresh produce in their diet. 🙂

Hopefully I’ll be able to report back down the track on this Fowl Experiment, because the next change I’m looking for is in the birds feathers. Some of the chooks have bald patches which I want to see cleared up!

Organic Cotton

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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

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“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….

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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

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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.

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

By | Nutrition | No 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!