Ve-ghurt.

Guys guys guys! I found another epic vegan recipe!

I made vegan coconut yoghurt! And its freaking amazing!!! Seriously: Even the kids love it!

And this stuff is SO. EASY.

I found the recipe at Chocolate and Zucchini, and pretty much followed it to the letter, using 3 x 400ml tins of full fat coconut milk, and 1/2 cup No Udder coconut yoghurt (From Woolworths) as a starter. Whisked it all together, divvied it up into the little jars in the yoghurt machine. Turned on my little yoghurt maker and left it alone for 24 hours. PRESTO!

Easy as! (Think of all those amazing gut bacterias!)

You gotta get yourself one of these little yoghurt makers – I got mine from Aldi for about $20. I bought it to make conventional dairy yoghurt when my kids were little, and we just could not get it to set! We tried all kinds of things! Fail after fail after fail. So its basically been in my cupboard doing nothing for about 3 years.

I whipped it out to give this a go, and BOOM! PERFECT YOGHURT. First go. Coconut yoghurt ROCKS.

This morning I had it with 3 chopped fresh strawberries and a level teaspooon of coconut sugar. AMAZING.

So look, there really is no excuses for me not to be vegan now! ‘What do I miss out on?:

Yoghurt – nope. Making as much as I want!
Milk – soy (ALDI organic!) or Pureharvest Oat milk
Cheese – Bio Cheese FTW! (Coles)
Ice Cream – Soy Good Soy Icecream, in moderation!
Eggs – I do eat the odd egg from our lovely free range back yard chookies, but there’s TONNES of substitutions! (Right Maxine? x) Chia, avocado, oil and vinegar….
Meat – berk. Try tofu, kidney beans, peanut patties, vege snags and i had the best burgers this week, by substituting a beef pattie with a GIANT, FAT grilled mushroom. Took up the whole bun! OMG drool.
Butter – Coconut oil in recipes, and Nuttelex spread on toast.
Bacon – gimme a break… #facepalm

Did I miss anything? 😉

This is not about how I look anymore. This is not about weight loss. I ate for weight loss for the last 20 years and it made me freakin MISERABLE. And I still got fat anyway! This is eating for how I FEEL. This is love through food. My tummy feels good, my head feels clear, and my heart is happy.

Go on – make the yoghurt. Its a game changer x

The recipe you’ve all been waiting for…

OMG this cake.

This. Cake.

Ben took it to work. His workmates devoured it. Then he told them it was vegan, and ran a guessing competition what was in it. NONE of them got it!

This is the best choccie cake recipe I’ve found. Note I didn’t say ‘the best vegan choccie cake recipe’. That wasn’t an accident! So easy, so healthy, and YUM.

The original is here, but I’ve tweaked it a bit. So here it is:

Vegan Chocolate Avocado Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Pre heat oven to 170 deg C (150 deg C if fan forced!) – thats 350 deg F for you guys, USA!
Spray-oil and line 2 x loaf tins with baking paper.

In a big bowl, combine:
3 c plain flour
6 T cacao powder
2 t baking powder
2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
Set aside.

In another bowl, combine:
1/4 c coconut oil (melted)
1 ripe avocado (mashed)
2 c water
2 T apple cider or white vinegar
2 t vanilla extract
Whisk these together, then whisk in:
2 c coconut sugar.

Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix until well-combined.

Pour 1/2 mix into each lined and greased loaf tin (YEP – YOU GET TWO CAKES!!! One to take to ‘that-thing-you-said-you’d-take-a-plate-to’, and one for the kids for afternoon tea! BONUS!)

Bake 45 min.

If you want an impressive and also vegan choccie frosting for it, use a stick mixer (or hand mixer, or your ENORMOUS POP-EYE ARM STRENGTH) to mix
2 ripe avocados,  
1 cup icing sugar, 
1 t vanilla extract, 
4 T cacao powder.
And use this to ice it when it’s cool.

OM NOM NOM. Who said vegan food had to be all spinach and mung beans?!

