Thursday, 26 February 2015

Food fight

Everyone loves a good food fight, don't they?  Apparently not.  Last week the children and I travelled to Melbourne for the EatBuyGrow Rally held by the Regrarians.  We expected to see hundreds of people and hoped to see thousands gathering to stand up for this important issue.

I was very disappointed to find around a hundred (correct me if you were there and I've made a wrong estimate) people standing up for a better food system.  Admittedly it was a week day so harder for people to attend but still.....  I found it strange.  Climate change rallies are so well attended but this one was not.  Is it possible people haven't made the connection between the way food is delivered and the damage to our climate?
Our food system has become so commercialised.  Since the introduction of supermarkets food has moved further and further from our homes.  It became easy for people to buy fruit and veggies so they stopped growing vegetable gardens.  Women left their homes to go to work and appreciated the ease of buying food from supermarkets.  Now busy families can buy pre-prepared meals and can avoid cooking at all if they so choose.  As time has gone by, large commercial food suppliers have found more and more ways to sell their products.  They market their products with a great deal of thought and their advertising works well.  Most people no longer know how to provide food for themselves without going to the supermarkets.

Families trying to manage their weekly budgets are often looking for the cheapest options to provide food.  The commercial companies wanting their dollar have responded by finding cheaper ways of manufacturing food.  Small farms are dying out as companies push them to supply food cheaply.  They simply can't make ends meet.  They've had to sell their land.  This has resulted in HUGE farms owned by corporations growing crops as cheaply as possible.  I can tell you now, the main concern of these companies is NOT your health or the health of the environment.  They encourage intensive farming and they are not focussed on environmental issues such as salinity, erosion, water conservation etc.  Their focus is how to make a profit.  The super-farms aren't worrying much about improving soils because they don't need to.   They can use chemicals to fertilise crops and kill weeds and there's now the option of genetically modified seeds.
Can you see the strong connection between buying from the supermarkets and the damage we are causing to the climate?

But wait!  There's more.  There's the issue of transport. Years back I briefly lived in Shepparton.  I was buying my apples from the supermarket and paying through the nose for them although I was in the very area that these apples were grown.  The large supermarkets were buying from the local orchards, transporting the fruit to Melbourne to their warehouses and then trucking them back to Shepparton.  I paid more for my apples than people from Melbourne were paying!  I've learnt a lot since those days.  The unnecessary use of fossil fuels was causing damage to the environment when I could have just searched for a local orchard that sold direct to the public.  Convenience has a lot to answer for!

Now think about the production of manufactured food.  The plastic and cardboard used in the packaging.  The unhealthy process of adding preservatives so food can sit on shelves for weeks/months.  Additives so that their products will look more attractive.  Do you think this is done to make your life easier, your family healthier, or to trick you out of a dollar?

Food is tampered with in so many different ways.  Milk is an issue that is close to my heart because it is such an obvious problem.  As a person who milks goats and yes *gasp* drinks raw milk, I'm very interested in what is happening in our milk industry.  Milk is taken from many dairies (again the smaller dairies are pushed to provide cheaper prices but are outcompeted by large corporations taking over and forming super-farms), put into one lot, forced through a tiny strainer to homogenise, heated to a temperature that damages vitamins and good bacteria, and then transported again to the supermarkets.  Now not only do the corporations, advertisers and supermarkets but also our government tell us this is done for our safety.
This is a half truth.  Yes, pastuerising milk ensures any dangerous bacteria are killed.  It also kills many health benefits.  It's a half truth because while they have told us about the risk, they have not explained that this risk is absolutely minute and applies to soooo many foods including foods like fruit and vegetables.  Since the tragic death of a young child (linked to raw milk) the FDA have painted such a vivid picture of the risk from fresh, untampered milk that in many people's mind the term RAW MILK equates to drinking poison.  What rubbish!!  You could die from eating a lettuce!  It's not possible to eliminate all risk from life.  We are human and susceptible to bacteria from many sources every day.  I can only think that we are being fed this half truth to encourage us to spend our money on the milk the large companies are profiting from.  Did you know that the milk in question, in the recent case, tested negative for e-coli?  No?!  Well the media haven't really been running with that very relevant information!  So before any proof of a connection with raw milk, our government have banned sales unless it contains a bittering agent (making it undrinkable) and non-compliance attracts ridiculously HUGE fines!  Just for the record, you can legally drink raw milk in many countries across the world.  I feel failed by a government that seems to value money before people.

