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The art of balancing minerals, microbes and magnetism.

What to do With all that Zucchini: #2 Walnut and Zucchini Sourdough

By NutritionNo Comments

This one may be a huge learning curve if you don’t already have experience making sourdough…but if you do have a little history with sourdough, it’s not such a stretch to make a sourdough that incorporates zucchini.

We are in a zucchini glut right now, so I’m trialling some ideas/recipes that are new to us, and posting the link to the recipe if it was any good. The photos will always be taken here, of the recipe we trialled at home. Sometimes there’s wonderful looking lists of recipe ideas online which sound great, but then you make them and they’re a flop. The goal here is to make sure we’re only sharing recipes that actually worked for us at Birdsong.

I love sourdough, but haven’t really experimented with mix-ins before. The walnuts enhance this bread’s rustic texture, and the zucchini adds moisture content and some aesthetic charm. Thumbs-up for flavour too πŸ™‚

Check out HomesteadandChilli for the recipe.

What to do With all that Zucchini: #1 Zucchini Brownies

By NutritionNo Comments

Summer…there’s just about always a glut of something in summer. And right now it’s zucchini. As much as our poultry adore zucchini, I don’t really want to give them much yet…so its time to test-run some new zucchini recipes. I’ll post them if they’re any good πŸ™‚

I’d never tried zucchini brownies before. The results were great, but I made the mistake of icing them with dark chocolate (which many of my children don’t like), so they’re lasting longer than expected! I’d be tucking into them except I’m presently reducing my gluten and sugar intake. I’ve yet to try these on coconut sugar and wholemeal spelt (which would make them a little healthier).

And no, you don’t notice the zucchini.

Head over to CrazyforCrust for the recipe.

What to do With all That Pumpkin #9: Pumpkin Cobbler

By NutritionNo Comments

I must admit it sounded strange “pumpkin cobbler“?? But it’s not. In my search for more ways to utilise our abundance of pumpkin, and sourdough discard, I found this recipe from farmhouseonboone.com. I baked and tested it on our family this week, and it went down well. There are an abundance of sourdough recipes on that blog, so head over and check them out, if you too are accumulating a lot of surplus sourdough starter!

Birdsong Whippets

By Nutrition, Plant Performance ExperimentsNo Comments

It all started with rabbits. Too many rabbits. They can up and decide to descend upon your freshly planted seedlings overnight, feasting sumptuously until hundreds of dollars (and weeks of growth) is wasted.

We considered the idea of introducing a predator to keep a check on the feral wildlife at Birdsong. Rick researched what type of dog would not only take care of the bunnies, but also be low maintenance, safe to have around customers (because there’s always people coming and going here, collecting orders) and hopefully minimally destructive! Enter the whippet.

We read about how they don’t eat too much, spend a great deal of time sleeping, are very affectionate, LOVE chasing rabbits (they’re a sight hound, so anything that moves is fair game for a chase!) and how they tend to be couch commandos.

We didn’t actually meet anyone who owned a whippet however, until we were on holidays in NSW and the neighbour had two beautiful, older hounds. It was enough to confirm that this was the breed for us.

Our primary concern was that a sight hound may be high risk to coexist with our chickens and ducks…the fowl are in a fenced paddock, but a dog that is hard-wired to chase, may not be easy to train to respect our other pets!

 

Rick and I have bred all sorts of animals at Birdsong…sheep, pigs, chicken, ducks, guinea fowl…but never dogs. And with six children to help love and care for our animals, having a go at breeding dogs, in addition to just having our own as pets, seemed like a very realistic endeavour.

From a nutritional perspective, I was very curious as to how diet plays a role in a dog’s health, reproduction and offspring. I started looking at what the whippets could and couldn’t eat and was convinced that although kibble (dog biscuits) are super convenient, that kibble alone is neither a natural nor optimal diet for hounds.

I decided there would be fresh meat, vegetables, bones and eggs in our hound’s diet.

We considered organic kibble, which we may still try at some point, but the local organic bulk supplier only had organic kibble that was grain based, rather than meat/veg based.

It took a long time before we actually were able to welcome whippets into our home. The covid lockdowns were in place while we were on the whippet-hunt.

