Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Winter forest

The Wombat Forest called us recently, so we dropped our human-centricity and went bush. We walked out from home,


crossed the Wombat Creek,


and came across these little Green skin-heads (Cortinarius austrovenetus).


A little further on we came across the ghost fungus (Omphalotus nidiformis), a mushroom that illuminates the forest at night when we diurnal mammals sleep. For ring-tailed possums, high up in a eucalypt or protected from powerful owls in a newcomer hawthorn tree, they cast a magical light show.


Earthballs (Scleroderma sp.), a type of puffball, were out in great numbers.


None of the day's autonomous finds was edible, so we stuck with spelt stick damper (Zeph's specialty) and gum leaf tea for lunch.


The bush and knowing our small place in it — the joy of insignificance —


restored our housebound senses.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Cold season food and family cloth

The cold months in Daylesford are a time of surprise and pleasure. It has given us much delight, for example, to suck out the bletted jelly from medlars plucked from the tree.


The currawongs have loved them too.


We've been praising walked-for snared rabbit, stewing the flesh, brothing the bones and salting the pelts.


We've been digging up dandelion roots for roasting and brewing into a dark thick coffee. Patrick discusses the full process in the next issue of Pip magazine.


Our goodly neighbours brought us back some fish they'd caught on the coast and we cooked them on coals in the garden, which made us nostalgic for what we loved about living on the road.


We've been hunting common pine mushrooms like these saffron milk caps,


and slippery jacks,


We've been harvesting and drying hawthorn berries for Meg's nourishing herbal infusions (with rosemary, rose hips, elderberries, parsley and fennel).


We've been juicing autumn's cellared fruit and winter's wondrous weeds.


We've been free-ranging the chooks to make sure they are healthy to get them through the sub-zero nights.


We've been finishing off the SWAP* shed, ready for our next guests.


We've been reclaiming our peasant sensibilities with our friend Vasko, herding his sheep on common land as part of an organic land management model.


This is the current land management model: herbicides kill a patch of the nutritious free street vegetable mallow in Daylesford and the toxic residues end up in the local water supply.


One of the big break throughs AaF has made since our last post was to rid our household of toilet paper. We once spent around $260 a year on this unsustainable, forest-pulp product.

Here is our bathroom. Notice anything unusual?


Instead of toilet paper there are numerous cut up rectangles of cloth sitting on the cistern that are used over and over again. We cut this cloth from an old flannelette bed sheet.

In our SWAP* shed we have built a simple composting bucket toilet, note the family cloth here too.


After wiping with a rectangle of family cloth, we simply fold the cloth and put it in a bucket with a lid that sits beside the toilet. Family cloth is much softer than toilet paper and much much easier to process than cloth nappies.


Inside the bucket it is dry. Occasionally we throw in a few drops of eucalyptus oil. It doesn't smell at all (although we may have to adapt the process in the warmer months). We learnt by trial and error that cutting the cloth with pinking shears,


didn't help with the cloth fraying when they went through the wash.


So we bartered a sour-dough lesson with the delightful Mathilda, who beautifully over-locked them.


This is what they now look like up close.


About once or twice a week we put on a hot wash of our family cloth and hang them out to dry.


Thanks boys! And thank you Dear Reader for checking in with us again.

*SWAP (Social Warming Artists and Permaculturalists) is our version of WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms).

Saturday, 18 April 2015

More on walked-for food

This is today's lunch table after the foraging walk and before we all hoed in. 


Come join Artist as Family for Saturday lunch (by donation) or both the foraging workshop and lunch ($45 pp). Can you guess the mystery dish? Free lunch for the first person to correctly guess two of the ingredients in this spread.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Workshops in walked-for food

Patrick is taking small groups out every Saturday morning in Daylesford to teach the art of finding free food.


Between 20 and 30 species is typically what's found. These will revolutionise your kitchen and add richly to your preventative medicine cabinet. Patrick teaches you how, what and where to forage.


After a two-hour walk join Artist as Family for a light locavore lunch including a foraged salad from the walk, Meg's ferments and pickles, Patrick's slow-fermented spelt sourdough, produce from our garden, bush tucker, teas, weed juices and more. 

This is the table after our 9 delightful guests left today.


