Sickness and Harvest Bounty

So A. and I and the rest of the family have been out of action today with some bug or another the kids have brought back from crèche, Add to that it is a public holiday and the weather was rather wet cold and unpleasant we could have been excused for just parking our tails and not getting much done. And for part of the day this was true.

But it is harvest time and we still needed to get some stuff done and keep the kids amused.

I managed to process around ½ kg of chestnuts into a very nice chestnut past as per a recipe I found on the net from a gentleman called Eddy Van Damme.  

I am going to try a sherry, chocolate chestnut cake in the next day or so if A. doesn’t eat it all by then.

A. did a couple of loaves of bread even having to create a super bowl for all the dough as it rose having brought her starter Marvin back to life it is nice to be eating her sourdough again. She also had a crack at persimmon jam. She was not happy with the outcome. Finding it a tad astringent to say the least. Me I look at it and think how that astringency will cut nicely against greasy doughy doughnuts in winter. Another project for another day.

So why push ourselves when we felt like death warmed up at times? Well not out of masochism or a desire to be seen as somehow great it is out of necessity more than anything else.

Remember we have two little ones and the three year old can be a handful. I would like to blame her mother for this but it is my personality coming out big time in the cute little thing. But she does love helping her daddy in the kitchen and this helps to keep her amused peeling chestnuts with me, better than putting her in front of the TV to while away a rainy day. Her brother just likes to looka t laugh at the both of us. There is also the fact that even sick time travels faster if you do stuff. The final reason is that we had items we had to process. I am conscious of what my friend had to say on permaculture

‘The problem with permaculture is it is the realm of the middle class and when things get tough they just buy their way out.’

So we could have left it, I could have bought bread, or persimmon jam or chestnut paste no problems but we have made a decision to try not to fall back and let stuff go to waste. Call it our little attempt to balance out the other wasteful choices in our life.

Well off to bed to see if I can sleep off the lurgi and hopefully stop feeling like the living dead.

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Prickly Pear Liqueur.

At the moment it is autumn here in Melbourne which is harvest time. In between processing about 30kg of chestnuts we wild picked, drying apples, making cider, and bacon, freezing and bottling fruits. Getting the winter garden in and preparing the mushroom boxes I was given a box of prickly pear.

I processed most of the fruit into syrup. Froze the rest as either juice or in packs of 10 for later use.

But I had something special in mind for the last of them.

I am lucky I have travelled a lot over the years and so has my family and one of my uncles and aunts had come back from a trip to Malta raving about the local liqueur made from these delicately flavoured fruits.

So I spent about an hour trying to find a recipe for bajtra liqueur. And to my surprise I was unable to find a recipe for it … Something had escaped the power of Google. Shock horror. All I could find was references to it being made with local wild sage honey. I did however find a recipe for prickly pear liqueur made with sugar syrup so thought hell why not try a variant.

Basically I put a bottle of vodka (about 750ml) and 15 peeled and chopped prickly pear into a bowl. Covered it in several layers of cling wrap and left it for 15 days. At the end when I opened up the wrap the vodka had taken on the flavour of the pears but was over powering their subtle musky flavour.

I made up sugar syrup mix and a honey syrup mix and combined them with the vodka as shown below. The flavour was greatly enhanced the muskiness came out with the sweetness and as my neighbour and I sat and drank a few of these over some goats cheese and locally smoked Croatian prosciutto we decided that yes this was definitely a drink ice cold on warm afternoon. My favourite was definitely the honey syrup variety but both are very, very good.

The only thing I am trying now is to put some orange rind into a bottle as when I made the prickly pear syrup I used a little citric acid to enhance the flavour and I am hoping the peel will have a similar effect. I might also try some cointreau with it as a cocktail. Lots of options.

Oh and I will get back to everyone on how adding orange peel goes with the both types. If nothing else it will give me more reason to drink some more. It is only experimenting I promise you…


Soak is a bottle of vodka (750ml or roughly 3 cups) and with 15 or so prickly pear for 10 -20 days. You will end up with around 6 cups or so of flavoured vodka at the end.

Drain the mix through a fine sieve leaving the pulp to drain for a few minutes then using the back of the spoon to get the last of the liquid out.

Make up a sugar  syrup being 2 cups of water and 2 cups of white sugar heated until the sugar fully dissolves . Allow to cool.

I made up a honey syrup by mixing 1 cup of honey with one cup of water heating it until the honey is fully dissolved. Allow to cool.

