And then he was 11

Last week was one of those weeks where the days seemed to fly without any concept of time. The biggest event was that Angus turned 11. 

Angus is my sweet boy with big brown gentle eyes. He's eager to please, sensitive, and thoughtful. Generally shy until he gets to know someone, then you'll have a best mate for life. He's got a deep sense of justice and fairness and he's steadfast in what he believes. 

10 saw Angus go forward in leaps and bounds. He discovered his sense of self. He had trouble last year with a friendship that turned sour due to a misunderstanding. The child ended up bullying him over a period of months, but despite that, he remained respectful to the kid and quietly but firmly held his ground while refusing to engage in the nastiness. We communicated with the teacher who stepped in when necessary, over time the bullying petered off and a truce was called. The child eventually realized Angus was not the one to start the trouble, but that he was balming Angus for things he had no part in, nor control over. 

Angus's above-board behavior made my mother's heart swell with pride. It gave me a glimpse into the man he is becoming. There is more than one way to be strong. I have faith that Angus will become a man who stands up for what he believes. 

He loves his family fiercely and he is oh so patient with Elsie. Patiently tending to her needs with good cheer. Though he may be a little shy, he is no pushover. 

Like me, he is a total homebody. He likes things to go the way he is expecting them to, we are not keen on surprises. Big crowds and noisy places leave him with a feeling of overwhelm, just as they do me.
For his birthday he wanted to go to the Big Banana at Coffs Harbor. So, we scrimped and saved for weeks in advance and scraped together the money to go. It is not cheap to take a family of 6 anywhere. We were fortunate to have several NSW stimulus vouchers we could utilize. 

We ice-skated, slid down giant slides, played laser tag, and mini-golf. We rode dry land toboggans on a course that twisted through the hillside, and best of all we whooshed down water slides to our hearts' content. It was a wonderful day, one that none of us will forget any time soon. 

Angus requested a multi-layered rainbow marble cake, which we made. The boys were very excited seeing the colourful batter get plopped into the tins which they swirled about. There was nothing spared, It was a full butter, sugar-laden affair. I even used the normal Queens food coloring, ignoring my temptation to grab the natural colours, which I know from experience give disappointingly muddier colours. Angus was very excited, declaring it was the fanciest cake ever. Ha! I love how enthusiastic kids are. I'll take the praise where I can get it, knowing all too soon they will be big and grown. Though I hope they are never too big to get a kick out of a Mama made, rainbow marble cake. 

The boys are going back to school this week, and I am really going to miss them having them about.
I hope this finds you well dear readers. 

Much love, 


and we have a roof

Thankyou for all of your kind comments on my last post. It seems many of us either struggle with gluten intolerance, or have someone in our lives who do. It makes sense that people with food intolerances would be on a similar simple living path, because cooking from scratch from the comfort of our own kitchens means we can eat well and safely.

Beautiful organic, pasture raised chicken from friends at Kanooka Creek Farm just up the road. They are doing similar to what we hope to be doing in a few years and they sell their chickens to restaurants and other local businesses. 
It's 4:30am as I sit and write by the flickering yellow glow of candlelight.  A stark contrast to the white light radiating from my laptop. The creeks are roaring and the morning is alive with the sounds of frogs and cicadas. The rooster was trying to muster the farm into some kind of action, but I think he has since given up and toddled back to bed. 

In farm news, the shed is fully undercover now. The boys all pitched in and worked hard to get it done, and not a moment too soon. It is a wet and rainy summer this year. In fact, it we are having such a wintery spell at the moment and I have been lighting the Aga. I have just tried to coax the last few coals into life for the day though I'm not sure how successful I'll be. I was planning on getting a pot of chicken broth on the simmer. Our nights are so cool at the moment that I have been popping Elsie in flannel PJ's as she was kicking off her blankets and waking a lot. It seemed to do the trick. Can you believe it? Winter PJ's in the middle of an Australian summer in the sub-tropics? Madness.