I know that my children are being nourished by the raw milk from our goats.  I have been giving it to them for over a year now.  One of my children has suffered terribly from colds for eight of his nine years due to a low immune system.  He caught them easily, was affected for weeks, developed infections and developed hearing loss from his colds. Now he rarely catches them and recovers quickly.  Ironically, I have my first cold in two years as I write.

I had never attended a rally or protest in my life until a couple of years ago yet now I've been to a handful.  I don't go willy nilly.  It takes time, energy and effort to traipse to Melbourne with three children in tow.  I attend rallies if I think they are addressing issues too important to ignore.
The EatBuyGrow Rally was of vital importance.  Costa Gorgiadis came to speak, amongst others.  He was great!  Joel Salatin also spoke at the rally.  He even waived his fee because he is so passionate about changing our food system.  The current one isn't working.  Farmers are going broke, our food is being produced overseas, some people can't afford good food and cheap food isn't good for them.  (think obesity, diabetes etc...)  Our food is poorly labelled so we can't truly make choices about what we are eating.   And now we are banned from using food which we know is good for us.

Okay.  I've painted a pretty bleak picture (because it is) but there's heaps you can do on a personal level.  You can grow fruit and veggies, buy locally, buy in bulk, buy organic, buy direct from growers, cook from scratch rather than buying pre-prepared food.  You could also link in with organisations working to create change.
Why not join Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA).  They are aware of all the above issues and their website will explain them much more clearly than I did.  They are lobbying government to try to bring about a better food system.

The Regarians are also very proactive with changing our system.  I must admit I didn't know much about them before the rally which they were instrumental in organising.

There is also an organisation fighting for our right to drink raw milk.  They are the Australian Raw Milk Movement. I'm sorry but I couldn't find a website for them, just a Face Book page.

Now, you know I'm not a food scientist, chemist, doctor etc.  I'm just a mum.  But being a mum doesn't make me inconsequential.  It gives me the strength, the right and also the responsibility to fight for a healthy and fair food system that doesn't damage our climate.  I owe it to my kids. 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A week filled with.....

I'm halfway through writing a lengthy 'save-the-world' post.  Somehow I haven't been able to find that elusive hour or so to sit uninterrupted and complete it.

So! Rather than complete silence from me, let me show you what we've been up to.  Our week has been filled with....

...tomatoes (not mine, boxes bought from the orchard)

...train trips to Melbourne rallies

...coming home to a busted solar hot water system
and nine little baby chickens!
After more than ten years of keeping chooks, I still get excited when chickens hatch.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

My muddle

On my good, productive days, I feel gooey!  I'm living the life I've always wanted to live.  What could be better?

However if I'm honest there are lots of bad days too.  Trying to live as sustainably as possible does create extra tasks.  There are the days on which I wake feeling tired before I've begun.  There are days on which I wake to a terrible mess in the morning.
I'm not a night person and will fall into bed at the end of the day without a thought of the dishes waiting by the sink.  But then I wake up to...........
In our home, more often than not, I don't just pop that empty jar into the recycling.  Oh no, not me!  I leave it next to the sink to be washed up ready to use for some gastronomic delight I am yet to make. I can't waste a perfectly good jar!

There's the garden to water, seeds I should have sowed already, animals to care for, milking to be done, chaff to be bought, children to be taught, a house to clean, cooking to be done, clothes to be washed, appointments to be kept.....

I still need to make time for the children to enjoy the things children should.

I can't throw out that piece of ribbon!  I might use it one day to pretty up a gift.  So I pop it on the stairs to take up next time I walk past...... and the pile on the stairs grows.

The stale bread can't go in the chook bucket this time.  I'll crumble it and pop it in the freezer when I get a chance so that I have breadcrumbs on hand.  Ooops!  Forgot.  I've now found a green loaf in the pantry.  Similarly the plums need attention.  I've used most of the plums for preserving, jams and sauces.  But there's one bag remaining.  These plums are going soft so I'll turn them into more sauce.  Ooops!  Forgot.  They've created their own version of a sauce by turning into slop as they waited for my attention.

Last night I was pickling as Belle and Hubby bottled cider.  No time for dishes or a tidy up.
Life's not always like this.  Sometimes I turn my attention to the house, tidy it up and swear I'll never get behind again.  But then I notice the garden is suffering so I'll turn my attention to outside......

