A special Aude autumn

I should never leave it so long for an update here – too much going on! March brought with it a very special visitor from France, and so many wonderful events, we’ve barely sat still.   So here is a photographic summary, starting with the harvest of our beautiful (if only ornamental) corn…

Corn Painted Mountain

Corn Painted Mountain

…the beginning of the wonderful John Blundon’s passionate restoration of our century old shed…

Stage 1 of shed renovation

Stage 1. Removal of the west wall to reinforce the stumps, jack up the bowed frame and trim and replace the enormous wall panels.

…the very well attended, inaugural monthly Cobargo/Quaama Food Swap at the beautiful home and garden of River and Tammy…

Fabulous coloured carrots

Fabulous coloured carrots

Fabulous Food Swappers!

Food Swappers!

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The super resourceful Cornelia showing off banana leaves and fresh lemon grass, (and you should try her home made Indian style ice cream…OMG!)

…a first experience with fresh roasted chestnuts…

Peeling roasted chestnuts for creating creamy chestnut soup (Tilba Jersey creamy of course!), French style - amazing!

Aude peeling roasted chestnuts for creating creamy chestnut soup (Tilba Jersey cream of course!), French style – delish!

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and experimenting with stir fried kale, Bangalay Bend garlic and roasted chestnuts – tasty and super nutritious.

…a visit to the Tilba Jersey Dairy…

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Our friend Aude enjoyed visiting an Australian dairy, having grown up on her family’s dairy in France. The difference between here and there? Apparently nothing. (Do cows ‘moo’ in French?)

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Heading back to the paddock after milking

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Waiting for spilt milk

…the sharing of abundance by Gary and Francis from The Rusty Fig Winery

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Tom and Aude crushing grapes ‘au naturel’.

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The resulting syrupy sweet juice from the chambourcin grapes – yum!

…a lesson on harnessing heavy horses for field work…

David and his Belle

David in the Yowrie Valley, with his Shire horse, Belle, in training for work.

Tom walking behind Belle in her harness - practicing for the real thing one day.

Tom walking behind the young Belle in her harness – practicing for the real thing. One day she will pull the cart and furrow.

…a crash course in evaporative distillation…

David loading the still.

David loading the still with Eucalyptus leaves.

David's still

Showing off his handiwork – although he has commercial grade, stainless equipment, David loves to use the still he built himself.

"....and the oil/water mix comes out here..."

“….and the oil/water mix comes out here…” David sells his pure Eucalyptus and Lavender oils around the district, including at Sweet Home Cobargo.

…a great big Diamond Python in our trees, and not-so-welcome slithery visitor in the chook house…

Red Belly Black visitor

Red Belly Black

…and Aude’s leaven creating beautiful loaves and Easter Buns.

Aude's first lovely loaf.

Aude’s first lovely loaf.

So now as April draws to a close and we are lighting the fire, and the growth of the grass (and weeds), starts to slow, we are reflecting on, and enormously grateful for the abundance of good food, good people and good learning.  Some people leave a lasting warmth and impression though, and although she has moved on, we all really miss Aude.

Celebrating Australia Day in Bermagui

When you wake up on Australia Day and it’s the most perfect Aussie summer’s day ever, you just have to go to the beach, and for us that means the beautiful Horseshoe Beach at Bermagui.

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Hard day at the office for the life savers…

If the weather wasn’t perfect enough, when we arrived we discovered that the monthly Bermagui Market was being held in the carpark right behind the Surf Life Saving Club at the beach.

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Bermagui’s monthly market place

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The biggest smiles at the market were definitely the carnivores.

Tent after tent of all sorts of delicious local offerings right there, and we couldn’t resist coffee and fresh bagels to take with us down to the beach.

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Bermi SLSC volunteers hard at work.

I learnt from the life savers that beaches are given a safety rating from 1 to 10, with 1 being the safest and 10 the least safe. The beach here at Horseshoe Bay has a rating of 3, making it one of the safest (and I think most beautiful), beaches on the South Coast.

Zinced up and having fun!

Zinced up and having fun!

Perfect day. Perfect venue. Fabulous market offerings, and no crowds. One of the many reasons why the NSW South Coast is one of the best kept secrets.

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Part of the wonderful Mimosa produce display

And for our Australia Day lunch, flathead fillets and Wapengo organic oysters. I LOVE oysters, but these are the best and freshest I have ever eaten. Plucked off leases just down the road, which have apparently been named some of the cleanest in the world. The world!!! Man we have it good in Australia.

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Mimosa Olives

The Mimosa Winery and Restaurant is the next local venue we want to explore – fine dining only 10 minutes further down the coast; serving local foods with sweeping views over the famous Mimosa National Park. Stay tuned, and Happy Australia Day wherever you are!