Mix every cup of the vodka solution with a cup of sugar syrup or a cup of honey syrup. I made up 4 cups of vodka mix with my sugar syrup above and made 2 cups of the vodka mix with two cups of the honey mix. Stir so it mixes lightly and put into sterilised bottles.

Serve as chilled as you can without freezing.

A hippie well my wife seems to think so…

A short post as I am just trying to get the last o the 30kg of wild harvested chestnuts processed before they go bad.

I am a big fan or repairing stuff rather than throwing away something damaged and buying new. Good for the world good for my pocket. And let’s face it I am no oil painting so my old work clothes are for comfort rather than looks. I have to wear the corporate uniform each day to work so comfort out of that time is 100% of my requirments.

So when my favourite couple of pairs of Macpac paints had tears in them again A. groaned as she feels she has spent her life repairing these paints. In my defence these pants have history I have climbed in Tibet and Nepal and hiked thousands of kilometres in them.

Up until now she has used another old pair of climbing pants to repair. This has meant i have been able to keep my machismo, just being a rugged repair focused individual soul here nothing else to see. ..

But today she got me…

Retro the repairs are indeed! But what can I say they serve the same purpose and are still the most comfortable paints I can find.  No I wouldn’t wear them out for dinner at a restaurant but I think people get a bit over involved in having the right gear you get them turning up for something like a permablitz with the latest tools gear and clothes. If you want to buy the image that is fine but don’t kid yourself this is how you save the world.

At the end of the day the $200 for a couple of new pairs would be better spent on my mortgage or better still not having to be earned so I can spend more time with my family which is worth way more than a anything else in my life. It is also better not going into making something new and leaving my kids with that legacy. Because at the end of the day what you do good or bad even the small stuff ends being the legacy of those you hold most dear.

And hey I suppose it fits that urban hippie image. Tough girl that A. at times…

The Cheese Coop

We have been owned a bit by the corporate world for the last week. The company we work for is going though an audit and as such we have been working some serious hours but today I managed to get out a little early and go and pickup the cheese from cheese coop.

We only joined this coop a few days ago after we found out about it at neighbourhood gardening get together. A. ordered the haloumi and a caprino romano. The thing about this cheese is that it comes from fresh unpasteurised goat’s cheese from a very small flock. And boy does it taste like it.

We also picked up our ceres fruit and vegetable box so between that and the garden we had a really nice salad with fresh baby cos, shredded red cabbage, tomatoes and capsicum.

I fried up some homemade chips from locally grown dutch cream potatoes as our duaghter asked for them.

Then the crème de le crème the haloumi fried up with some sliced pear.

Due to some pre planning we have been eating ok this week. I cooked up a few things and froze them in preparation, we have improvised with salad and bacon so we have avoided the temptation of take away food that would be so easy with both of us tied up with work but we have not cooked a real meal.

But this was food. Food that tastes like real food and the cheese. Well awesome there should be more of it such small scale artisan type food like this. It is the future as it was the past and it is nice to see someone able to make their own living in such a way without having to be owned by the system.

Now onto another day of the corporate world owning my ….

Quote for a beautiful Sunday

Yesterday we spent all day at a permablitz 2 hours from home. I will post some info on the day once our friends who run it have had chance to post on the official forums

Another busy day here for us. Sun shining gorgeous weather so I will simply leave you with a great little quote to think about from new leader of ‘The Australian Greens’ political party.

‘We don’t live in an economy, we live in a society’

Have great day all.

Making Time for Stuff.

We had dinner tonight with A.’s mothers group. These are a great group of people and have helped A. through the times of doubt we all have when kids first come along. They are a varied group of people but all very nice and have strong views about raising their children. I find such groups interesting in some ways they are an artificially derived form of what would have been available and normal 80 years ago with everyone helping everyone and women of different ages supporting each other and offering advice, much of it from past experience. Now sadly due to societies siloing of the nuclear families this has had to be recreated like so much else in community that has been lost. Growing up in the country 30 – 40 years ago I got a different view. Even at that time the view the city had of community was very different to the close sense of community we had. This was not perfect but better than it is now.

We have a lot to relearn.

…But on with my post.

One of the woman made an interesting comment ‘how are you guys coping with two kids now? There is not much time anymore is there to do other things’ and latter in the night ‘I imagine that you guys are not still making up puree’s for the kids like you used to. I am sponsoring the baby food makers these days…’  It did raise an eye brow for me particularly as I had a comment made recently form another source ‘How do I find time for all the stuff I do..’