I had contacted a local breeder of show-quality whippets, and was gobsmacked at how many questions they asked about us and our property before they would even consider selling us a whippet! How high was our fence? Would someone be home most of the time for the whippets companionship, what did we plan to feed the whippet? Did we plan to breed them in the future?

There was seriously about 20 questions the breeder wanted answers to! At the time I thought it was a bit invasive, but after talking to others who have bred dogs or bought puppies and heard stories from breeders, I saw the very good sense in questioning potential buyers. Some people just don’t have a lifestyle that is compatible with these hounds, and it’s terribly unfair and sometimes even harsh on the dogs. Some just are not at all prepared for the work, training and ongoing needs of a pet dog. It can sound like a fun idea to own a dog, but research needs to be undertaken first, to see if it’s a realistic prospect.

One of our customers, with a wealth of experience with dogs and breeders, said she would keep an ear-out for any upcoming whippet litters. Sure enough, months later a contact of hers was expecting a litter. We put a deposit down on a female pup.

In the meantime, Rick hunted for an unrelated male whippet. Eventually he found a beautiful blue/grey boy, who we named Winston. He was all the way down near Canberra, so we hired dog movers to collect and escort him up to us, here in Queensland. He arrived at 4am one morning, absolutely adorable (and fed up with driving, I’d say!).

For the first month, Winston was our only dog. Fawn, the female we waited for, is a month younger than Winston, and wasn’t ready to move to her new home yet.

Winston quickly settled into large family life. He decided our couch existed for his unconditional use. Whippets appear to just adore being involved with their human’s life. They’re not the type of dog that you keep out in the back yard and just visit occasionally. They really identify as family members!

Now, a month of being the much-loved sole pooch at our place, meant that when Fawn arrived, there was some pecking-order issues to be established for Winston! Winston is definitely the more emotional hound, while Fawn is quiet, affectionate, polite…and was raised with many brothers, so was totally capable of rough play and defending herself when needed! We had such an amusing time, watching these two learn to become friends. But as you can see in the photos, they have bonded beautifully, and I don’t have the experience to know the difference between introducing a new dog when your original dog is a pup, or fully mature…but I think it’s unfolded quite nicely. I like that we got the toilet training and destructive phase over all at once, rather than being done with one puppy, and then starting all over with another! I also get the feeling these whippet pups weren’t as destructive as they could have been, because they had each other to play with. Boredom is apparently reason number one for destructive behaviour. The fact that there’s someone home to keep them company almost all the time likely made a substantial contribution to this also.

Although whippets spend a great deal of their day sleeping, when they experience a burst of energy, there’s no stopping them! Oh my goodness, they can run. And bound. I’d never seen anything like it, when Winston excitedly ‘bounded’ over our onion crop. I had no idea a dog could jump so high vertically! Not just leaping forward, but leaping straight up over a mature onion crop!

Digging: We had heard whippets don’t dig. Ours do. Not often, but they do. You should be aware of that potential if you’re looking at owning a whippet. It’s primarily happened when they have a bone they want to hide for later.

Poultry: I mentioned earlier that we were somewhat concerned about how we’d go raising poultry and sight hounds…who may not be able to resist those plump, feathery morsels. For months, while the whippets were pups, yes, they would try to chase the chickens or ducks if they got out. They have never killed one, but have removed a few tail feathers. Now it’s not an issue. Fawn can even come in the poultry yard with us, and she won’t chase a bird. She and Winston will sometimes watch them, but they know not to chase. So it is possible to train whippets to respect your poultry. I think the fact that our dogs have enough to amuse them helps. A bored whippet may be a different story.

Safe off-leash?: We had also been told that due to the nature of sight-hounds, you can’t let them off leash, or you may not retrieve them…if they see a bird or a bunny they want to chase, that could be it. They’ll run like an Olympian sprinter and be difficult to catch. We are now able to walk the dogs off-leash along our service road, without any trouble. We had one evening, months ago when Winston did chase a bunny through a couple of neighbours yards and we didn’t see him for about an hour! I prayed he’d come back (we couldn’t see him anywhere!), and he did. Phew. But now it’s fine, both hounds love to come along for an off-leash walk. BUT, there’s virtually no traffic on the service road and I don’t advise trying this on roads where there’s traffic to contend with. It’s also going to be high-risk if you try it somewhere that you know there will be other animals to deal with…like neighbours cats, or feral rabbits.

