It’s 5.32am and i’ve been up since 11.30pm with baby Dora – nourished by beesting pastries left by our kindly agent from Elders. It’s a funny, lovely surreal time. The whole family is sleeping in different patterns, we are charged up and inspired and “ticking things off the list” at a rate of knots. The farm is a great green explosion, warm rains continue and it only takes a minute or two to watch the grass grow under our feet. Our fondness for analysis is also in overdrive, and we question what we are doing and why we are doing it. In all the “business” we are feeling the need to protect family time and to make time for the things that nourish spirituality. We don’t go to church, but once a month or so, meeting with the Friends of Murray Mountains feels like church. It’s a chance to connect with the land and connect with people who feel similarly. Part working bee, part meeting, part social gathering it’s so much more relaxing than the other room-bound community meetings – you can take a walk, plant a shrub, collect seeds, fortify the tree guards (our last lot were too new and people stole them), or just watch the billy boil on the fire. James, as he usually does, raised a few tangents at the last meeting. Why not plant edible native plants? (Because it’s illegal to pick anything from the park) Why not build a canoe and visit the Friends of Woomargama State Park across river? (The president has a large Canadian canoe but its full of holes). Last week, we were invited across to Woomargama. I would have loved to have gone, but it was a long way from baby land. Something to look forward to.
CLick on the link below to find out who turned up on Easter Sunday. We were so excited to meet her.
1.Autumn Silage – The neighbours said we’d be baling up water out of the lucerne paddock and that we were a bloody waste of the contractor’s time.
2.Our number one daughter – The IVF clinic reckoned my eggs weren’t worth harvesting. Thank god for the homeopathic auntie who reminded us to hold onto a story of our choice. And the friends mother who said “If you can bear the losses you can play the odds.”
3.Marrying each other – In my late thirties I told a woman that I had just about given up hope of finding a husband and children. She snorted in my face and said: “Well hello, you live in the middle of nowhere and there’s no-one even on the horizon. Time to wake up to the facts.”
4.Carrying a child with a risk of heart defect – Thank god for the limitations of scanning technology. Yes there was surgery but yes, we have Joe.
5.Living happily in the big house – It’s cold, it’s run down and yes, last winter I moved out to a cottage with a gas heater. But the lads were here today with the underfloor insulation and we have the fires burning to tickle up that thermal mass and the sense of dread that I used to get in autumn has been superseded by joy at the autumn blaze.
James went to see Arnie Schwarzeneger last year. Not something he’d normally do, but there were extenuating circumstances. The secrets to Arnie’s success – work like crazy, have a goal, don’t listen to naysayers. It seems the art of identifying the difference between a naysayer and a soothsayer is skill that improves with age. Likewise, the ability to identify the sticky, pesky things known as “other people’s issues”. I’ve had some pretty deep chats with my mum over the past week, and we talked about how many people in our family are “on-the-spectrum”. People who are highly intelligent, super sensitive and not particularly considerate. We wondered if this high intelligence lead to a bit of a super ego state, with a world view that says: “Everything that is done in the world is my fault and and everything people do is done to me”. Whilst it may be a shot in the dark towards the unity of life the universe and everything, and a Jesus-like sense of suffering the sins of all for the good of all, it also makes “people like us” kind of tricky to get along with. Beware the victim states my friends. I’ve had some extreme lurches on this little new baby roller coaster…deep thinking as little Dora Bella practises the art of deep drinking. Mother and Baby doing well.
Jean started it. I’ve been following her exploits for a while, but she waited until I was in maternity ward to post that steak I just re-blogged. We love steak-on-a-plate cooking here, but the freezer is a bit hollow at the moment and it’s been a while since experiences like the one Jean just described. I could almost taste the thing. I am reeling with baby hormones and could quite easily grab the family and jump on a plan to anywhere – Patagonia, Manchester, Fujinomiya City, New York….and Jean’s house for dinner. Thus emboldened I challenged Jean to a plate off.
But what seems perfectly do-able at 4.00am on hospital check out day can look pretty shaky when you find your husband driving the 100km home at 60kph in his mothers specially requisitioned mercedes 4wd because you are looking “like you need to take things easy”.