Mud Fest 2015

Argh – it’s a Hill Shadow Mud-Fest!

9 degrees c at the moment! Thank goodness this weather doesn’t last long!
Haven’t blogged for ages! Finding it hard to sit and compose lengthy posts at the desk, so expect more posts from my mobile phone on-the-hop! 
Bendigo Sheep and Wool Show tomorrow! I’ll be your On-The-Spot correspondent! 
Stay warm x

 

Ps Bluebell had her first night at Puppy Pre-school last night! Hasn’t she grown?!

Homespun, hay, and hungry hunters.

It’s getting colder and greyer at Hill Shadow. We still get blue skies, but colours are duller. The air is crisp. Morning frosts are a regular occurance now, and the report this morning said it was 3 degrees celcius.

I’d believe it.

I’ve been knitting lots of warm woolies! I’m about 3/4 through Ben’s woolley socks (he MIGHT get to wear the before the end of winter!). I discovered my friend Bec over at Peg and Jane spins the most amazing wool by hand (amazing skill!) so I’ve HAD to buy some and cast on a little cardi for Tara. Im in love with this wool! And knowing that it came from a small family farm in country Victoria, spun by Bec, and knitted by me, makes it all the more special.

And we bought a new little runabout car for Ben – FINALLY. We just couldnt do the too-ing and fro-ing in in the freezing pitch black early mornings and all hours of the night anymore! So this is Ben’s little work vehicle. And life has settle down CONSIDERABLY since!

It was great being a ‘one car family’ for all those years, but completely impractical now!

Last weekend we scored a few mouldy bales of hay from one of our agisters! Unsuitable as horse feed, but perfect for another bale garden! I’ve filled with layers of green clippings, cardboard, manure, straw, and compost, but so far I’ve just planted some peas and some bits and pieces from the garden. Not really sure what I’ll put in there yet.

And of course in true Hill Shadow Farm style, we’ve had some #accidentalfarming happening, with a butternut pumpkin popping up on its own in the garden and these… er… things.

There’s 2 of them. Pumpkins? Marrows?

Someone who has been loving all the wet weather is Katie!

MUDPIES!!! Perfect after-ballet activity!

And speaking of hay, we picked up this load for $4 a bale from an ad on Gumtree! BARGAIN! We got 20 bales, but I’m so getting another 20 when I can! What a steal!!! It’s so nice to have the barn full for winter. Its a comforting feeling; abundance.

Some of the old hay we were given went out to the chooks as a nice warm bed in their chookhouse. And Ben up-cycled this old coffee table into new nesting boxes for the girls – aren’t they brilliant!?

Unfortunately: Disaster. A few nights ago, we made a fatal communication error. I thought Ben had shut the chooks in for the night, he thought I had. We hadn’t. I woke in the night to frantic clucking and I knew. I bolted out in my pjs and gumboots and in my torchlight I saw the flashing eyes of 2 cunning foxes in the dark, licking their lips having helped themselves to our henhouse like theives in the night.

I felt so horribly guilty. We lost 5 girls through stupid forgetfulness, and we both felt absolutely horrible. I now have a very loud piercing alarm set to go off each evening to remind us to SHUT THE CHOOKS IN!!!



You know what IS good about winter though? Baking. Specifically, my husband’s baking.


Just LOOK at this apple pie!!! Tonight he’s making lemon meringue. God help my waistline! I shall have to chop wood for hours to work it all off!

The other thing I cant wait for about winter…

3 more weeks!

What do you look forward to about winter?

Keep warm
xxx

Puppies, pumpkins, pesto and pesky predators.