Ever owned a whippet? Let us know your experiences in the comments πŸ™‚

October Storms

By NutritionNo Comments

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First, the good news.

All the people, animals and vehicles here at Birdsong are unharmed.Β 

After Monday’s hail storm, however, I can’t say the same for our hail/shade netting!

I could feel this coming, and last week had asked Rick how he thought we should protect the cars if we had severe weather (our business is heavily reliant on them).

Just before the storm, we walked outside to view the skies and saw the tell-tale green tinge of impending hail.

India was running around frantically trying to make sure the chickens and ducks had enough shelter in case the hail was fatally-sized.

Chickens don’t happen to be the brightest of animals, and chose to stand about two meters away from the shelter, saturating their feathers in the heavy rain. Oh well, she tried!

Before long, hail was pelting down (very exciting for the little boys!) and thankfully it was only small.

Once the hail stopped and the rain slowed a little, I ran out to inspect the damage. Wow. We’ve had strong winds that have damaged the steel support poles of the hail netting before, but this was something else. Almost the entire acre of hail netting was down, and some of the steel posts were bent completely in half.Β 

Large piles of hail were caught in the netting- the netting did protect the crops, at least. Twenty-four hours later, there was still piles of hail that hadn’t melted yet!

Rick wasn’t phased at all. These things happen, and while they take time to repair/rebuild, it’s really no big deal in the scheme of things.Β 

So for the past few days, he has been out there in an excavator working at repairing the ruins. He says the shade net needed a remodelling anyway πŸ™‚

The crops appear to have survived unscathed, and we had harvested a lot of produce just the day before, so business goes on pretty much as usual!

What to do With all that Pumpkin: #8 Maple Pumpkin Bread

By NutritionNo Comments

I couldn’t do a series of pumpkin posts without mentioning this recipe. We LOVE pumpkin bread, and this is my favourite recipe so far, from the Prairie Homestead.

It’s sweetened with honey and maple syrup, loaded with fragrant spices and delicious any time of day πŸ™‚ It makes 2 loaves…enough to share or freeze.

It’s the kind of recipe you could add walnuts or pepita seeds too, though our children love it just as it is.

What to do With all that Pumpkin: #5 Pumpkin Cauliflower Gratin

By NutritionNo Comments

Pumpkin idea #5…Pumpkin and Cauliflower Gratin. I made this tonight as a side with our dinner, though it makes quite a decent portion and could be used as a vegetarian main course. It’s creamy and filling.

The recipe is from Well and Full, and grabbed my attention as it uses both pumpkin (puree) and cauliflower (which I had a bag of in the freezer from last year’s harvest). The only adaptions I’d make, are adding some crushed garlic and sprinkling the finished dish with sliced shallots or garlic chives.

What to do With all that Pumpkin: #4 Pumpkin + Ginger Chutney

By NutritionNo Comments

Pumpkin chutney? Yes. A friend once gifted me a jar of her pumpkin chutney, and it was delicious. You can use this chutney just as you would any other chutney, but it especially works as an alternative to mango chutney on curries.

I doubled this recipe from The Crafty Larder, and it made 4x approx 700g jars, plus the little mason jar of chutney pictured. We tried it on Butter Chicken, and were happy with the results. πŸ™‚

What to do With all that Pumpkin: #2 Pumpkin Pie

By NutritionNo Comments

I don’t know that I’d ever tried pumpkin pie before celebrating Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania, as an exchange student. Loved it!

We grow pumpkin each year, and often end up with a surplus, so recipes like this that call for at least 2 cups of pumpkin puree, are a wonderful way to put some of the harvest to good (and tasty) use.

Though most recipes call for a sweet crust, I don’t think it needs it…the filling is sweet enough.

Makes enough pie to fill a 12″ pie dish and often a little extra for a ramekin.

Heat your oven to 180 C (Fan-forced) and then…

For the crust I use:

2 cups organic bread flour

125g organic butter

a sprinkle of salt

Approx 120ml water

*optional 1tsp pumpkin pie spice

The food processor is the quickest way to blend this, but it can be done by hand if desired. In your food processor, blend the flour, butter and salt until it looks like a fine crumb.

