Sunday, October 21, 2012

Farmers as the NEW 21st Century Rockstars

I have just spent a week touring through rural QLD with Rabobank, speaking with women, celebrating International Rural Women's Day.

It has been a pleasure and a wonderful learning experience.

During my travels I realised a few things:

1. As consumers of food, most of us are totally controlled (though we don't recognise it) by major corporations...what we eat, when we eat, how we eat...we are now blindly accepting what we are marketed, believing what we read/see/hear about food and are being forced into purchasing patterns, which are not necessarily in our best interests.

2. The producers in Australia are also being forced into a supply chain that is not in their - or our - best interests and this alone contributes to MASSIVE and UNNECESSARY food wastage on farm, that is sickening.

3. There are few reconised mainstream Australian voices, loud ones anyway, in the Food Security conversation globally...we have the Food Inc, Food Matters, Jamie Oliver and Hugh Furnleigh Wittingstalls doing incredible work raising awareness, but we don't have the same in Australia - and our issues are just the same...but somehow it is easy to say, oh it is happening overseas, not here...well, I am afraid to say, it IS happening here!

4. Issues that can be food related; like skin conditions, stomach pain, reflux, thyroid and lethargy are RIFE, scarily, scarily RIFE and people just put up with feeling like crap!

5. Farmers and Producers should be 21st Century ROCK STARS!!!

6. Women are AWESOME!!!

What this opportunity has provided me is further consolidation of my goals and mission and has refocused my Food Activism and inspired me to continue speaking out on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.

I am also more determined to raise the profile of FOOD as the cause and cure for many, many issues people face.

What a wonderful, whirlwind journey!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Mother Earth

The rewards of good soil: Incredible produce in your backyard!
When we teach vegetable gardening in our How to be an Urban Hippy and Traditional Wisdom Rebellion Programs, the first thing we start with (after planning your patch) is the soil.

Our soil is more important than many people realise; it provides the opportunity for growth, the nourishment for survival and is the basis upon which our entire existence rests.

The saying Mother Earth; is no lie and she is no measly contributor!

In each of the different farming systems there are different perspectives on the soil; each allocating a different reverence to the stuff the food is grown in!

Biodynamic and organic farmers believe the soil is crucial and add organic matter, including manures and composts, to improve the quality and nutritive value of the soil.

In Biodynamic systems they also add fermented preparations to the soil.

These methods of farming exclude the use of artificial chemicals and rely entirely on unique farming systems, crop rotation and care of the soil.

There have been shifts in the conventional farming methods in the last 20 years also, to a minimum till approach, which minimises the negative impacts of farming on the soil (breaking up and destruction of microbes and hummus) and a greater recognition of the value of the soil.

There has also been an improvement in understanding the importance of crop rotation and the value livestock plays in adding nutrition to the soil through their manure.

The point of all this is to let you know, that when you decide to start your veggie patch at home, no matter how small it is (even if it is a tub on your verandah with a couple of herbs in it), pay particular attention to the soil.

 If you are going to scrimp on anything…don’t make it the soil. Start with the best quality you can buy or find, beg or borrow and make sure you tend to it during the growing season by feeding it and keeping it moist and protected.

Your plants will thank you for it and in turn you will be rewarded with delicious and nutritious food.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Opal October

I have to start this month with an insight into the incredible stone that my husband has spent most of his life searching for and bringing to the surface to provide pleasure to those who eventually come to wear it. It also happens to be the birthstone for October AND is drawn from Mother Earth, which is what our months theme is!

Opal has a story that is 100 million years in the making. This illusive and incredible gemstone has captured the imaginations, fascinations and lives of miners, jewellers and lovers of colour for more than 100 years and has sustained communities across three states in Australia, consistently, for the same length of time.

I have to be honest and say that before I moved to Lightning Ridge, I had little interest and no knowledge of the stone, other than the memories of a hot and stinky trip to the place I now call home when I was a child…and the reminder of a wait in the car outside the Opal Cave whilst Mum and Dad chose the perfect remembrance of the trip. My Mum still has that stone.

And now I am in love with it, opal that is.

I could tell you yarns about all kinds of things…namely that the stone has magical healing properties or that, if worn close to the skin it can cure all ills – I am sure that there are people who believe these things – those and the superstition that Opal is bad luck (which the industry believes was a myth created way back in the day by the diamond industry…). Whatever your beliefs, or mine, what I do know for sure about this stone is that it is magical and that it dances in the sunlight and plays with your eyes. Its colour and vibrancy will bring a smile to your face and the whimsical patterns created within the stone reminiscent of days lying on your back looking up at the sky and making pictures in the clouds.

It is also addictive, for the miner. Much like a gambler or a shopaholic, it is the next big find that lures them and keeps them…and curiously, it is never about the money, only about the stone.

If opal were personified, I would liken her to the mythical Sirens who woos men to the sea with their incredible song, only to find that what awaits is a watery grave. But what a blissful journey it is!

I encourage you to seek out and find good opal and come to understand it.

It is our national gemstone and is also one of the most incredible things you will ever see.

We are building a national keeping house for this treasure…a place where the stories, imagery and proof of beauty will be held and preserved for all future generations. Why not join us on this mystery and allow yourself to be wooed…..

Friday, September 28, 2012

Soft on yourself this Spring

I can’t believe how busy I have been for the past few months, I have barely had time to stop and smell the roses (or in my case, the flowering veggies in my patch!).

So my note to self at the end of September is to take some time for me.

Spring is the month of rejuvenation and life and energy and wonder….one should really make a conscious effort to spend some time reflecting on that and savouring it rather than rushing through it like a bull at a gate!