How I long for some consistency!  Or more hours in the day.

Monday, 16 February 2015

The packed lunch trip

You know when you tell someone you're going somewhere and they want to tease you about the distance?  Most often used when you've decided to move house.  You get that supportive (NOT) quip about, "Geez, We'll need a packed lunch to come and visit!"

Well, I use the term packed lunch a lot these days. I think I'm the queen of the packed lunch!  If I need to go anywhere by car, I want to make the most of the trip.  I save petrol by multitasking and I save on time.  Home educating my children becomes very hard when we flit here, there and everywhere.  When we have a few 'home' days in a row, we feel organised and relaxed.  I'd much prefer to get heaps of jobs out of the way on one day so we can be home more.
Hence my packed lunches.  If we are going to our near town (twenty minutes by car) I write a list of all the things we need to do.  For example,

  • buy butter
  • buy shoelaces
  • go to bank
  • library
  • take clothes to op shop (and usually come home with heaps of other stuff from there)
  • sewing shop
 More often than not, I can get these jobs done before or after lunch.  Sometimes we treat ourselves to a pie at the bakery.

However, if I need to travel further afield, due to our small town's lack of shopping variety, it becomes a packed lunch affair.
We're due to go to the dentist for a check-up for Buddy.  He usually goes to Melbourne to the Royal Children's Hospital and always goes under general anaesthetic if he needs any work done due to his behaviour in the dental chair.  Actually, we can't even get him into the dental chair.  He insists that he sits on the regular waiting chairs while the dentists check his teeth.  He obviously feels they are not threatening as they are placed there for the non-patients.  I have found a dentist at a rural city near us that is soooo good with children and have decided to take him for regular check-ups to combat his fear of dentists.  I don't want him to have to undergo a major anaesthetic every time he needs a small procedure.

Sooo..... We'll travel for about an hour and visit as many places as we can.  There are orchards nearby so I might see what they're selling.  I'm hoping to source some tomatoes (for preserving) but I'm not really sure which orchards sell them in bulk.  I'll allow time to ask around.  I'll go to look for more school supplies.  I'll go to a camping supply store to see if I can replace the broken lids for a couple of our stainless steel drink bottles.  I'd hate to throw them out.  I'll try and get a new cord for my external hard drive and so on and so on.  Ooooh!  And I think I'll pop in at Spotlight!  Love a massive range of craft stuff.

The children will have food and drink in case we spend a lot of time driving from place to place.  I'll take our devices so they can study in the car, some readers for Buddy in case we have waiting time at the dentist.  Belle will take some craft.  It will be a big and hopefully productive trip with lots of planning and preparation.  Heck, I might even get fancy and iron a shirt for Buddy for the big occasion.  Lol!

Do you go crazy trying to achieve everything on one trip?

Friday, 13 February 2015

Feed calls

When you're on property, you find yourself behaving in ways you never imagined while living a town life.

Daily we feed the animals.

Here chook, chook, chook, chook, chook.  In the Front Pen (yes, imaginative name) we supposedly house our Orpington chooks but in reality it has become our gentle pen....... the pen for elderly hens, hens with bad gaits, chooks that get picked on.
Here chook, chook, chook, chook, chook.  The Australorps.

Here chook, chook, chook, chook, chook.  This  pen is the goose pen.  So named because it used to house the geese!  Now it's supposed to house only the silver dorkings but has sort of become the containment pen.  When little chickens keep getting in my veggie garden they are likely to end up in here because it's the only pen that can keep little goslings or chickens from getting out.
Here goose, goose, goose, goose.  These guys free range, usually in the orchard.  And I have a favourite by default.  He is named Rebecca.  Ooops!  She's a he!  But still Rebecca.

Then there are the goats.  Come on Daisy.  Come on Gooey.  Come on Esmeralda.  Come on Daisy.  DAISY!!!  Would. you. COME ON!
We have the dogs later in the evening.  SpottyOscAR.  SpottyOscAR.  Always one word for Spot and Oscar.  Always the sing song lilt.
Last but not least is Nutmeg, the cat.  Well, actually, we never need to call her.  She's a cat. She tells us when she wants to be fed.  But if we ever call her, the call is 'Nutty, here puss, puss, puss.  Heeeere Nutty.'

So there you have it.  Behaving in ways you never imagined.  Apparently each group of animals must be called in the same way, the same number of times for their particular species, in the same tone of voice.