Today's lunch—with everything made at home—included slow-juiced apples, spelt sourdough, a raw milk fresh cheese, a pesto of kale, almond and oregano, pickled butter beans, pickled beetroot, fermented sprouts, olives, sauerkraut, carrot pulp, rosemary and flaxseed crackers, semi-dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, dried nashi pears, and a salad of dandelion, mallow, wild fennel, sheep's sorrel, wild mustard, sow thistle, vetch, calendula and borage flowers.

Meg will be taking fermenting workshops shortly, so stay tuned for these forthcoming bubbling sessions.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The locavore's pleasure: eating garden snails, parasitic honey fungus and making local spelt grain beer with honey

Our two weeks with Maarten and Marlies have been sheer delight. They made many a scrumptious meal, including a locavore's feast of garden snails,


served with Powlett Hill biodynamic spelt, ground, freshly rolled and made into pasta,


roasted salsify root (they look like grasses, don't they?),


and parsnip. Both root vegetables we have successfully encouraged to naturalise in the garden.


The snails were prepared for a few days using the method we videoed Maarten back in Gerringong telling us about. Then they were pan-cooked in ghee, beetroot, carrot, garlic and Patrick's infamous 2013 Library Wine. The parsnip and salsify were roasted in the oven and sprinkled with rosemary. Fresh basil was tossed over the top of the whole dish. The result was delicious!


We've also been enjoying Meg's lovely fresh cheese for our lunches.


But sadly not from raw milk, at least not for now. And not because of the Victorian government poisoning raw milk, but because there isn't any currently on offer around the corner where we usually get it. Huh! The gift economy is unpoliceable! Nonetheless, we joined many good folk on the steps of Parliament in Melbourne to voice our concerns about the State's overreaching hand when it comes to some foods, but not others. Where does the nanny-state begin and end?


Get the government out of my kitchen read one very apt placard.


David Holmgren, Joel Salatin, Tammi Jonas and Costa Georgiadis were among keynote speakers who addressed a packed Collingwood Town Hall later that day, an event organised by the very cool Regrarians.


Back at home, while Meg and Zero worked on Chapter 8 of our book, and Zeph was busy at school, Woody and Patrick rode out to see our own family of regrarians new farmgate store.


Since being home from the road, we've enjoyed a weekly visit from Meg's folks, known in the family as Ra and Bee, bringing the Friday night challah. Thanks Ross and Vivienne!


Patrick has also been in full bread production mode since we returned, making rolls for Zeph's school lunches and daily spelt loaves for home lunches,


and from the same Powlett Hill spelt grain, he has been experimenting with producing a very local beer with the ingredients of just forest honey, our garden hops and dandelion, and the spelt grain. Andrew Masterson's great article recently on eating local food spoke of the dilemma of not being able to find a local brew. Well, we hope this is one delicious response to that call. As for Andrew's exception of coffee to his local diet, we made the switch to dandelion root coffee a number of years ago because it grows in the garden and because, well, it's free! And free is freeing. We're very excited about the making of a very local beer. The only thing not local is the little sachet of ale yeast.


Every Summer our hops grows across our bedroom window, making sleeping a dream.


At this stage Patrick is keeping things simple by brewing in a bag, using 1.5 kg of grain, 1.5 kg of honey, 40 g of hops and about 20 g of dandelion leaf (though he'd prefer to use the flower, when it is available). The brew is currently bubbling away and will do so for a week to ten days before being bottled for several weeks for the second fermentation process. We'll keep you posted on how it turns out.


Another local food we've been eating this week is the Australian honey fungus (Armillaria luteobubalina), an aggressive parasitic fungus that is common in southeastern Australia. It should never be eaten raw and even when cooked can affect some people, as can the salsify root mentioned earlier.


The fungus is also very bitter, something our very sugary modern palette doesn't cope with too well. So we soaked the mushrooms in milk for 24 hours and,


cooked them in ghee and ate them with fresh parsley. They were delicious, although left a bitter aftertaste that could have been remedied with a fruit chutney or some honey. Still, another robust pest species that is free and that you would be doing the environment a favour if you ate more of. Just have a small amount the first time, and see if they have an adverse affect on you. We were all fine.


Well, it is time to say goodbye for now Dear Reader. It is also time to farewell the dynamic Dutch duo, Maarten and Marlies, and thank them for all the knowledge, work and love they brought to our household and community. We will miss them sorely.


Groetjes!