Friday, 28 August 2015

Grounded by the Earth...

 When I first began my conscious living journey, I felt deep inside something was missing.  I'd open up one of my favourite books, Velvet Pears and revel in Susan's amazing garden, Foxglove Spires and I'd feel something stirring within, something that felt like tiny butterflies. I kept coming back to that feeling, trying to pinpoint what it was and seemed to be the way she described her connection to her garden and her journey, especially in it's early beginnings with her herb garden.  

At this time in my life, we were getting our little cottage ready to rent and finding a way to get out of town.  I wasn't in any position to go putting my heart and soul into a garden.  I did however, have plenty of work to do outside, paving the court yard, pulling weeds and making our backyard appealing for renters.  It was during those few months in 2012, I started to dream about creating my own little patch, a sweet herb garden with a picket fence and wildflowers.  And every time I thought about it, those little butterflies would re-emerge. 

Over the next few years those feelings continued. A knowing that something in my life was missing, but slowly and somehow consciously, I began quietly filling the space.  As I walked the beach, bare feet in the warm sand, on the humid summer days when we searched for rock pools in the Byron Bay Hinterland, when I planted the seedlings in my very first little veggie patch, those butterflies emerged and took flight. I wanted to bottle that divine energy up, I wanted to feel it everyday.

It's been exactly three years now since my journey began, what I think of now as my reset to life.  And after much searching, thinking, dreaming, meditating and wandering, I've now come to realise what it is I was missing all those years of my life was a real dialogue with the Earth and my own place in the natural world.  In the busyness of my 'previous life', I didn't allow myself any real time to connect with Mother Nature.  If I did it was behind the lens or only on superficially. I had forgotten how to tune in to nature and truly be in the moment, something I always used to do as a child. 

These days, my life is very different. These days I endevour to embrace those moments.  I no longer search for things to photograph or blog about, I live my life, surround myself with the natural world and those beautiful things that I want to share find me. I take my days slowly and whenever possible spend time outside. I've realised that there is so much to be learnt by observing and engaging with Mother Nature, she is the most incredible teacher. And when Tallow is making mud pies and splashing in puddles and I'm watering or weeding, or harvest veggies for dinner, we are both in that elemental moment, using all of our senses, grounded by the Earth.  

And that is where I have have found my place. Right there in my little patch, as I watch the bees, harvest kale by moonlight, pick dandelions and mint to dye yarn.  I know I have found what I was longing for.  

Much Love & Light

Thursday, 27 August 2015

We Grow, Gather & Preserve - Lilly Pillys

I'm new to foraging, very new.. In fact I'm still a little bit of a worry wort about the whole, pick something off a random bush and eat it thing. Blame it on my childhood growing up in the tropics, where there were quite a few things you really didn't want to touch or eat, especially in the rainforest. This season though, I'm shaking off my childhood fears of 'wait a while' and 'stinging trees' and I'm starting to find the whole foraging experience wonderfully exciting. I feel like a kid on a treasure hunt!

Now I must begin by saying we didn't go far to forage our Lilly Pillys, in fact, to my surprise, we had a whole hedge of them growing in our front yard.  Talk about a win! After Ben reassured me for the twentieth time that these beautifully hued pink berries, were in fact, not only edible but could be made into sparking wine and jam, I couldn't resist giving it a go. So off we went, with our little basket, for our first family foraging adventure.

Making jam has always intrigued me.  It was one of those things I imagined was incredibly complex and took a great deal of patience and skill to master.  And although it can be a bit fiddly and takes a little while, I'm beginning to realise, once you gain a bit of confidence and just play practice, the world is your jam jar. There's just something so romantic about preserving the season.  I found this River Cottage Bites episode so helpful for preserving tips & tricks. 

For my Lilly Pilly jam I wanted to keep things as simple as possible, so I found a basic strawberry jam recipe, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. And you know what.. it worked! There's no waiting, minimal boiling and beautiful, tasty results.  

Easy Lilly Pilly Jam
(this recipe made two medium jars and one little jar)

500g of Lilly Pillys*
500g of jam setting sugar
3 tbsp of water
A knob of butter

Wash and sterilise your jars.  I find the oven method is nice and easy and works really well. 
Pop a saucer into the freezer. This will be for testing your jam.
Wash and de-seed the Lilly Pillys and discard the bad ones. They are really easy to open using your fingers. 

Crush the Lilly Pillys in a large bowl using a potato masher.  As the berry doesn't contain a great deal of juice, I added a few of tablespoons of water to help crush the berries and develop a juice (add a little more water if need be).
Once the Lilly Pillys are crushed add them to a large pot along with the jam setting sugar.
Heat the mixture on a low heat until the sugar dissolves.

Add a knob of butter and then increase the heat and bring to a full rolling boil.  (You can tell when you achieve a true rolling boil when the boil can not be stirred down)
Boil for four minutes (I like to set a timer). You can gently stir the mixture, maintaining a clockwise motion.  Be sure not to walk away at this point. 
After four minutes, retrieve your saucer from the freezer and test to see the jam has set. Do this by adding a small amount to the saucer and pushing it with your finger.  The jam should wrinkle and look like jam rather than syrup. 
Continue the boil until this consistency has been achieved (It shouldn't take much longer and the jam will set more in the jars).

Take the jam off the heat and remove your jars from the oven.
Ladle the jam into a jug, then carefully pour into the sterilised jars and screw the lids on tightly.
Enjoy on fresh homemade bread or scones. Pot of tea essential! 

*Of course if you don't have a random Lilly Pilly hedge in your garden you can replace them with any type of berry you like. Finally quantities may vary. Just be sure to use equal parts jam setting sugar to fruit.

What have you been foraging and preserving lately?
Much Love & Light 

PS. More from our Grow & Gather series here..

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Everyday Moments..

The local almond orchard in bloom sings to my soul..
These two.. Having a chat about the ducks on the river..
Every winter harvest is special, especially when there's Romanesco broccoli in the basket..
The play dough phase has begun.. Home made & naturally coloured with spirulina, turmeric and cocoa.. 
The very beginnings of our Summer garden.. We've got plans for some raised beds, more bean teepees, some interesting heirloom varieties and some happy chickens too.. 
A late Winter vista over to one of my favourite local heritage homesteads..

Much Love and Light

Monday, 24 August 2015

Capturing the Weekend - 34/52..

A portrait capturing our weekend, each week, in 2015."

Sunday 3:30pm: 'Come on Daddy, come on!' Taking the lead on the way to see the ducks at Junction Park..
 (Note: She dressed herself for the occasion)

Much Love & Light

PS. I'm over at the gorgeous Maxabella Loves today, sharing a special guest post about one of my favourite local, hidden places to take kids, the beautiful and ancient Perry Sandhills. If you're ever in Mildura, it's definitely worth the a visit.