Also once named, anything on property remains named.  Rebecca remains Rebecca.  The Goose Pen is The Goose Pen regardless of who's in there.  The Dry Dam remains The Dry Dam even when full of water (not often) and our orchard is 'out the back' although it's at the front of our home.  (When we moved here we were living in another tumbledown house in a different position.)

Have you developed any strange behaviours while living rurally?

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Repurposed fruit

We seemed to squeeze so much into the day today without it feeling frantic.  Some days just work better than others!

The children completed some learning, most of which was online.  We use Skwirk and Reading Eggs a lot.  Then it was time to do something the children have been wanting to do for ages.  We brought the bag of doll's clothes outside and set up a laundry complete with tub, washing powder, pegs and a handmade clothes line.  They had a ball!
Buddy and Pumpkin made up some fruit chews made from juice and gelatine.  That's it.  The only ingredients!
Later I found the three children on the couch horse drawn carriage.   We had a driver, princess and a maid.  I love their creative play.  It's interesting to see them all join in the same game, given their different ages and stages.
Then my favourite part of the day......... I found yet another use for preserved fruit that didn't work.  A couple of weeks ago when I finished my preserves I noticed that a couple of jars hadn't sealed.  I'm very new to this preserving business and have a lot to learn.  I think the second hand lids I used weren't up to the job any more.  I emptied the jars of peaches and apricots into a pot, added some plums and stewed it all well.  That night we had a crumble with the mixed fruit.  It was not just ok, it was divine!!

I popped the leftover juice from the stewing pot into a container in the freezer.  Today I blended some of the frozen mix with just a little of our milk and was delighted with the result.  It was like ice cream.  The children were very happy!

Then it was off to the pool for a quick dip and home to make pizza for tea.  I can be quite lazy with food sometimes, encouraging the kids to eat fruit, make sandwiches etc. but I'm sometimes a little bit amazed by the concoctions I come up with when I am in the mood.  Those ruined preserves weren't ruined at all.  They were fruit crumbles and ice cream waiting to be invented!

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The clothesline

I'm sitting here on the verandah listening to the sky rumbling in all directions.  Some are just low gentle rumblings, others are angry and threatening.  Two fires have started in the hills to our east.  One is already rated safe and the other, under control.  Our Country Fire Authority do an amazing job.

Tonight I will wait until the sky has quietened before I begin the task of feeding the chooks and geese though I know they're there waiting for me.  Now seems like a good time to take a moment and write a post.

I was hanging out the clothes this morning before the sun was too high in the sky; before it became unbearable.  I looked at the line and realised it tells so much about a family if you know how to read it.  Our line is homemade.  We don't like to buy commercial products that use a lot of unnecessary resources if it can be helped. 

It's huge!  That tells you all about Hubby and his bigger is best theory.  Today I was hanging out many tea towels as I often do.  We don't like using plastic so we drape cooling bread, rising sourdough etc with tea towels.  There are heaps and heaps of cloths (cut from old towels so as to reuse an otherwise out-of-use item).  These are used in cleaning and drying our goats udders at milking time.  There is muslin in which the cheese hung.  Again we reduce packaging and the pollution caused by the transportation of commercial milk and cheese.  There are aprons and old nappies used for cleaning cloths.  There are holes in some of the items because nothing gets thrown away while it still serves it's purpose.
On the second strand of the clothesline there is personal information about the inhabitants here.  There are children's clothes in three different sizes; there are women's clothes and men's clothes.  They are not fancy.  You can probably glean that the occupants of this home are practical and not worried about style.  If your powers of deduction are very well honed you may even pick up that these clothes are not 'whiter than white' not just because they are old and second-hand but because we use homemade detergent (which is effective in cleaning clothes but doesn't have chemical whitening agents) and because buying bleach is something this family doesn't like doing.  I do use it occasionally for cloths I've hung cheese in, or similar, for hygiene purposes but not for appearances sake.  I guess it's a balancing act between deciding what standards we feel are necessary and what damage we are doing to the planet.
There are plenty of commercial and packaged products in this home because we can't do it ALL. Heck, I even buy my favourite commercial cheese occasionally but every little bit we do for ourselves is a reduction in greenhouse gasses.  I know many people who live a similar lifestyle to us and believe that collectively we are making a huge impact on the devastating pollution our country causes each year.

What does your clothes line say about you?  Are you well on your way to reducing pollution and unnecessary wastage?