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The Chicken and the Egg

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More new additions to our household… Chickens!

Chook shed

We brought home four chickens last week and they have been settling in to their new home very well. Happily eating, clucking and scratching under the shade of the backyard mango tree. After working out how much it would cost to finish the chook house, we gave up on making our own chicken coop and bought a package deal from a local hatching and produce supplier: Heritage Hatching and Hens. Everything we needed to bring the chickens home for a very affordable price… about 18 months supply of eggs. The chickens should lay for a couple of years and the hutch and feeding containers will hopefully last a couple of chicken generations.

The hutch was flat packed and so Mr T and I happily spent the afternoon putting it together. I finally learnt how to use a drill and found out that it’s really not that difficult after all. And here I was always so intimidated by the bleeping things. Well not anymore.

Two of the chickens are Black Australorps and the other two are mottled (Siamese?) Silkies. The Black Australorps are about five months old so it will probably be another month or so before they start laying, nevertheless, we keep eagerly opening the nesting box each morning to check.

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The chickens are somewhat nameless at the moment (I think I remember a saying about never naming your food). However, I did make an off-the-cuff comment about John, Paul, George & Ringo so that may or may not stick. I’d appreciate hearing any chicken naming tips… anyone???

Garden Update – March 2013

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After a relaxing long-weekend in Byron Bay, the first thing we did after unpacking was get straight into the garden. We now have a new no-dig garden bed planted with the seedlings I’ve been nurturing on the verandah for the last month. In this garden bed we used up the leftover chicken and horse manure we collected on a drive to Tamborine last year, we also used compost from our compost bin mixed with sand scavenged from our daughters day care – can you believe they were throwing it away during landscaping renovations, there’s also commercial potting mix and it’s been mulched with coir peat (coconut husk) to keep the soil protected. So far, the corn, peas, capsicum, silverbeet, & broccoli are flourishing. However, the zucchini have caught a nasty case of fungus due to all the wet weather we’ve been having lately. There’s plenty of new growth though, so fingers crossed.

Mr T also installed a fence around the veggie patch so the dog can’t frolic amongst the edibles anymore. It also means there’s no risk of her demolishing the harvest before it hits our plates as she did with the last strawberry harvest. You can see in the photo that the Rosella and Queensland Arrowroot have grown quite a bit since the last update. I can’t wait to make some more Rosella Jam in a few months.

Fenced off vegetable garden

Fenced off vegetable garden

Biochar video

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A little something for the weekend…

The French Experiment

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Have you read ‘French Children Don’t Throw Food‘ by Pamela Druckerman? I did last year and it was so interesting to read about how children are raised in France. It certainly dispelled any mother-guilt about sending my child to daycare.

I’ve recently read ‘French Kids Eat Everything‘ by Karen Le Billon which is a similar story about a Canadian woman living in France with her French husband and two young children. It explores the relationship and attitudes that the French have with food and compares the French diet to the typical American/Canadian diet. Karen’s experimentation with the French way of eating doesn’t always go to plan and she fails time and time again to understand the French philosophy but with each failure she seems to get closer and closer to the truth of French eating habits. By the end of the book she has developed an appreciation for the French diet and her once picky children have broadened their palates to include seafood, olives, spinach and beetroot.

The French seem to have a strict authoritarian approach to food from birth and their appallingly low breast-feeding rates are not something I envy. However the stories contained in this book are encouraging when it comes to broadening children’s palates. Karen emphasises the French enjoyment of their food and the powerful persuasive nature of peer pressure in getting children to try new foods and enjoy them. There’s a delightful anecdote about a family dinner and the children’s table which is set apart from the adults and carefully decorated, where the children are left to eat together and the older children successfully encourage the younger children to eat seemingly ‘adult’ foods.

Reading’ French Kids Eat Everything‘ has encouraged me to stretch my daughter’s food preferences and the array of receipes at the back of this book have been so helpful. We’ve had several four course dinners as a result. Starting with soup, then bread & cheese, then a main and dessert. And while, there has certainly been more washing up, the joy of spending time as a family, instead of rushing through dinner to get back to TV has definitely been worth it. Oh, and I’ve finally been able to get my daughter to eat her greens!

Sophie’s Spinach Surprise 

  • 1 zucchini, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 or 3 handfuls of baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped
  • optional: 1 tsp butter and, if the spinach is bitter, a small spoonful of honey
  1. Bring zucchini and water to the boil in a medium saucepan, simmer for a few minutes until zucchini becomes translucent.
  2. Add spinach leaves and allow to wilt for 1 or 2 minutes
  3. Remove from heat and blend

For more recipes visit Karen’s website: http://karenlebillon.com/

Garden Club @ Freestyle Tout

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For those of you who don’t know, Freestyle Tout is one of Brisbane’s premier dessert cafes. This year they’ve managed to combine two of my great loves: food + gardening.  The garden club meets every second month and each meeting will include expert advice from guest presenters.

The first event this year ‘Growing a Compact Garden’ was held yesterday with guest presenter Linda Brennan from Ecobotanica. Linda has over twenty years experience teaching gardening and her list of qualifications is very impressive. What’s more she was friendly, professional and was more than happy to share her wealth of knowledge with myself and other attendees .

I arrived on time at 10am and easily found a carpark right outside the cafe – a nice surprise for a Sunday morning. Unsurprisingly, the carpark was full by the time I left at midday.

After introductions we got straight into the gardening as Linda explained how to repurpose wicker baskets as herb gardens. Then we had the chance to make our own eco pots:

And were given tips on growing our own water chesnuts:

We were also lucky enough to sample a generous collection of teeny tiny sweet delights and coffee. There were chocolate brownies, heart shaped choc-dipped biscuits, lemon meringue tarts and mousse-filled raspberry & white chocolate cups. Divine!

All-in-all it was a great way to spend a relaxed Sunday morning and I’m looking forward to the next one.

Bee Watering Station

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Inspired by this video I’ve put together my own bee watering station – no activity yet. Although I do know there are bees around as I encountered a few yesterday on what I think is a Corymbia ficifolia (Red Flowering Gum) growing in the front yard.

bee watering station

Bee Watering Station

Raspberry, Banana & Coconut Bread

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Raspberry, Banana & Coconut Bread

Raspberry, Banana & Coconut Bread

I baked this lovely little morsel for tonight’s Brisbane Transition Hub get together. More to come about that later, but for now, here’s the recipe:

1 3/4 cup SR flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut cream
50g melted butter
1/4 cup plain flour
2 large bananas, mashed
2 eggs, whisked
100g frozen raspberries

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Grease and line loaf pan with baking paper
2. Sift flours together & add sugar
3. In a separate bowl, combine bananas, eggs, milk & butter
4. Stir in thawed raspberries
5. Pour wet mixture into the flour & sugar & stir until combined
6. Pour into a loaf tin & cover with greased foil to stop overbrowning
7. Cook for 45-50mins or until firm. Turn out once cool

Notes: Instead of using raspberries, you can use any fresh or frozen berries that you have in stock. You could also substitute finely diced dried fruit for something different. I use 2 cups of plain flour with 3 teaspoons of baking powder rather than using 1 3/4 cup SR flour & 1/4 cup plain flour. I also don’t use the greased foil, as I don’t buy or use alfoil or glad wrap.