Saturday, January 28, 2012

the "want more" syndrome

i had a bit of an epiphany ... actually, i have been feeling it growing in my heart for a while now .... but things have really fallen into place.

i reckon we are smack dab in the middle of the struggle that many people who do the "sustainable/tree change" find themselves wrestling with.  a whole hearted commitment to a sustainable lifestyle .... all of it ... including putting behind us the "want more" and "keep up with the jones" stuff.  we've made the move in a rural setting.  and now ... it's time to put some meat behind our words and really start thinking about what living on the land and being sustainable really means.

but oh my goodness .... it is easy to get lost on this journey!

one example would be what will JustEarth look like?  we vacillate back and forth constantly .... large, small?  four footed creatures or not?  what?

could it look something like this?  19 acres, with a few trees and creek frontage.  established, tho humble house.  could run a few head on it and then some.  is this what we should get?  fairly "on the grid" by old fashioned necessity ... no solar, no dam.  pump to get water up to the paddocks. so not sustainable in that sense.  but the size ... having "more"  oooooohhhhhh .... i love the idea!

or is JustEarth this? 6 aces, close to town.  lovely dam.  no house.  good price.  fewer trees.  so much potential.  but don't we need something bigger?  are we compromising by getting something smaller?  i mean .... really????  we could have a house cow and chooks, maybe a few pigs .... but not much more.  what about the never ending food forest and orchard?  we would be significantly more limited in size.  or do we just need to be more creative about how we approach it?

don't laugh.  i reckon heaps of families who do the big change struggle with this issue.  we ending up translating the "want more" thing to our tree change and try to justify it by saying we are saving more land.  egad!  we have left the "big smoke" .... we are committed to sustainability.  shouldn't we get as much land as we can and do the right thing by it?  what about our own time / family / physical limitations?  don't those come into play?  do we need to remember to be balanced from time to time?

breathe ... even in sustainability balance and perspective are important!

the other side of that coin is that we moved all this way .... shouldn't we commit whole heartedly .... jump of the deep end and see what happens (oh .... that's right. ... it's not just me, myself and i anymore .... gotta remember hubby and three munchkins who need us too!).  we have three growing children who need our time ... that is our priority. perspective!

and then there is of course the option of going from the sublime to the absolutely ridiculous.  in thinking about buying land .... if you opt to build .... well, how can i say this delicately.  plan homes RARELY are small, modest and humble!  yickeroonies!  it's hard to find any home under 200 sqm these days!  we've been going to a few display centres of late, just to get a feel for what is available.  (there is of course the option to NOT build, continue to rent and just work the land for a while .... another post for another day as this has real merit)

uhho .... i would be lying if i didn't say that there was a part of me that didn't LOVE some of the stuff i saw.  as i said to hubby as we wandered around a two-storey gargantuan monstrosity.  you know .... if someone gave this to me .... yeah ... ok .... i'd take it!  honestly!  who wouldn't want to spend every day of their lives living in a resort?  oh .... that's right .... then you'd have to CLEAN IT!  (and if you know me, you know that's not one of my strong suits!)

when you have guest bath rooms like this .....

honestly .... this isn't a master suite .... this is a guest bath!

i think, that when i want a resort style experience .... i'd rather actually splurge and go to a resort.... and enjoy that rather and the ocean views and luxury and "fun" that that type of experience affords us.

not what we saw today.  it was a real reminder to me of the need that i often get to feel comfortable and spoiled from a materialistic place rather than an internal, at peace with my heart before my Creator God place.  it's easy to get lost in "stuff" .... believe me, i know!  i do all the time.  but seeing the opulence of these places ... just really made me uncomfortable.  who needs that kind of thing, really?

when i think about it, we'll probably end up with something a bit more like this.  a sustainable kit home, very affordable and comfy ... built to lock up stage ...

and then .... we'll make it very personal and very homey by going to some old antique stores and junk shops .... looking for gems to fit it out with.  and maybe, if we're really fortunate .... have windows that look like this.... 

remembering that the joy is in the journey .... and the experience,
not in the size of what we have, but in how often we open
our door to share our lives and what JustEarth means to us.