My garden has been hit by mildew. The cherry tomatoes that got established early enough are doing ok, but the ones I planted late don't look to be doing much. My lavenders are a sickly yellow colour and are clearly not loving the rain. I dug one of the younger ones up and threw a scoop of sandpit sand under it, in the hope to improve drainage and cheer it up.  They don't appreciate soggy feet. There are a few things hobbling through though. My herbs are going strong and I'm getting a steady flow of cherry tomatoes, kale, chard and spinach. Despite battling with cabbage moth. We have a couple of cucumbers beginning to produce, but it's been hit and miss. I find gardening is easier here in spring and autumn when the humidity is less and the bugs fewer. I'm sure if I was out there every day and being more vigilant my results would be better, but I confess I am a bit of a distracted gardener at times. 

The weather is either pouring with rain or swelteringly hot. 

The yurt feels a little like an Alison Lester book at the moment, but slightly less charming. There are complex games strewn about, ready to be resumed when the mood strikes. Washing in various states of drying is hanging in every available space, and we duck and weave through the racks as we negotiate our way around the yurt. The loft has been converted into a complex lego city where dragons, robots and space ships co-exist. Guinea pigs get brought in, bundled in an old towel numerous times a day. It must be said that guinea pigs are very sweet animals, but not very bright. It always feels a little precarious bringing the guinea pigs inside with two cats and a Scottish terrier underfoot. Tuk the border collie appears more trustworthy. Upon meeting them he gave them a a sniff and a gentle lick, which seemed to be a more of a 'hello there' lick rather than a taste test. 

I can hear Elsie stirring so I might leave this post on the short side and sneak back under the covers with her. 

I hope you are keeping well dear readers. Is the weather weird where you are? 

Much love, 


a preliminary diagnosis

You may have noticed my blogging dropped off a bit last year, there were several reasons behind that, babies are busy yes, covid sucked but for a lot of last year but also I was struggling with my health. I was having severe tummy troubles, chronic exhaustion, constant body aches and pains, hormone issues, and walked around with my head in a constant fog.  I had initially put it down to the arrival of Elsie and being run down, but then I became really unwell. Like struggling drag myself out of bed unwell. The pain in my hands meant I kept dropping things and I was feeling more and more like a person such older then my age. 

This book was given to me by a dear friend and is not only beautiful, but filled to the brim with lovely gluten free recipes. 

My symptoms seemed to flair up dramatically after pasta or wheat and a piece of the puzzle clicked into place. I had resorted to cooking a lot of pasta and the like because it makes a quick, budget family, family friendly meal. After a trip to the GP and bloods tests, We worked out I carry the coeliac gene and the blood results that often indicate coeliac disease were significantly risen. 

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease where the body cannot process or absorb gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. In a person with coeliacs, gluten creates inflammation and toxins that destroy the villi in the small intestine which can lead to the malabsorption of nutrients, hormone imbalances, osteoporosis, anaemia and a bunch of other problems. If you would like to learn more about coeliac disease you can read about it HERE The genes for coeliac disease can switch 'on', and can be triggered to switch on by challenging health situations, like pregnancy and birth, illness, a virus and the like. Or it can just happen with no particular trigger. A person can live with coeliac disease for many years before getting diagnosed as the symptoms can be vague. Because it can come on insidiously, people learn to live with the symptoms and often put them down to other things, before they find the root of their problems. 

Now, in an ideal world one would remain eating gluten until after a specialist referral and bowel biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. But the wait for a non-urgent biopsy is a minimum of a year in this area, and I'm yet to even find a specialist who has any space on their books for a new patient. The local health care system is under immense pressure which has been greatly exacerbated by covid. Because I was so sick, I have chosen to follow a strict gluten free diet and I can undertake a 6 week gluten challenge prior to a bowel biopsy closer to the actual date. 