Hello! I’m typing this on my phone from my front step! So apologies if the spelling/formatting is all over the place! I have to blog this way as I’m multitasking: Chaperoning the chickens as they free range at the same time! 
Mrs Fox is back! And she’s picked off 3 chickens in the past 4 weeks. Last week as Ben left for work in the early dark hours of the morning, he caught her staring greedily into our henhouse; Sitting on her haunches at the door like a dog at a butcher shop window! And she comes right into our yard and up to the front door! Cheeky Lady! 
So no un-escorted free ranging for Lennon and the ladies. Grr. 
But today is an absolute cracker! My washing’s on the line, the windows are all open… It’s so lovely even some of my daffodil bulbs have gotten confused. 
“This is spring, right..?”
Wills having a lovely day in a light cotton sheet. I’ve added some warm, boiled barley porridge to his nightly feeds. He’s a bit older now, and he needs a bit extra in the colder months. Plus he deserves it ❤️x

I’m knitting up a red neck warmer for Katie to wear with her school uniform and some thick socks for Ben. These are my first socks! And they’re cuff-down style – which I believe isn’t usual?! – on teeny thin double-point needles. The first one has turned out so beautifully! 

There’s just a small problem: I only have one ball of wool left and the first sock took one-and-a-bit. And I found out from Morris and Sons in Melbourne that Admiral ombré 6 fach is discontinued!!! F%#€+*!?&@!!!!! Does anyone know where I can get a ball of this?! 

And the gardens going quietly into hibernation. The last corn fronds are sagging. The last tomatoes are shrivelling up. The last basil is curling and going brown. The bales around the bale garden are disintegrating as the first frosts come and turn the once lush-green baby fronds to crunchy silver-grey crystals. We’ll start piling up oak leaf-mulch, manure and compost.

There’s a few pumpkins sprawling around, which will come in handy for hot pumpkin soup with fresh crusty sour dough bread. And I’ve planted a few garlic bulbs, just to see if they come up. The chooks are moulting so we’re only getting one egg here or there, but I’ve been bottling passata at fever-pace: can’t let any of those tomatoes go to waste! There’s nothing like fresh pasta with homegrown tomato passata, and pesto made from the spoils of the ‘Basil Forest’! It’s our go-to week night dinner at the moment!
And if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you’ll already know that Hill Shadow Farm will soon be getting a new addition!

Meet little Bluebell! She’s only 3 weeks old, but I’m totally smitten. She’s pure Border Collie. (Her mother Zoe is an absolute stunner, and super smart!) A pedigree working dog! I can’t wait to take her to obedience and agility classes! Keeping Collies active and mentally stimulated is essential, and I’m totally up to the challenge!
So that’s us, up to now. Katie’s at school, and Tara’s napping, so I’m being Chook Shepherd and sitting in the sun.

It’s a tough life, but someone’s gotta do it 😉

Xx

Blessing, bunnies, and blissful days together.

Hello every bunny!
Hope you had an Easter as good as ours! Ours was filled with friends and fun. The bunny came and hid chocolate chicks in our backyard, and the girls giggled and ran about looking for them in their pjamas and gumboots.
Ben baked hot cross buns, and we had woodfired pizzas with friends on easter night. The girls got home thoroughly sticky and over excited, but having had a brilliant day! 
We’ve managed to cram alot of activities into Katies first school holidays: Family trips to the pool and Eureka Skydeck. There was a Pop Up Park outside the local library, with facepainting and games, we saw the Shaun the Sheep movie, and we went op-shopping. 
But undoubtedy the best thing about these holidays was Ben’s CT results coming back clear of cancer. 
That was the very best day. 
His hair is starting to grow back, he’s starting to regain some of his old energy and health, and we just feel so so blessed everyday.

 There were quieter days, where we stayed at the farm. Days we collected firewood, baked, removed some dangerous tree branches, pottered in the garden.
One blissful day, the girls and I headed down the back paddock with a blanket and our teddies for a Teddy Bear’s Picnic, while the weather is still warm!


And also I knitted some slippers, attempted my first cabling on a beanie for Tara, and am now attempting my very first pair of socks with some beautiful wool from Morris and Sons.

Back to school Monday. The house is going to feel so quiet!