Cobargo Farm

Cobargo Farm is a pleasure garden and working farm located on the Bermagui Road, just outside the historic town of Cobargo on the Far South Coast, about 10 minutes drive from Feast Farm. Three generations of the Holloway and Doolin families help run this farm and last Saturday October 5th was the third time they have held an open day to showcase the amazing job they do.

Cobargo Farm sells at the gate 7 days from dawn 'till dusk.

Cobargo Farm sales always welcome.

Janet heads up the hard working team at the farm where they produce an enormous variety of seasonal fruit and vegetables, raise pigs, chooks and cattle, and keep bees, ducks and sheep. All of this bounty is beautifully laid out around the homestead, shady established trees, a spring fed creek and dams, and flower gardens, including a large collection of roses.

Cobargo Farm

Cobargo Farm

The Open Day was as much about showcasing the local community as it was about getting to stroll around and enjoy the Farm itself. There were dozens of stalls laid out on the lawns, each showcasing the talents and productivity of this vibrant region.

CWA Hospitality

CWA Hospitality

Along with sheep shearing, bee keeping, and spinning, the Galba Forge was one of the demonstrations you could watch, and the unique form of blacksmithing practiced by Hans Schippi was mesmerising to watch. How you can take a piece of metal and wrought it into beautiful, natural looking pieces that are not only artistic, but beautifully functional, is inspiring. Of course, mostly the Open Day was about food- although a great band played on the deck overlooking the rose garden and their cruisy music pervaded the entire garden, along with the smell of the Lions Club sausage sizzle. Alfred and Jane’s Cobargo home made ice cream was a stand out for us too!

Cobargo Farm

Cobargo Farm

We haven’t lived here for very long at all, but I have to say it feels different to anywhere else I’ve ever lived. I guess this is the ‘real’ country here, as opposed to the peri-urban fringe farming areas which are commutable from a capital city. It has a very different feel. A strong sense of community, I suppose because people genuinely rely on each other so much more from day-to-day. Lots of things you take for granted in, or near a big city may not be available (especially services), have to be ordered in advance, then take longer to arrive and possibly cost more.

Perfect hat for this gorgeous day in the garden!

Perfect hat for this gorgeous day in the garden!

But, as Janet and her family would no doubt agree, those problems become insignificant compared to the benefits. You don’t just visit here, you choose to escape, and immerse yourself in a different way of life.

Martin Place farming

Drove all the way up to the city from Gerringong on Tuesday to have lunch with my wonderful, suit-clad brother, and as I trotted down Martin Place, soaking up the Christmas buzz and glittering decorations, to my surprise the country had followed me to town. An enormous screen had been set up and passers by could step up onto the stage, before a blue screen (which was green) and ask questions of a virtual Aussie farmer.

Chatting to a farmer in Martin Place

According to their Facebook page, ‘Ask an Aussie Farmer’ is:

“…an idea grown by real Aussie farmers so you can have your food and fibre questions answered by those who produce it for you.”

So this is how you chat to an Aussie farmer.

Great idea. I hope it gets a few more city folk thinking about the source of all  the lovely food offerings in their city arcades, cafes and restaurants; about how it’s all produced and about the security of its supply in our changing world. Most importantly, the cost of an event like this proves that producers know that the decisions discerning city consumers make when they purchase, will make or break their rural businesses.

Foodscape Tours visits Feast Farms

If you wanted to lean on the fence and chat to a real producer though, why not book a wonderful Foodscape Tour? Spend a day chatting to South Coast Food producers and not only chat about the food, but get to taste it too!

Crave 2012 in pictures…

I know the Crave Sydney International Food Festival is all about the food, but to us it meant teamwork! The very organised and talented Jacqueline and her Foodscape Tours coordinated our big day a few weeks back, but it wouldn’t have been the fabulously fun day it was without our wonderful friends and family pulling together. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves…

So many thanks to our wonderful guests for ‘giving us a go.’

Curious sticky beak spectator

Bunting (and all these photos) courtesy of the gorgeous Adelaide

Fresh pickings…

Many thanks also to Bev, Will & Antonella for allowing us to visit their lovely, hillside garden

Amazing, delicious lunch by Di of A Bite on the Side – service with a big Harriet smile!

Beautifully decorated thanks to Vanessa – The Wedding and Events Creator

A long table lunch courtesy Barry and Monique at Mountain Ridge Winery

Very many thanks to all, and we hope to use our enormous amount of learning from the day to make it even bigger and better next year! XO

Inspired by BD market gardens

Setting up a market garden from scratch is a little daunting to say the least – especially when it’s the middle of winter and you have committed to offering a tour of that non-existent garden in spring! (What was I thinking?!) I am seriously buoyed by visiting a couple of very productive gardens over the weekend though…one very established, and the other only a couple of years old.