So, for the last several of months I have been eaten a strictly gluten free diet and the change I have felt in myself is astounding. I was so sick I didn't realise how bad I was feeling as I had slowly done my best to adapt and just get on with life. My whole body ached with pain which I had put down to being unfit. Because I was so utterly exhausted all the time I couldn't see how I could get out and about to improve my fitness. But since cutting gluten from my diet I feel better than I have in a long while. No longer do I groan like a 90yr old arthritic woman when moving about. My energy levels are better than they have been for years, clothes that were too small have begun to fit again, my mind is clearer and calmer and my tummy troubles are gone. It can be a long slow process for the gut to fully heal, but as time passes I continue to see steady improvements in my health.

It turns out I'm incredibly sensitive to gluten. If I so much as eat something which has been contaminated by gluten I find myself back to being sick for three-four days. With headaches, full body aches, round the clock upset stomach and exhaustion. A bit like the worst flu but without the mucky cough and fevers. My food has to be prepared and cooked separately to any gluten containing foods. I can only buy certain brands of things like soy sauce which have a 'gluten free' badge on the label. No longer can we turn to the humble hot chook as a quick meal as the stuffing contains gluten and I suspect the seasoning on the skin does too. I tried to just eat the breast meat one day but got really sick.  

It means I need to read packets very carefully, I cannot eat anything thing which has "may contain gluten" in the allergen statements which can be tricky to work around. 

But all in all I am relived to have a probable answer to the health problems that plagued me much of last year, and possibly before. My blogging frequency picked up towards the end of the year, which was in direct correlation to my health improving. Of course I still get tired and run down, I have four children and we live on a farm after all! But it is now a far more 'normal' tired.

In the past I have not shared a huge number of recipes, preferring to link to recipes online. But I think moving forward I might share a little more about gluten free cooking and adapting our family meals to be affordably gluten free, as well as particularly good gluten free products like the very best gluten free pasta I have found which is pictured below. As a passionate lover of good pasta pre coeliac times, this brand of dried pasta makes my inner Nonna happy. Though it is not the cheapest pasta, I do think it is the best. I would much prefer to eat a little less of something and eat a better quality product. I am yet to nail gluten free home made pasta. 

Woolworths has partnered with Coeliac Australia and I generally find them to have a more extensive range of gluten free/gluten alternative products. Their gluten free choc mint biscuits are the bomb. I also shop for things like different flours at the health food/organic store. 

The difficulty with gluten free cooking is that gluten is the thing in flour that acts as a binding agent. It makes doughs bouncy and elastic, it stops biscuits and cakes falling apart. You can't really sub gluten free flour for plain flour in a recipe and expect similar results. They cook up quite differently. Gluten free flours are generally a mix of other flours, and because of that each brand differs. You can add a small amount of xanthin gum to gluten free baking which will help with holding/binding a mixture together so it acts similarly to gluten, though it's still not exactly the same. I find baking gluten free biscuits, brownies and slices pretty forgiving. 

Anyway, more on this later. For now the creek is calling us for a paddle. 
Much love,

preparing for uncertainty

It seems once again Australia is coming into a challenging period with covid. Our case numbers are very high and it's affecting supply chains and putting our hospital system under excess pressure. It is a very good time to stay home as much as possible, if you are able to do so, to do our bit to slow the curve and minimise pressure on the health care system which is groaning under the weight of it all. 

Once upon a time, children spent a huge amount of time at home. These days children do alot of extra-curricular activities and often 'go' to places to have fun. But play is children's work. Art supplies, walks to the local park/beach/bushlands, board games, puzzles and the like can keep children occupied without needing to go too far from home. I 

The government is quickly making policy changes to try and minimise food shortages, such as removing restrictions on truck drivers and the like, but none the less shelves are empty, meat shortages are predicted and no doubt many Australians are feeling anxious. 