Of course, the lamb I was boasting about was in hard lumps in the freezer. Thank you to our Danny who rescued the body from it’s wire cage at the back of the wood shed, to neighbour Gordon who stored it in his cool room and to Danny again who chopped it up for us. We love having an ex-slaughterman about the place. The venison was also….I shut the freezer, grabbed the baby and headed for the river. Milk is coming in, feet and legs elephantine, head full of good advice, some kind of toxicity from two days under fluro lights in air con on lino. The river is a pretty private place on a weekday, so I could happily strip down and wade through the autumn leaves, the warm sand and the icy shallows. We will always remember this season – for our baby’s birth and for the “double spring”. It’s a mind blowing year for grass and so exciting to see the property looking so fine. But a lot of the plants are confused, dropping leaves and blossoming at the same time. There is a special Japanese words for this, which reminds me that I must have experienced double spring before. Were there heavy snows that year? Two tapping rocks came to me out of the water and I followed James advice to stop singing in english, trying to solve the world with word analysis, and to start singing the songs that the country composes.
All this does not necessarily lead to our plate off, but this is what we ate last night:
Slow Shanks with homegrown parsnip and carrots (and those parsnips really did their magic), milky mild garlic potatoes (enough to heal with but not enough to taint the milk), some basil and lettuce from the *bouquet* james bought me to green up the labour ward food. (The hospital food by the way was very good – more about that later). Lettuce and lamb shanks is not an obvious choice, but we were all too shagged to cook up greens. So how did I get from primal river chanting to this, with office work and a nap to boot?
Should I confess?
Would you enjoy this plate Jean Curtis of France?
Had to try a sirloin tonight for dinner. ( Sigh. Sirloin again? ) We were looking for flavor and texture and overall beefy-ness. Will I remember this steak? Will I want to suck the beefy yum-yum just before I’m done chewing and ready to swallow? Am I chewing too much? While I’m chewing, does my butt look big in this steak? We scrutinize our beef. Cue veg and baked potato ( with butter and crème fraîche ), is this a nice dinner?
For me, yes. The sirloin held up to the challenge of my steaky desires. Brent is working out the rest of the variables.
The selfie is the only way to get a good Madonna shot – learnt this when our son was born and my head was cut off in every photo – the transition from person to piece of baby furniture can be amazingly rapid.
It’s been a while between posts. I have fallen into the bloggers trap of saving up all the exciting things to put into massive article….then getting bowled over by more exciting things and just not getting to the screen. This is the view from my window tonight. A fabulously furry has just scaled the bin, dived and emerged again. There is a light rain falling outside. How I wish I could sit on the cold curb, pat that black cat and stick my tongue out for rain drops. How I miss the green pastures of Burrowye. Home tomorrow. And taking with us. Drumroll. Miss Burrowye 2014….brand new black haired Miss Dora Bella Houston. Born 2.37am on Monday 19th of May.
This is the cottage we call The Cook’s Cottage, although it never really did house the cook. I think it was built out of weatherboards from the old homestead, for James’s grandparents to live in while the new house was being built in the 50’s. Up until about three weeks ago, it housed Abbie, Annie and Christine. Here they are at the Tumbarumba races – it was great to see the girls out of their active wear travelling clothes and all frocked up in dresses raided from my wardrobe. And they won prizes in Fashions On The Field!
As the girls were getting ready to move on, Christine did a bit of cleaning and put her hand through the wall. The plasterboard had been eaten away by bees. I had been watching them creep in under the weather boards near the chimney and knew that we really should do something about the new tenants…but secretly I’d been harbouring Pooh Bear fancies for a bit of local honey. Lewis from Wales arrived last week and is keen to take up residence, but we have bees to deal with first. It has been surprisingly hard to find apiarists prepared to come up here, and even the poisoners visit the area just once a month. With all the talk about bee populations suffering globally I’ve been loathe to massacre our little guests. A bit of web research revealed that getting bees out of wall cavities is really hard, especially in autumn when they are settling down to hibernate and don’t want to go anywhere.
Further local enquiries led us to Hank and he visited today. He’s 86 years old and very busy, but he made time for us and how we enjoyed his visit. He told us that his family had been bee keepers since the 1600’s, and that he got his first hive at the age of seven. He tried smoking the cottage, but the bees kept escaping through gaps in the weatherboard. I watched from a safe distance as he pulled the comb out of the wall and bought me a precious bowlful. Eating honey is another one of the things pregnant women shouldn’t do. Making experimental video of agitated bees is another. I gave both a crack, with results still in progress. I can tell you that I sampled just a tiny drop of the honey and that the sting on my belly wore off after I applied tea tree and emu oil. I am also pleased that filming in slow motion has masked the transition from affectionately cooing monologue to a hearty bout of swearing as I tried to get the workers out of my hair.
James is feeling very run down, so I fed him damper and home grown honey – just processed by mashing the comb against a sieve. I’m sure this is an inadequate processing technique, but hey. If it’s good enough for the bear…
I asked James how the old ladies in community just reached in and poked the honey out of hollow didgeridoo logs. No smoke, no nets, no stuff. Bit of a joke, that one, he replied. Native people don’t get stung.