The earth is the Lords, and everything in it,
the world and all who live in it.
Psalm 24:1

Thursday, January 19, 2012

the country folk blessing

so today we went to another farm.  lots of those here in our neck of the woods!  it's great inspiration for us as well as heaps of fun for the kids.  seeing what others are doing .... how they are choosing to live off the land in a way that works for their lifestyle.  it's really interesting and very fun!

as an adult, conversations about the coal seam gas issues, pasture regeneration, animal sickness, etc. are always interesting discussions.  and no less so today.  this little 6 acre small holding was fabulous!  the plethora of food that they grow and the availability of great produce cannot be minimised.  and they do all this with 4 kids running around!  amazing!    when i left today, i had a head and heart filled with great information and a strong sense of community.  i love the way country folk are so inclined to share of themselves .... no pretense and very "take me as i am" attitude.  it certainly warms my heart and my messy home!  there is a transparency about living rural that i am happily embracing as each day in this gorgeous little world goes by.

my larder has been richly blessed as well!  a queensland jap, zuchinni, mulberry tree cuttings and yummy tomatoes.  yes that is raw milk .... yes it tastes fabulous and yes .... i am feeling the need to make some cheese!  or try at least!
the bounty!    

they also do rabbits.  it's a good option for a small holding, given the limited land and the need to be able to feed good protein to your growing kids.  and yes .... they are cute! and yes, he does kill, skin and freeze them.  has two mobs on the go ..... this was a mum and 8 babies.  there was another pen with a mum and 6 babies.  they are good to go from about 5 months.  he keeps them up to two years, depending on need.  you treat the older animals like you would your end of the line laying hens.  broil them up and pick the meat off the bone and it works just fine!

i reckon if i can get my head and heart used to the idea of killing chooks to eat i can do the same with rabbits.  they have names for all of their animals .... but it's that relationship with the animal and respect for the fact that God called us to be wise stewards and care for them and use them wisely that makes killing them easier.  as joel salatin sais ..... they have great lives and one bad day.

oh, and in case you were wondering if the kids had any fun ..... <g>

... off to make stuffed zucchinni for dinner now!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

tyranny ... meet urgency!

we are loving living in the Northern Rivers of NSW.  loving the way it is so easy to walk the path of fresh produce, community relationships and a sustainable lifestyle.  each saturday i head out to kyogle for their small, but amazingly wonderful farmers market.  heaps of fresh produce.  lots of choice.

therein lies my problem .... because everything is so fresh.  i find it impossible not to indulge my family in the fresh bounty that is available to us.  BUT .... but ... we are plagued with something in the air that makes fresh food go off .... FAST.  i understand why people keep so much stuff in their fridge!  it's the only way to make it last.

enter stage left my tyrannical urgency of learning to preserve.

i reckon it is the best way for me to continue to buy these great foods and not have them going to waste.  given that we live in a rental right now, it breaks my heart to watch the scrapes go out in the bin rather than feeding some hungry animal that will process the food back into the soil.

so one of my eventual resolutions for 2012 gets bumped to the top of the ladder ...

preserving food

i reckon this will take some real attention on my part.  i've never tackled this before and have been scared of it. hence my putting it up on my blog.  i want to be held accountable.  i want to buy all that yummy food at the markets and know that i can store and enjoy them another day .... not throwing them into a container and freezing them .... but storing them to preserve their goodness for another day, week or month.

i have no real idea of where to start.... except to begin with some google searches.  i know a few of the good blogs i follow do some preserving .... so i'll see what insights they have to offer.  but hold me accountable.  ask why you haven't seem a blog post.  school goes back on the 30th and i'll have no excuse not to give it some serious attention.

  • i need to get my hands on cheap jars.
  • is it all about jams or what about these stories i read about preserving veggies as well?
  • do i need new fangled equipment?

this is one blog post where i crave your feedback (well, i always do .... but this time especially!).  what is your favorite web site on the issue?  what about electronic pod cast resources that i can listen to?  anything to help me out!  <g>  please!!!!!!!


Monday, January 9, 2012

Bunya Nut .... success!!

so i had to do a follow-up on my last post ....

you see, that dear friend who brought me the first cone decided that he could get his hands on a fresher ones and dropped one off after church on sunday ... why not see if this works?  up to the challenge?  heck yeah!  <g>

 it was significantly smaller than the last one .... and if i must say .... significantly tougher!  had to get hubby to do this one .... and he had to get two chisels and wedge them in and push them apart to get the nut split.

the mammoth effort!
after that i managed to get them out of their out green protective shell to reveal the inner hard shell ....

so we cracked one raw .... wanted to make sure it was good.  and if you have been wondering about a size comparison .... check this out.  a macadamia nut unshelled and a bunya nut .... shelled. ate this ... had a bit of a fibrous texture ... but was otherwise ok.
woa!  that's a big sucker!
next step is to try the cooking again.   now that we know we have a viable nut .... let's cook it like it says.  apparently this is when the flavour really starts to set in.