If you are a single person, these restrictions may not be a real issue, but as a family of six with the same restrictions applied without exception, they can quickly become problematic. 

However, we are fortunate to have a reasonable stockpile to see us through. We are not peppers by any means, but we are a large family living 1hr20mins round trip from the supermarket. On top of that we live off-grid and sometimes we sometimes get flooded in for several days at a time, so we always keep a well stocked pantry.

If you are a daily shopper, try not to panic about the news we are hearing. It's not too late to change your habits and start a bit of stockpile to see you through. Take a deep breath and lets start planning. 
Firstly, look at the staples you use most. How much do you use? What do you look to grab? These are the things you need some spares of. Think of simple, nourishing meals you and enjoy and write out the ingredients you will need on hand to prepare them. Then when you go to the shops instead of only buying what you need for that day add an extra packet of rice, pasta, oats, a can of tomatoes, tomato paste, flour, sugar etc as you can afford too. These basics are cheap to buy and are versatile. They have a long shelf life too, so they won't go to waste.
Making Rhonda Hetzels meatballs from Down to Earth. Click HERE for the recipe. 

Things like onions, garlic, potato, whole pumpkin, apples, carrot and other root vegetables are long lasting items if stored well, which will provide you with goodness if you can't access other fresh fruit and veggies easily. That way you know you can still prepare nourishing meals for yourself and your family, even if you can't buy other fruit and vegetable items you usually would. 

Most recipes will require some form of oil or fat, so ensure you have a spare couple of blocks of butter on hand and the same for your oils of choice. 

When it comes to dairy we keep a box of long life milks in the cupboard at all times and a pack or two of powdered milk. Powdered milk is not great to drink, but it is perfectly acceptable in baking cakes and making pancakes etc. It can also be used to help make thickened yoghurt. Cheese can be frozen and if you buy a plain pot set yoghurt, it can be used as a starter for you to make your own at home really easily. 

There are meat shortages predicted, and already when we go to the shops the meat section is often nearly bare, so look at sections of the freezer that are less popular. Chicken thigh fillets with the skin and thigh bone intact is lovely seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika and then browned in the pan and popped in the oven to cook through. They may look a little more daunting to cook, but I promise you it need not be complex. If you can, buy a little extra to pop in the freezer. Some cans of tuna/salmon can also be handy to have on hand and are shelf stable. Pepperoni or salami can pack a punch in a simple pasta dish or pizza, last a long time and a little can go a long way. 

Eggs are nutrient dense and are great for things like scrambled eggs, quiche, cakes, pancakes, and a huge assortment of meals. If you can't get eggs, did you know that flaxseed and chai seeds can be used in baking as an alternative? They also last a long time in the pantry so can be helpful to keep on hand just incase you run short. You can google quantities you need in baking if you are going to sub them for eggs.  

Now is also a great time to change habits and get to know your local butcher and green grocer. Because they specialise in one particular area, they will most likely have more contacts to local supply chains and who they can buy form. We are finding our local IGA is remaining better stocked when it comes to fruit and veggies then the bigger supermarkets because they have pre-existing relationships with local suppliers. 

These shortages are expected to last a few more weeks yet at least, and it seems the uncertainty surrounding covid is something we are going to have to continue to learn to live with and adapt to. It is tiring I know, and I suspect many people feel a deep sense of grief and loss of control about the whole situation. While we can't control the situation, we can often control how we react to it. We can ensure we are eating good nourishing food to keep our bodies as strong and healthy as possible. We can look after our mental health by staying connected to friends and family and if needed, we can seek external help via our GP or Beyond Blue has a whole range of resources available.  We can spend time in the garden, or in nature to help ground us and we can continue to make a conscious effort to look for the beauty within our ordinary day to day lives. Last night I cooked meatballs in a creamy sauce and chocolate brownies for dessert, which are some of my children's very favourite foods. The look of excitement and happiness on their faces as they tucked into their dinner and argued about who was going to eat the last meatball made my heart happy.   