What are you knitting?

xx

Baking, Bikkies, and Beautiful Banana Bread

With the warm yellow sunny days now fading and turning crisper, I thought it might be a great opportunity to share some of my go-to, no-fail baking recipes!
These are regulars in Katie’s lunchbox, or when we need morning tea! 
First, my NO FAIL AWESOME ALL PURPOSE BISCUIT RECIPE!
Yummy! EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
3/4 cup SR flour
3/4 cup plain flour
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
125g butter, softened.
Mix ingredients and knead with hands to form a stiff dough. Roll teaspoonfuls into balls and press lightly onto a lined baking tray. Bake 180 deg celcius (160 degrees if fan forced) for 12 mins for a soft cookie, 15 min for a crunchy one.
You can substitute lots of things for choc chips! I’ve used nuts, sultanas, muesli, dried fruit, m&ms…
You can substitute coconut sugar or stevia for the brown sugar.
You can substitute 1/2 cup coconut oil for the butter if you want a dairy-free version.
So versatile!

The second staple recipe in my house is my friend Laura’s Banana Bread. It’s super easy, and it’s like a warm hug from a friend on a cold grey day 🙂

LAURA’S BANANA BREAD

125g butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup plain flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
1 teasp baking soda
1/2 teasp salt
3 Large very ripe bananas, mashed
1 teasp vanilla

Preheat oven to 180 deg C (160 deg C for fan forced ovens). Mix all wet ingredients together well in a large bowl. Add dry ingredients, and mix till well-combined. Pour into a loaf pan. Bake 50 – 60 min or till skewer comes out clean and top feels ‘springy’.

I promise you it wont last long! And your house will smell AMAZING when it’s baking!

So there you go! 2 staple recipes from my kitchen (2 of many!) that are super easy and yummy for lunchboxes or afternoon tea.

Or midnight snacks 😉

What’s baking at your house?
xx

Autumnal anxieties.

Waking up for the school routine today was just a bit greyer. A bit darker. The butter was unspreadably hard on the bench top. Katie asked where her school jumper was.

Autumn is here.

And I was over reading Kate’s post today, and it made me crave my ultimate warm comfort food: Avocado, Vegemite and Tomato on toast.

Unfortunately our Grosse Lisse’s aren’t doing so great. There’s SO many on the vines, but the minute one of them starts to show a hint of colour: BLOSSOM END ROT.

Ive brought a few green ones inside to see if I can ripen them on the window sill. So disappointing.

Sticks and Dip

The cuc’s are going gangbusters! Growing fast than I can pick them! Katie has cucumber in her lunch everyday, and luckily, Tara’s favourite lunch is “Sticks and Dip”.

Taking the lead from my fellow thrifty homesteading bloggers, Ive attempted to preserve some, and make some lacto-fermented cucumber pickle. (I used the same method I used here.)

Soon it’ll be time to plant seedlings in our winter foam planters for our next bale garden. Which we haven’t got the bales for yet. And to finish our dog fence. Which we haven’t got the wire for yet. And stack our season’s firewood. Which we haven’t got the chainsaw fixed, or started collecting yet. Or cleaned the chimney.

Ive been losing a fair bit of sleep lately.

Winter Foamy Seedling System!

Time’s just flying by. Proof of this: Katie our big school girl is 5 in a few weeks!!! I’ve knitted her these cute slippers from Ravelry. Purple by request!

Cookie knows how to stay warm.

Our plans for Autumn:

More Ex-batts – we’re down to 11 girls, so we’ll be adopting 10-15 more.

Hay stockpile – for the bale garden AND to last Will the winter! We currently have about 15 bales, but I’d feel much better with a stockpile of 30 or 40 more in our barn.

Finish the dog-proof fence – to enclose a new four-legged addition to the family we’ll adopt soon… saty tuned…

Firewood stockpile and service the chimney -it’s not working so great. we’ve been getting a fair bit of smoke in the house and it doesn’t draw very well.

Blackberry Jam – The blackberries are finished, and I have a freezer full of berries ready for pies and jams! I found a Slowcooker Jam recipe (Is there ANYTHING they cant do?!) – I HAVE to try it!

