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Firing up the (mostly moneyless) home economies

Our last post ended with the butchering of a large car-killed male kangaroo on the morning we rode into our home town on the last day of our three month book tour. This sad and angry moment, which became an opportunity to store a large amount of meat for Zero and us, has triggered a month of joyous local resource gathering, starting with dandelion coffee making.

We have harvested carrots, potatoes and beetroots that we planted before we left.

Revived our sourdough starter and made bread for home and friends. Friends and neighbours have also bestowed upon us many foody gifts, understanding our home production is at a low ebb courtesy of being on the road so long, coupled with an extremely dry year. They know, as do we, that what goes around comes around. Thanks Bob and Beth, Pete, Alison, Su, Maria, Nick and Larch, Lena, Beverly, Kate and Bren, Bee and Ra, and Andrew. 

Planted out new beds and put our permie love shack on Airbnb — proudly the cheapest, most primitive tourist accommodation in Daylesford.

And for money (and love) Meg is back at Melliodora writing, editing, answering emails and phones.

Back on the non-monetary home front, we’ve been walking daily for our fuel,

hand cutting and wheelbarrowing, readying for the winter.

We’ve been preserving fruit and vegetables, using the free service of the sun.

We’ve brewed up weed teas as bio-intensive soil foods for our winter crops of leek, kale, coriander, garlic, cabbage, carrot and spinach.

We’ve harvested apples.

We’ve pulled wild radish seedlings from the newly sown beds and used these autonomous greens in our salads and roo stews.

We’ve both admired and salivated over the kiwi fruits that are slowly readying themselves for our bellies.

We’ve been propagating tenacious spores of the edible King Stropharia (Stropharia rugosoannulata) mycelium,

to add to woody material (currently fermenting) in the attempt to get them naturalised in the perennial food forest parts of the garden. Hopefully soon we will be eating the delicious wine cap mushrooms they produce.

We’ve been setting snares for occasional rabbit nourishment,

and poaching unwanted fence-line grapes on our by-foot travels through our locasphere food commons.

And, over the past month since we’ve been home, we’ve also had several book events that in a way has extended our book tour. We have travelled by bus, train, bike and on foot to Geelong, Bright, Warburton and this weekend we’re in Woodend for the Macedon Ranges Sustainable Living Festival where Patrick will be appearing on two panels discussing sustainable food with local food friends Tammi Jonas, John Reid and Justin Walsh, and where Artist as Family will be performative exhibitors. We hope to see you there.

The locavore’s pleasure: eating garden snails, laughing cap mushrooms 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 laughing cap (Gymnopilus junonius) otherwise known as the spectacular rustgill.

Because we thought this fungus was the Australian Honey Fungus (see comments below) and therefore very bitter, we soaked the mushrooms in milk for 24 hours,

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.

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!

Tumbarumba – a town of dandies

This is the second time we’ve been forced to stop in one place waiting for a bike part to arrive, but as our wise friend John (who we met in Colac Colac) says, “It’s not the problem that’s important, but how you handle it.” Time is expanding out for us in this slow journeying through beautiful hill country and we are appreciating what happens when life is slow and ecologically calibrated.

We saw this incredible Walgalu coolaman at the Tumbarumba museum. A coolaman is typically used for baby cradling and bathing and food storage, gathering and preparation. One tool, many uses – brilliant, appropriate and non-polluting technology! It has made us think about each of the tools we’ve brought along on our ride.

This is our root vegetable tool. It slices down through the soil and uproots deeply buried sources of free and highly nutritious carbohydrate. But we also use it for digging toilet pits, digging for worms to fish with, and Woody uses it as a toy. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) roots are everywhere in temperate Australia and now is a good time to harvest the young tap roots and the tender leaves, especially in the ranges where it is still cool and the roots haven’t become too woody.

While in Tumba we had the chance to rest and laze, throw a line in the creek and do a little gentle foraging.

We caught a 25cm rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and made a delicious meal using local and bicycled ingredients:

Tumbarumba Creek trout, Tumbarumba parkland dandelion root and leaves, our home-grown garlic (bicycled), Tallangatta backyard lemons (bicycled. Thanks George and Laura!), Biodynamic Powlett Hill pasta (bicycled from our local region) and Benalla olive oil (bicycled from Benalla).

We cooked the garlic inside the fish and BBQ’d the dandelion root in the fish juices, adding some olive oil. We cooked the pasta, strained and emptied it onto a bed of washed dandelion leaves. We added more olive oil and squeezed lemon and let the pasta gently steam the leaves. We then added the fish and roots and, well, we can highly recommend this dish…

After a few nights free-camping in the Tumbarumba township we thought it time to do some washing and headed along to the caravan park and pitched our tents beside the Tumbarumba Creek.

With time to drift we closed up the tents, covered the bikes and hopped on a local bus for a wee adventure to Batlow where we knocked on a door to a house with a yard full of chooks and asked whether we could purchase some eggs.

The delightful Eileen welcomed us to her little appley town and we paid $2 (after insisting on paying something) for six just-laid eggs from happy gals such as this proud mama.

In both Tumbarumba and Batlow the towns are filling with a multiplicity of ethnicities to work in the orchards. These particular itinerate workers are using their Sunday to write to loved ones, hotspotting from the town’s library and pulling free spark from the public toilets next door.

Sudanese, French, American, Japanese, Nepalese, Thai and Taiwanese are arriving in the towns to pick blueberries or thin the apples.

Our little caravan park is a hotspot of culture mashing. Amber, a graduate of literature from Taiwan, took a particular liking to Zero and hung out by the creek with Meg and Woody

while Patrick jumped into the outdoor communal kitchen to see what he could rustle up with another large bunch of freshly foraged dandelion. Notice the modern day coolamon.

We thought it time for a medicinal booster using three of the most punchy beneficial foods – cayenne, garlic and dandelion – none of which are store bought but either grown or foraged by us.

Patrick caramelised this awesome threesome in the Benalla olive oil, added the chopped dandelion leaves, cooking them through before adding water and boiling. He then changed the water to lessen the bitterness, simmered towards a soup,

strained off the water, laid the highly medicinal veg on a bed of Tumbarumba sourdough and finished the dish with Eileen’s gorgeous eggs. A simple and delicious preventative to illness and the need for commercial pharmaceuticals.

Our bike part has now arrived (thanks Sam!), we’re feeling nourished, rested and nurtured by a host of local peeps (thanks Peta, Laura, Geoff, Kate, Heather, Adam, Wayne, Peter, Debbie, Graeme and Julie), and we’re ready to face the hills again and the next stage of our journey. Thanks for travelling along with us.