However, do be mindful not to hoard food. There is a big difference between sensible stockpiling to ensure you can meet your families needs and hoarding food you're not actually going to use that others could. Being prepared is not an excuse for selfishness and we have seen throughout this pandemic that panic buying serves no one well.

I hope and pray you are well dear readers, how are things in your neck of the woods? 
Much love,

A new year on the farm

It's been showering on and off today and it's lovely and mild. The boys are in and out as they work on the shed roof. After three years I can't describe how good it feels to be finally getting the shed undercover. The iron for the roof was a very generous and unexpected gift from Grant's parents when they were visiting over Christmas. We will slowly line the walls with secondhand iron as we can afford it, but to have the roof on is going to be wonderful.

Having the shed done the shed finished is going to be a big milestone for us. It will mean we can put machinery, tools and building materials undercover. It will give us a place to store all the animals medications and items that isn't the yurt loft which is where it is currently crammed in. It will be wonderful to have everything neatly stored away, safe and accessible. It will mean we can clear out the space in front of the caravan which is an utter mess, as well as move the building materials from under the yurt and clear out the loft which will give the little boys more play space for their lego. Grants tools can finally have a home and he will have a dry, spacious workshop to use when it's hot or raining. Which considering we live in the sub-tropics, is a lot of the time. 

Most importantly it will allow him space to get the woodroaches up and running again properly. For those of you who are new to the blog, Grant breeds woodroaches which are a native cockroach. I know it sounds a bit weird, but think of it as farming on a micro scale. Woodroaches are a sensitive insect that naturally live among leaf litter in the bush. They like warm, humid conditions around 30-38C. They live in boxes filled with egg cartons, eat chook pellets and get their moisture from vegetables. He then boxes them up and sells them to lizard breeders and pet shops via Australia Post. When it's running well, it is a very good business. But since we have moved here we have not been well enough set up for them. They need a better insulated shed and a slow combustion wood heater to keep them warm in winter. We get very cold nights in our mountains over winter and the woodies can't cope. We are also struggling with various native animals that think Grants currently woodroach shed is an all you can eat buffet. 

An insulated shed with a cement floor will mean he can run his business well again. The extra money will mean we have a little breathing space financially to slowly complete the partially finished jobs like the bathroom, laying the flooring, improving lighting in the yurt, starting the fruit orchard and building a much needed undercover deck which will increase our living space enormously. As far as the farm goes, it will mean we can build fencing and shelter which will allow us to increase our livestock numbers and get this place up and running. Until now, these jobs have been on the back burner and we have been slowly chipping away as we can find a little money here and there. We can do a lot with not a lot of money, but we still need some. And raising a family, taxes, cars and the like take pretty much all of what we earn now. It's not been an easy 3 years financially to say the least. 

But, we have broken the back of this place, when we moved here it was totally bare. We now have a comfortable, perfectly functional little home and yard, solar, our first 10,000L header tank and the shed/workshop well under way. We have the beginnings of a nice looking heard of boer goats, chickens and a few steers. We have some animal shelters and portable solar electric fencing set up. We also have the excavator which allows us to clear fence lines and maintain our farm tracks. We need a post hole digger and a slasher attachment yet, but those will come in time as we can afford them.

We are not ones for new years resolutions as such, but we hope this year is a little less of a struggle for our family. That we can complete some of the big jobs we have started and focus a little more on family time and fun with the children rather than quite so much hard work. There will always be work on a farm of course, and we enjoy that. That is why we have chosen this lifestyle. But it is much easier to do jobs when you have the proper spaces set up from which to do them and when you can do them well from the outset, rather then constantly mending and making do with materials that are not really suited to the task at hand in the first place.

Well, I had best go. There is a sweet little girl demanding my attention! What are your hopes and dreams and plans for the new year? I’d love to hear them. 

Much love,

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