Cast on some beanies and winter woolies for us! –  Winter is coming! Time to get knitting!

…It’s not such a big To Do list, right?

Plus we have to workout what we need to plant now, build a new bale garden, sort out our finanaces, plan and hold Katie’s 5th birthday party, mow the lawn, prune the fruit trees…

*BREATHES HEAVILY INTO PAPER BAG*

At least I’ll be less of a One Woman Farm in the next few weeks: Ben had his last scheduled chemo session today! HURRAH! Hopefully this means he’s on the road to recovery. we’re very grateful that his prognosis is so positive, and we’re fairly certain he won’t need too much more treatment after this. Others are not so lucky, and cant be that certain of a positive outcome. For them there’s no end in sight to the chemo/radiation nightmare. My heart goes out to all those people. I’ve reminded myself of that often over the past few weeks, and it’s how I’ve stayed grateful and positive (even on the days I hit rock bottom. And there were a few of those too.)

Livestrong. Be grateful. Winter is coming, but so too is Spring.

Big love xx

Fatigue, food forests, foraging and fabulous flowers.

It’s been a hard week. A very very hard week.

But I think we’re finally starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Ben did his last full week of chemo, which means we only have two Thursday ‘short days’ to go. It was heartbreaking for me having to drive him there each day, like a lamb to the slaughter. It’s absolutely floored him. He’s lucky to get out of bed each day. And I’ve been doing the equivalent of a single mum and a ‘one woman farm’. I’m exhausted, and the cracks in my armor are beginning to show.

Luckily we’ve had our parents here for the worst weeks, and our new friends have been so helpful! Still, I can’t WAIT until he starts to feel better again.   

Cookie: Constant companion.


And summer is finally coming to an end. We’re going to have to start doing those Winter preparation jobs, like stock piling firewood and hay, and cleaning the fireplace.

The veggies are starting to go to seed with the end of the season, but the garden is still bountiful. Right now there is still tonnes of basil, plus green capsicums, parsley, lebanese cucumbers, rocket and quite a bounty of Gross Lisse tomatoes, still pale green.

We sadly lost another of the older hens last week. Not to a fox this time, but to some sort of respiratory virus-thing that all the others got and got over. But little old Snuggles just couldn’t seem to shake it, and got weaker and more lethargic. She was one of the original hens that were here when we moved in, so god knows how old she was!

Do they all have names? Well, no. But often they name themselves, and we certainly recognise individuals! Aside from Lennon the Rooster, there’s Hoppy (was lame, now better), Shiny (Kate’s favourite), Patchy (is patchy), Scruffy (is scruffy), Trouble (with a capital ‘T’) and Walkabout (who is always on her own at the far ends of the farm pecking at something and reluctant to come in for dinner).

We’re getting about six eggs a day.

And just LOOK AT KATE’S SUNFLOWERS! Magnificent! Planted herself before christmas and lovingly watered and tended by the Hill Shadow Ferals and all our other insect friends.

I can honestly say that we’ve discovered chaos is key in the garden! (Ours anyway!). Ours is an ecosystem. The weeds are welcome!: They shade the seedlings, hide the produce, feed the compost, hold the soil together, feed the birds, conserve the water. Insects are welcome!: the bees tend the flowers, the good bugs control the bad bugs. And we plant everything everywhere in every available space: “Wanna feed, Pests? – You’re gonna have to find it first…!” It is a veritable food forest!

I also recommend what I’ve termed “accidental farming”. Just seeing what comes up. We’ve had a tonne of seeds just sprout from our compost or shoot-off from parent plants. Just leave it be – you never know! Some of those have been our greatest producers! Survival of the fittest! (And if it turns out to be a weed, you can always pull it out later!) An example of this was our potatoes: We just decided to leave it be and see… and ‘presto’! Accidental Harvest!