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Toni in the field

Not that I think for one minute that my little operations can look any where near THAT good by spring, but after doing a Demeter BD workshop this weekend I am hopeful I will have something to show off. Our presenter was from Western Victoria where he has over 6 acres of vegetables in production, all superb quality, and grown beautifully vibrant without the use of a single chemical input.

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Engrossed participant!

Biodynamics teaches that everything the plant needs can be available to it by using the correct farming techniques, working to optimise the soils ability to feed and grow plants perfectly when they are provided with the right raw, natural ingredients to do so – just as nature does all by herself all over the planet. Our presenter had a load of great stuff to share, but my take away quote of the day, referring to ploughing with a tractor, was:

“You should not work your soil any faster than a horse can walk; whatever you do has got to be always considered and kind.”

Here here. Couldn’t you apply that philosophy in a few workplaces you know?! It certainly tells me I’m doing what I really want to be doing. How blessed am I. Want to join me?

Berry, berry nice…

We have just started running the South Coast Providores Courtyard Market in Berry each Friday morning, and we are having so much fun! What makes it fun? I have to say that the people of Berry are some of the warmest and friendliest people we have ever met.

Sign of the times

Despite the cold, damp start to the day today, they all turned up, ready to chat about seasonality, variety and recipe. Of course, Deb and I don’t much like to chat?! In fact, I just love any chance to chat about my passion for growing food, and Deb would talk about cooking until the MasterChef kitchen freezes over!

And the neighbours make great coffee!

The neighbouring cafe and restaurant owners pop in to poke around for a fresh treat for their menus, and we are brought up-to-date on all sorts of local gossip. Thank you Berry for welcoming us, and we hope we can continue to bring you the goodies for your local feasts for a long time. XO

Selecting just the right tomato

They’ll be apples

Glen and Ruth are third generation on their property at Darkes Forest. Glen’s grandfather bought the land in 1939 and ‘fled’ there from Sydney, fearing for his family’s safety when war broke out. Doubt they would have been at risk, but for his descendant’s sakes, the decision was probably a good one anyway

The big apple

Glen’s Dad started planting the orchards in the early ’50s, and they now have several varieties of apples, nectarines and peaches. They sell almost all fruit locally, as well as to a local business who presses the fruit into beautiful juice. I was lucky enough to taste a sample of their new value add in the way of dried apple pieces – sweet and chewy.

The goodies counter

The very last apple of this season was picked yesterday, so they are super fresh at your Feast Market and at Green Box this week.  Plus, don’t forget to keep an eye out for Glenbernie on the new season of MasterChef in a few weeks when they screen Matt Moran’s recent visit for an apple tasting!

Foodie Tour

Saturday’s Foodscape Tour visit to the Shoalhaven Nursery revealed some favourites, and some not-so-common fruits, some edible…some best left well alone…

Jacqueline among the strawberries

Jo sells her strawberries at the Nursery gate, and also to Green Box.  Last week she picked 120kg – not bad for the first week of May!

Illawarra Plum - tasty fruit one end, seed the other.

This Illawarra Plum (Podocarpus elatus), fruit was small with a very interesting shape, but very tasty.  My dad can grow anything, so I pocketed a couple of seeds for him to give it a go.

Neil's halucinogenic 'cherries'

Walnut drying in its pod

I had certainly never opened a walnut this fresh before – the nut was soft and almost creamy. Neil and Jo’s magnificent garden and nursery on the banks of the Shoalhaven is well worth a visit, but wait until spring when the strawberries get going again – YUM!

Peanut Butter sandwiches on the menu…seriously.

Peppercorn Creek Farm at Picton grows and makes pretty much everything on the menu at The Common Ground Cafe in Katoomba. A fun family dinner there last week revealed a very limited and simple menu, but none of us went hungry, and it was tasty and interesting. Carob desserts were reminiscent of my adolescent fascination with alternative foods, but the taste reminded me why this was short lived! The Mace Latte was a little like sipping hot muddy water, but perhaps it is an acquired taste?

Common Ground Cafe - Katoomba

Cousin Melly & the menu.

Rustic woodwork furniture

One of the many beautiful wall artworks


It all seemed pretty harmless – lots of beards, long skirts, rustic, peaceful and a sense of being home to a family community. Sad that a search of the net reveals the possibility that not-so-savoury people own and operate the farm, and that this is a cult that like all the others, is accused of all sorts of unpleasant stuff. Say no more. Don’t know if I’ll go back. Sad.