We so often bounce from one month to the next without really taking the time to experience the joy of each subtle change they bring.

September is a sneezy time no doubt, but is also when the air gets lighter and the breeze takes on a new lazy coolness that prickles the skin ever so slightly as it dances over you.

It is the month when you can wear beautiful skirts and wraps but still need to snuggle a little under the covers in the evening.

It is when you can spend lazy afternoons enjoying the sunshine with good friends and a chilled glass of something fizzy and revel in the new life that springs up around you and the bounty of the harvest.

So…next month I am going to be more mindful of the environment around me…take the time to notice the subtlety and indulge in the bliss that provides.

Are you?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Recipes for Springtime!

I love beetroot and think it is a real celebratory vegetable and I am always looking for new ways to cook it!

My favourite way to eat it is raw of course…just coarsely grated and tossed with some extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and cracked black pepper and a whisper of vinocotto or rich balsamic vinegar.

I also love to pickle it. Firstly boiling it in its skin and then removing the skin once they are tender. They can then be pickled in a mixture of vinegar (I like to use verjuice too) and water (1:1), black pepper corns, bay leaves and a tbs or two of sweetness (sometimes I use sugar, other times I use a syrup like maple or agave)…they last for ages in a sealed container in the fridge soaking in this brine and are delicious served with a salad, on a cheese and nibble plate or as a sneaky treat!

I have made a few really good dips out of beetroot too. Cook the beetroot and then skin and all blitz together in a food processor (I use my vitamix) with a hint of cumin, dill and about a 1/3 of the quantity of beetroot to plain or green yoghurt… Serve with homemade flat breads and a series of other dips as a delicious mezze starter to any special springtime occasion!

The most celebratory thing to do in spring is indulge in a little sweetness and the other FAB thing to do with beetroot is to sneak it into your chocolate muffins or cakes! It adds a surprising moistness and earthy flavour that everyone loves!

I LOVE Stephanie Alexanders recipe…and have replaced the gluten based flours with gluten free and always use raw cacoa/chocolate in the recipe and replace dairy with soy or almond!


·         250g raw beetroot

·         175g plain flour

·         1 tsp baking powder

·         2 tbsp cocoa powder

·         2 free-range eggs

·         1/4 cup milk

·         60g softened butter

·         1/4 cup vegetable oil

·         1/4 cup caster sugar

·         1/2 cup soft brown sugar

·         100g best-quality dark chocolate


Lightly grease a 12-hole muffin tin, or drop paper cases into the holes.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius.

Peel beetroot and grate in food processor with grating disc. Set aside and wash processor.

Sift flour, baking powder and cocoa into a large mixing bowl.

Lightly whisk eggs with milk.

Process butter, oil and sugars until creamy. Gradually add egg/milk mixture, alternating with flour mixture.

Tip into the large bowl and stir in beetroot. Mix well.

Spoon mixture into muffin holes. Break chocolate into 12 pieces and poke a piece into the top of each muffin.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until well-risen and springy to the touch.

Cool in tin for a few minutes then turn onto a rack.
So, what are you going to do with your beetroots this spring?
Whatever it is....enjoy them, they are so good for you!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Spring is THE time to be in the garden!

You should have prepared your soil at the end of winter and be ready for planting…how exciting!

September is the time to plant your summer veg; beetroot, cucumber, eggplant, lettuces, capsicum, tomatoe, silverbeet and spuds! Don’t forget your peas and snow peas – there is nothing better than harvesting those babies on a warm summers morning – a couple of years ago I picked 5kg in one day from our bushes…oh those days!

This year I have been so busy teaching everyone else how to reconnect with traditional wisdom, that my garden work is well behind…but I am determined to get back into the garden before the month is out so I too can be sharing in the bounty of the harvest!

We are still picking leeks, beetroots, tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower from our patch – and the most exciting thing recently was harvesting our first asparagus!

Talk about delayed gratification – theses babies take 3 years to grow…so patience is definitely required, but there is nothing more exciting than harvesting your first REAL asparagus spear after it has stretched out from under the ground!

You should definitely plant some!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Spring Senses

I have never really suffered with hayfever, but today, my head is foggy, my eyes are blazing itchy, I feel like someone has punched me in both eyes and cheeks and my nose won’t stop running….this is NOT a pleasant springtime!

The pollen in the air is incredible this year!

We have had 3 years of floods in January which means that the vegetation, even in the outback, is abundant and blossoming at its best.

The wilga and sandalwood trees are incredible, their tiny little flowers are so pretty, but deadly for anyone who gets hay fever!

My garden looks amazing at the moment too!

The nasturtiums have taken over and are sharing their vibrant and fragrant blooms with the birds and the bees and with us – they have such a delicious visual appeal and such a wonderful peppery sweetness that I am just so happy to have them there!

Anyway, back to the hayfever…there are some foods that are good for hay fever and  I thought you might be interested in giving them a go…I certainly am!

Top foods for hay fever

·         Onions: people often go the pharmacy to get antihistamine tablets. However antihistamine can be found naturally in food. Quercetin is a natural antihistamine found in fruits and vegetables, and is highly concentrated in onions. To get the most Quercetin as possible, remove as few as possible of the outer layer when preparing the onion.

·         Honey: there are many long time hay fever sufferers that claim that taking honey everyday helps. It's often recommended that taking a small quantity like one and a half teaspoons is the most helpful.

·         Nettle Tea: nettle tea mixed with honey is also said to reduce the mucus caused by hay fever.

·         Spicy Foods: eating more peppers and strong spices may provide natural hay fever relief as a lot of the pollen is flushed out due to the runny nose caused by spicy foods.