I come from a long line of dairy maids, and should be focusing on a house cow and the cream separator, but now we are seriously considering a setting up a hive of native bees.
There was a lot of buzzing as we took coffee on the front lawn and discussed a site for this winter’s vegetable patch. Turns out Hank has gardened here before, and he gave us a prescription for our lemon tree. On our return to the cottage, we found the place had been invaded by thousands of robber bees, attracted by the smell of the honey. All coming and going with take-aways, like a CBD crowd. A most beautiful bustle through the dappled autumn light. The opposite of the desired outcome but strangely exciting and very pleasing to me.
Hank left a box in the hope that the queen might settle into it over night. I gave him some persimmons and quince. He’ll be back tomorrow morning with lettuce and silver beet.
Last day for buttoning any of my shirts.First batch of biscuits for the season extracted by fine new pot holder Yellow egg plant and tomatoes and beans and zucchini all baked together with rosemary and garlic. Pomegranite and lime in soda. Olives picked and pickled – soaked for three days, water changed daily, then hot brine 100g salt to 1 litre of water. Wait three months. Quinces with white wine, butter, maple syrup, vanilla – 24 hours in the slowest bit of the Aga. Enough domestic lushness. I took a solo road trip through bursts of driving rain. Munderoo, Tumbarumba, Batlow, Adelong, Wagga Wagga, East Albury, Home. There is a part of me that can only be nourished by plastic biscuits, sachet beverages, The Magnificent Seven on TV in bed at 1.00am…. and some-one else’s housekeeping.
When the rain cleared a little, we found boots, gloves, baskets and scissors and approached the nettle patches. A mob of trade weaners (that’s young cattle bought to fatten and re-sell) had passed through and done a first cut, but with some fossicking we found the fresher looking growth. I only had one glove, so the harvest was an exercise in awareness and focus. Not things I am renowned for. I was transported back to the big nettle patches in Wales, and our muddy adventures as kids. Blood, stings, scratches, cold rain, muck. All highly dramatic near death experiences to us and our friends – Charlotte’s come off her bicycle and she’s broken her back and she’s walking down the drive now…..Oliver is stuck in quicksand, it’s over the top of his boots and if we don’t rescue him right away he’ll…..Benny slipped on the edge of the slurry pit but we got a stick and we dragged him out before…. We were heavily influenced by a children’s farm safety program called Apaches – 35 years later I can still see the accidents – the kid sucked into the grain auger, the kid who drank poison, the kid who sank without trace in the slurry pit, the kid crushed by the tractor, the kid impaled on a rake. It may have left us crippled by anxieties rather than just plain crippled, but I am reminded that our childhood was so much more free range than the experience of kids growing up now. Our guest (more details in the next post) was highly concerned that nettles could be toxic to a heavily pregnant woman, and a web search was very ambiguous. Frequently recommended as a pregnancy tea, and rich in all sorts of fantastic nutrients, the plant still made it to the “possibly unsafe” list on one American site. Beatrice and I discussed the issue, had a think and then another think, and then I concluded that while I am supposed to be eating all kinds of greens, nettles are the only ones I’m craving. I blanched them for 2 minutes, wrung them out in a rolled tea towel, roughly chopped them, then added them to a pestle and mortar with toasted pine nuts, (undeliberately) scorched almonds, two small cloves of garlic, olive oil, three kalamata olives (all we had in the fridge), some orange juice and plenty of orange zest. Lemon is the traditional acidulator for pesto, but ours aren’t ripe yet, so we substituted. I reckon it was the master touch. I also think I was the only one who really enjoyed the dish – one half of the dining table was given over to a Skype meeting to sell real estate and a webinar, James took a call about a seed drill from his Uncle, and our guest of Mauritian origin struggled with the slightly slimy texture of the nettle – it reminded her of the okra she’d been force fed as a kid. I crave okra too, come to think of it.
Our second guest, a well scarred action man and motivational speaker, is often quoted as saying “Give fear the finger”. This time, in my little way, I’m glad I did.
Here’s that creepy little film. Proceed at your own risk…..
Inspirations from a mountain pottery
Grow. Gather. Hunt. Cook.
Living an Outdoors Lifestyle in the Woods of Maine
Plowing through Life in the Country...One Calf Nut at a Time
Curtis Family Farming Grass-fed Beef in Southwest France
Brent Curtis does grass-fed beef in France
Empowering you to fight for food freedom.