Then add your water slowly, while the processor runs, until you get a nice ball of dough that holds together.

This can be refrigerated for half an hour if you need to firm it up, but I roll it out right away, using a dusting of extra flour to prevent it sticking to either the rolling pin or the pastry cloth.

You can roll the pastry onto the rolling pin for an easier way to transfer it to your dish without it tearing.

Bake the crust for 10 minutes, and then remove from the oven.

Filling:

2 cups pumkin puree

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups cream (or coconut cream if desired)

150g coconut sugar (or brown sugar)

1Tbsp pumpkin pie spice blend

I blend all these filling ingredients together in the food processor, and then pour into the baked pie crust. The filling will be runny at this stage, but will set as it bakes. Carefully place your filled pie back in the oven, and bake for 30-40 minutes. I start with 30 minutes, then open the oven door and give the dish a jiggle. You will be able to tell if the pie is set by watching the centre of the pie to see if it wobbles loosely, or looks set. Once set, remove from the oven and allow to cool.

The pie can be eaten warm, or chilled. Store in the fridge.

What to do With all that Pumpkin: #1 Pumpkin Porridge

By NutritionNo Comments
Pumpkin Pie Porridge

The end of summer is when we have harvested all (or most) of our pumpkins and you will be finding these pumpkins in your seasonal mixed boxes. But besides roasting them as a side at dinner, what do you do with all this pumpkin?

Our go-to pumpkin creations are pumpkin pie (I was an exchange student in the USA and took an instant liking to pumpkin pie!) and pumpkin + sweetcorn soup. But there are so many ways you can prepare this versatile veg.

Today we’re looking at incorporating pumpkin puree (very easy to make) in your porridge.

I based the trial on the recipe below, but made a few changes.

*I used dairy milk

* Skipped the maple syrup and used a sprinkling of coconut sugar and organic sultanas instead

*Used a teaspoon of a homemade pumpkin pie spice blend, rather than individual spices.

*Added more like 1/2 Cup of pumpkin puree

The result was far less pumpkin-ish than expected, which was fine. It was also only mildly sweet, which suits me, but if you’re a sweet tooth, you may want to up the sugar, or use the maple, as suggested in the base recipe.

If you regularly make porridge, the only change you would need to make to your regular base recipe, is adding 1tsp (or to taste) of the spice blend while cooking, and add the pumpkin puree close to the end of cooking and heat through.

A recipe to get you started, from DamnDelicious

Next up, will be our pumpkin pie recipe. I’ve got some savoury pumpkin recipes on the upcoming share list too!

This Week…

By NutritionNo Comments

Good Morning,


Loving this autumn weather! Now we just need some more rain…


We’re pretty low in fresh produce until Tuesday. I’m alsoΒ not able to make any mixed/seasonal boxes until TuesdayΒ (for Tuesday afternoon pickup, at the earliest). By then I will have some celery, cabbage, ginger and more potatoes.


Deliveries:Tuesday 9th March, 1-2pm for orders $50+ in Toowoomba. Please place your order by Monday night. If there are items you’d like that are not online yet that I’ve mentioned here, just request them in the comments box of your order, and I can send an invoice.

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


We have 4 little week-old Australorp chicks (unsexed) left from India’s last incubation. They’re $12ea if anyone is interested.

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.

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.

Quick Baby Spinach Salad

By NutritionOne Comment

The beautiful mild weather we’ve been having means that salad is still on the menu here πŸ™‚ 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.

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.

Since Covid-19 restrictions we’ve been careful about letting customers into the cold room, and therefore it’s best to order from the website.

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 deliver to Toowoomba once a week, on a Friday afternoon. Delivery is $3 per order, which helps cover the cost of fuel. To order for delivery, select the 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? 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 Uniplaza (on West St) on one of my Friday 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 Tuesday stock up. Every second Tuesday, 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 Tuesday 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. The ‘bulk’ that we sometimes have available is 5kg lots of produce like cabbage, potato, carrot or tomato and 4x bunches of kale or chard.

If you are after something like bulk potatoes (say a whole 20kg sack of them), 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 Tuesday 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.