Both comment concern me to a degree. I am not blowing my own trumpet but I don’t think we drive our selves that hard to get things done. Some of it easier for me because I really do believe in the things I do. These are things that mean the dollar I earn at work can help me get out of the system rather than putting one foot in front of the other on that ‘good ol treadmill’.

I have gone over the issue behind making my own baby food in a post before in my post on baby food and I still agree with this. Better for my son, better for the environment better for my wallet, which is way better of me. Sometimes you just need to do stuff that is important to you or simply better for you, even if it means less time in front of the idiot box or a few minutes less of sleep.

And that includes this blog which I will be a bit more diligent on from now on.

I hope you can all find time to do what you need or want to, even if that latest reality TV show has to go.

I will leave you with a couple of good quotes that relate to todays post.

  • ‘The problem with permaculture is it is the realm of the middle class. And the problem with the middle class is that if it gets to hard they just buy their way out.’ – Anonymous PDC Graduate
  • ‘If you get one more thing done each day you will get 365 more things done each year’ – Bill Gates

Backyard Chicken Soup.

Sorry everyone for the delay between posts. It has been a busy week or so since I posted last.

Autumn is here and harvest time is in full swing even for we urban I am not hippies. I had planned to do the post below on Monday but we got a message from a good friend on Sunday night offering for us to come up and get as many organic chestnuts as we wanted. A. and I both love them and this was simply to good an offer to pass up. We ended up with over 30kg of nuts in 3 hours so a good haul there will be more on this in another post shortly. And since then I have been flat out making more bacon, processing apples and pears we got from my parents place for baby food. Using up a big box of prickly pear a friend gave me, other food to preserve and make up, cider to press, rhubarb champagne to brew and lots to do in the back yard but all these are all for other posts.

The other day a good friend who runs a blog called libby-cooks posted a nice little recipe called ‘Apocalypse now Rabbit and juniper pie’ and it got me thinking what could I make that was pretty much just from my backyard or a local food swap? All in one pot that would nourish taste buds as well as just plain nourish.

A while back my father gave me 4 young chickens with the comment ‘there might be one rooster in their son …’ well there where 3 roosters in their dad, and after complaints from the neighbours and friends living 3 blocks away about the noise of the roosters at 2 in the morning. I ended up with 1 layer and three roosters in the freezer.

I still had one of these birds left so the obvious recipe was chicken soup.

As you can see from the photo these are not one of your regular nice and round chickens they are a bit long and lean but they slow cook like a dream till the meat falls off the bone.

I did cheat and use a couple of items that didn’t come from my back yard but it could have as easily been made without these few ingredients (perhaps not the salt)

So below are the ingredients. If they have a star and a description they are not from my backyard

  • One home sourced chicken (or a good organic free-range chicken like a Bannockburn)  
  • 5 carrots sliced
  • 5 celery sticks and leaves sliced
  • 2 large Onions diced roughly ** from my father
  • Salt to taste **
  • Fresh ground black pepper **
  • Bunch of kale sliced ** swapped at peppertree place on Saturday for eggs
  • 3 Large potatoes diced
  • Handful of pearl barley **
  • Sprig of parsley
  • Sprig of thyme
  • Sprig of oregano
  • French Tarragon
  • 5 fresh bay leaves

So basically put your chicken in a pot with lots of water, some salt, pepper, the herbs all tied together in a bundle, carrots, onions, celery and kale cook and cook some more till the chicken is falling of the bones. Take out chicken and strip meat from bones (I do this as A. has an aversion to chicken skin and fiddly bones…) and put back in. Add potatoes and pearl barley simmer some more till barley potatoes are cooked and server with some of A. sourdough bread. The almost sweetness of chicken soup works really well with the taste of real sourdough.

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** If you are using commercial chicken you may need to cool the soup in the fridge overnight and then skim off the fat. This chicken had almost no fat on it so I didn’t do this on this occasion.

Yes there are ingredients that didn’t come from my backyard but. Kale and Onions have been planted. I have grown barley and wheat here for chicken food in small amounts before but wouldn’t waste the space now the garden is coming on line. Salt and pepper will be an issue but I suppose I could have used a bit of celery salt and some home grown dried chillies.

At the end of the day this was an intellectual and tasty exercise to see what could do from my backyard. I am happy to be just able to have the fresh ingredients and it shows what you can do with a small 1/8 of an acre block.

Speaking of autumn and harvest got go and finish another batch of apples being sauced for baby food. More posts shortly or check out libby’s blog she is great cook and I am sure you will find some recipes to try in there.