the nuts, cooked.
the next photo shows the three stages of the cooking and cracking.  not an easy process i have to say .... but got it down to about 30 seconds per nut!.  the secret seems to be to get a pair of bull nose pliers and use them to wedge into the top and to pull it apart, with the pliers, along the clear fault lines on the nut .... and then to use the pliers to pull the shell back .... at least half way.  then i got a small knife and pierced it and was able to pull the nuts out whole.
cooked, slimy nuts in a pile.  the one off to the bottom right
on the blue towel has had the slime removed (impossible
to get traction to open otherwise.  and the bowl has
the successfully shelled nuts in it!
what do they taste like?  waxy texture with a chestnut / potato starch nutty flavour.  i can see how they could sit around a campfire and eat these (another way to soften the shells, drop them in the fire and wait until they pop!) .... they are certainly meaty enuf!

and a picture tells the story.  roasted about a dozen of them and made a basil, garlic, lemon, parmesean  and bunya nut pesto .... and i reckon the verdict is really good! 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Bush Tucker ... the Bunya Nut way

as part of our move towards a sustainable lifestyle we knew that we would, at some point, be looking at the place of the aussie bush tucker in our day-to-day food feast.  it takes the idea of eating local to it's most intimate use ... the foods that have always thrived where you are and using those to their best in your day-to-day menu ...oh.... this could be fun!  however ... it is not something that has been high on the agenda.  bush tucker would be a part of our JustEarth farm .... but we have to have a farm first!  each thing in it's own time!

in our short time so far in our new community we have met many great people.  and there is this lovely couple that we enjoy, the husband being, well ... a bit passionate about his love for the native aussie way.  he is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to australian natives and how the aborigine population would value and use them.  we have had some great conversations.  not the least of which has been centered around australian trees, specifically the bunya pine.  a majestic and awesome tree that is indigenous to the sub tropics and towers elegantly above the canopy.  he has told me stories of the size of the bunya pine nut (they can kill you if they hit you on the head!), and how the aborigines would come together from all over the northern rivers and southern queensland to feast on these over sized nuts.

yeah, yeah .... sounds cool .... but i have other things that are higher on the radar right now.  right?

so up rocks this energetic mate of ours the other day, pops out of his car and drops in my arms this monster sized nut ... declaring it a bunya pine nut, wanted to show me and ... have fun!  off he goes leaving me with this jurrasic shaped nut with pointy bits all over it.

fast forward to bunya nut education 101!

so ... this thing, honestly is as big as you hear about.  i understand how it could kill someone.  this one weighed in at 3.9 kilo's .... and from what i have read is actually on the small side!

and now we move on how to pull this thing apart!  egad!

nope .... this didn't go .... i wonder....
woohoo!  the hammer and chisel
are actually gonna work!

and we end up with this fine specimen ....

looking good!
just like the book say it
now pulling the seeds out .... not all that hard once you figure it out.  there is a little "lip" that if you pull it away from the section it actually easily exposes the nut.

tada!  our first bunya nut!

and here they are all in there glory.  there are heaps of varying sizes and shapes.  and some look like they are well past their best ... but that's ok ... we're still up for giving it a go!

and what about cooking?

alas poor yorik ..... well .... i did what the research suggested and boiled them all for 20-30 minutes to get the hard shell off.  and they all turned to yuck.

my ultimate tools to try and get something out of the
middle .... but they were all bad.
not sure what went wrong.  the reading also indicated that you need to harvest the nuts within a week of the pine cone falling or they go off.  it could be that the cone was already beyond use.  but needless .... it was a fun exercise.  i gained a bit of an appreciation for all that the aborigines must have gone through to enjoy this thing.  all i can say is that when they are picked in time and cooked properly i have no doubt they are a great treat!  can't wait for next time!

and in the meantime .... watch out for these guys .... they are gorgeous, majestic and inspiring!


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

a bit about bees

this is just a quickie to get you thinking.  me too, for that matter!  we have always felt that bee's would have a significant roll in any property that we will have.  but i don't think i realised how important they are to all of us -- and the tragic tale that surrounds the devastation of bee colonies across the globe.  here are just a few links to the issue around the demise of the bee and the endangered lives that they live.

have you thot about keeping bees? ... i think i sense a blog post coming soon on the many wonderful benefits of having bees -- urban or rural!!