Lumps, loaves, loss and lacto bacilli.

They said it would have its ups and downs. Boy, ‘they’ weren’t kidding! It has been a week of epic proportions, but finally, I am seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.
You’ll probably remember from my last post, that on Monday, my poor little dog Henry was hit by a car and killed. Following that devastating day, it was confirmed that my hubby Ben did indeed have a mass on his testicle, and that he would need further tests to see if the cancer cells had spread. 
Cancer.
That threw us all into a state of ‘survival mode’. CT scans followed blood tests, and surgery was booked for the coming Thursday, pending results. Chemotherapy was mentioned. 
So what did we decide to do?
We threw a party.

Well, a bonfire really. And a BBQ dinner for all the people we’ve met in Melbourne so far. What a great way to remind yourself in times like these that you’re really not alone. We laughed. We toasted giant marshmallows. The kids played hide and seek in the dark with torches, and burnt sticks, and skinned their knees. We ate Ben’s homemade flat bread cooked on the BBQ with way too much garlic in the dip. The girls were tired, sweaty, and dirty. Hair all wild and sticky with marshmallow. It was a great night.

One of the Hill Shadow Farm ‘ferals’ hard at work on the apple blossoms.

The garden has been loving this rain! And we planted more veg and noticed more fruit.

Oh look! A guava!
Oh look – are they plums? Do you reckon they’re edible?

We are now contemplating how the heck we’re going to keep the birds off the fig, the apple, the plum, the apricot, and the guava. Looks like we might be spending a fortune on netting… eep.

And to add insult to injury, the loss of our beautiful canine ‘chicken guardian’ has given Mrs Fox a total free run at our free range chookies. She took 3 this week. So we’re down to 13 including Lennon the Rooster, and reduced to dropping everything and bolting outside at the slightest cluck. Our other dog Cookie is completely hopeless. She just lives to sunbake and dust bathe. She cares not for the safety of poultry.

So when all was chaos, I turned to the one bit of affirmative action that the Cancerian in me defaults to.

I cooked.

I could not control the outcome of the blood tests. I could not control cars or hungry mother foxes with pups, or birds, or irrational angry agisters, or sleepless toddlers, or the internal workings of my car when it went ‘BOOM!’ and decided to no longer operate on gas THIS WEEK OF ALL WEEKS.

But I could stuff my husband so full of nutrients and vitamins that bloody cancer wouldn’t know what had hit it. Everytime Ben turned around, I was handing him lemon water to drink. Or fish oil tablets. Or an intensly green, odd-smelling juice. Or a purply-red one. Or a fermented drink. Or tea.

“HEAL DAMN YOU!!! HEAL!!!”

Some of this – ahem, well, probably all of it – was completely pointless and based on unfounded nutritional theory. But it made me feel better. I was doing SOMETHING. I was fighting, dammit!

Funny how people react in a crisis.

So one of the things I made was a batch of Lacto-fermented radish pickles that I made from a bag of radishes I bought on the ‘reduced’ table of my local produce market. LOVE MY PRODUCE MARKET. (But LOVE their ‘reduced’ table even more!)

I’d never done this before, but I love me a good pickle – German background coming out there. Thanks Oma and Opa! x -and I hear that good gut health and an alkaline enviromment in the body can hinder cancer cell growth (you see how crazy it got?!). So yeah: pickle. Bring it on!

I got this super easy recipe from an article by Asphyxia in Grass Roots Magazine no. 211.
Basically you chop up your veg (cabbage, radish, cucmber, beans, carrot, whatevs!) into bite-sized pieces (but if you’re like me, you’ll whip out your spiraliser and happily spiral away for hours. Love that thing!). You use a big clean, dry jar, and you pack your veg in tightly adding 1 tablespoon of salt per 600g of veg. Then you top it up until the veg is covered with clean cold water. It helps to add a little culture to encourage things along, but you dont have to. I tipped in about a teaspoonful of Yakult (Lacto bacilli! Yeah!) but you can use some whey off the top of your yoghurt, or a bit of the juice from a previous batch of pickle.

That’s it! Let the little critters work their magic! Asphyxia says to weigh the veg down with something to ensure theyre submerged to stop mould, but mine were so full, I just gave them a shake or 2 each day. After 5 days I had a quick sample – and it tasted great! Just like saurkraut! So I popped them in the fridge, and we’ve been eating them with salads and with dinner. So easy. And such a pretty colour! Looks great in the jar!

The other thing I whipped up – *wink* – was a sour dough. Oh but I haven’t got time for kneading and rising and knocking back and blah blah blah…. *Aint Nobody Got Time Fo Dat!*

So I’ve come up with a little cheat. You wanna know how I do it?

“shh, c’mere” *Looks furtively around and leans in*

I use my slow cooker.

Yeah i know its not really ‘baking’ or whatevs. Do you care? I dont care! Do you? Nuh, neither do I.

Right. So here’s how you do it. Keep it under your hat. You’ll be the most popular person at parties. And  no one will know our dirty secret, ok?

Right, so you’ve got your starter. (You dont?! Oh ok – go back here and start one.)
So if you’ve done your ‘sponge’ last night, good on you. If you didn’t – doesnt matter too much. I did my first slow cooker loaf just using a scoop of starter and it was fine. but it does work better if you’ve made a sponge.

So. To your sponge add 3 cups flour (I used rye and wholemeal spelt, but you use whatever you like) 1/2 tsp salt, and about 1/2 c warm water. Knead this into a dough. Now I dont know how long you do this for. I’ve heard its all “when-you-get-a-window-in-the-dough” or “10 minutes no more or less” or “When you can stretch it and tie it into a half winsdor knot” – I have no idea. I just knead mine for a bit, until it’s kinda firm but elastic, and not gluing itself to my fingers annoyingly.

Now comes the hard bit.

Whack it in your slow cooker.

You might want to spray the inside with a bit of oil so it doesn’t stick, but you basically are going to let the LOW setting on your slow cooker do the rising bit for you. Genius. Takes about 1 hour, but I just look at it every now and then, and when I think “oh yeah. It’s definitley much bigger” – that’s the point to turn it up to HIGH. It may expand and conform to the inside of your cooker bowl. Lady, if you’re looking for a perfect, french artisian sourdough loaf: This ain’t your recipe. But if you dont mind a loaf that is a little football-shaped, then proceed.

If, after a few hours – like I said, not an exact science – the top of the loaf is dry and you can knock on it – it’s done! And you can tip that sucker out (WITH OVEN MITTS!) and eat it right now if you like! But if you want a golden brown crust to impress your friends, you might want to just pop it in a 200 deg c oven for 15 min or so. And then your house smells like baking bread. And everyone marvels at your domestic prowess.

“WOW – BREAD FROM SCRATCH?! Where DO you get the time?!”
“Oh this old thing?! It was nothing…!” *wink wink*

Yeah it’s a bit of an odd shape. But sliced up with butter and honey and the kids will eat it so fast they wont even notice!

So today I am plodding along. We got the news that Ben’s cancer cells haven’t spread (PRAISE BE!) and I’m planning what books I’ll read and what knitting I’ll take while I’m waiting at the hospital on Thursday. 13 chickens and counting. And we’re having pizza for dinner. (Hey: Nobody’s perfect!)

What do you do in a crisis?
Are you having the week from hell too?
Know where I can get some cheap orchard netting?

Be kind, stay calm, and get your brothers/husbands/boyfriends/dads to check for lumps. Seriously.
xx

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