Also anything you can forage is GOOD. FREE FOOD = #winning! Just be sure any plants you pick arent sprayed, get permission if you need it, and they are DEFINITELY what you think they are (ie mushrooms – mistakes can be fatal!) We have been harvesting LOADS of blackberries from our thicket (we asked our landlord not to spray them!) and found a rogue patch of mint growing in our gully, which we took a few shoots of and have now established in two big pots by our front door.

One day, Old Man. I will get you out for a ride again one day! x

Now, I best go. Tara’s putting stickers on my arms, Kate wants a snack, and there is a suspicious smell coming from Tara’s nappy…

And Im gonna cook some bicuits for Kate’s lunchbox, cast-on some knitted slippers, and feed the chooks. A farm girl’s work is never done! 🙂

xx

Acceptance, abundance, and other peoples’ approval.

Kindness. Always kindness.
I have made a strange discovery. I’ve noticed that whenever we have people come to stay – be it family or friends – I get huge anxieties about food. I feel like my fridge is empty (it’s not) and that I don’t feed my kids/family properly (I do). When I’m on the spot to think what to cook guests for dinner,  my mind goes completely blank and I can’t think of a single thing that I cook for us. I feel like what we eat isn’t good enough for others.

Here’s what we do eat (and what’s in my fridge at the moment):
Fruit (my go-to snack for the kids)
Vegetables
Homemade Greek yoghurt
Cheese 
Milk (soy & dairy)
Gluten free pasta
Pulses
Passata/tinned tomatoes
Freerange eggs (from our girls)
Dried fruit
Nuts
Tuna
Free range chicken / a roast
Brown rice
Bread (wholemeal / rye / sour dough)
Pantry staples (stock cubes/coconut oil/soy sauce/jam/honey/nut butter  etc)
Any slices, biscuits, cakes I bake myself and are sugar, preservative, colour & dairyfree. 
So that’s a basic rundown. Occasionally we have things like weetbix, baked beans, fruit purées or crackers.
Clearly a full, wholefood, very healthy pantry/fridge. 
We eat stirfrys, quiches, roasts, pasta, smoothies, juices, burgers, fajitas, pies, fruit, homemade baked goods, salads, stews, curries, soups…
So why, when we have company, do I feel like the cupboard is bare and that I don’t feed my kids properly?! 
Found! A feral mint patch in the gully! FREE FOOD! Woot!

Take for example today, with my mother in law visiting. Katie said she was hungry and I offered her an apple and instantly felt sting-y and lazy. Like bad parent. A pauper. For offering her fruit as a snack. (“Is that all you have?!”)
Here’s what we don’t have:
Processed cereals.
Packaged biscuits or muesli bars.
Soft drink or cordial. (Ever.)
Milo
Icecream
Sweetened flavoured yoghurt
Cage eggs (EVER.)
Processed cheeses
️Frozen pre-made meals 
Jar sauces/flavour sachets/tinned soups.
But for some reason, these are the foods I feel I should have when guests come! I feel like my kids must be undernourished & underfed because there are no pizza shapes or string cheese stick in their house! 
Blackberry-ing in the gully.

What is this anxiety & where does it come from?!?? 

Clearly I’m doing the right things (just ask your GP!)! And anyone who can’t find something to eat in my house needs some nutritional advice – not me!
But the minute I have people come to stay, I feel the irrational urge to fill my fridge with processed food, sugar, salt, & dead animals. 
Why am I such a people pleaser?! That I will actually do what I know is wrong and unhealthy, just to make people like me! To feel ‘acceptable’! Why do I need to justify the way I eat and live to anyone  anyway?!?!
I guess it’s the age-old predicament. And the instant you say “I don’t eat that” people want to tell you why you’re wrong. Why they’re right. 
“You have to eat meat! There’s no protein in vegetables! Why would you want to do something so ridiculous?!” 
(What?: Care about my food, nourish the people I love, and not wanna hurt things? Yeah – I’m one KER-AY-ZEE woman!) 
Ugh. I need a lesson in confidence, self esteem, and ‘not-givin’-a-f-ck’!