living in season

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The longtime readers will know that I love living seasonally. For those unaware, this basically means I try my best to eat what’s in season. I live by a food calendar, and this calendar is dictated by nature. This has its benefits and its downsides.

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By eating mostly what I can either grow, hunt or gather at a particular time of year, I rely less on transported whole foods that are grown in warmer climates, while it’s freezing winter here. I’m opting out of having my food trucked 2,000+ kilometres to get to me. It does limit what I can eat at any given time, but it’s also exciting when something comes back in season, or I find a new food source that I can plunder.

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I was fortunate enough to have been introduced to a brother called Tim, who works at some flash restaurant in Castlemaine called ‘The Good Table’ where they cook seasonally and put foraged ingredients on the menu, including the elusive and highly prized morel mushroom. Tim and I went searching for them at one of his spots (never to be revealed…sorry) and we found a few gems. I’m not sure if it was his kind heart or an element of mere pity, but Tim gifted me the mini haul. I’ve never been out hunting for this mushroom, and I was waiting for someone to step into my world and take me, and now that I’ve popped my morel cherry I can’t wait for next season…or maybe go out again tomorrow.

I grilled rabbit back strap (and sage leaves) from a hunt earlier in the week, and pan fried the morels with some of my home cured jamon. The meal produced a few sex noises. It’s a goer for book #2. If there ever is a book #2.

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More strange noises came from a boozy broccoli and broad bean salad earlier in the week. It’s just starting to become more prevalent in my garden as I planted it much later in the season due to a house move, but I’m happy just to see those beautiful green sprouts.

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I did something that I never really thought of doing earlier. I grilled the broccoli on a griddle, with a splash of (insert secret booze). The salad had a few other bits and pieces like dill and mizuna etc. It was a pearler.

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I still love it when people say I live a fanciful fake life. And that it’s impossible to really do what I do. I love that people don’t believe me. It makes living it so much more enjoyable, because I know it’s real.

back to secret river

It’s been too dangerous to fish the secret river as in winter it’s prone to flash flooding. But I’ve been wanting to get the tent back on top of the old Jeep and camp over and catch some eel. I haven’t taken many people down to this spot, I like to keep it as secret as possible so it doesn’t get wrecked.

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Unfortunately not everyone has the same approach to camping here in Australia, and heavily used camping spots are often littered with trash and there is undoubtedly evidence of some city slicker’s wild time spent with a new hatchet trying to chop down green trees for firewood. So for now I’d prefer to keep this spot as hidden from the public as possible.

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In any case it’s a bit tricky to get to, there’s no mobile reception and in summer it’s loaded with snakes. I’m trying my dandiest to make it sound unappealing. But in fact it is a beautiful little spot. And fishing for eel here is easy, all it requires is the old worm on the hook and fish overnight (as the eels feed nocturnally).

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We had to walk only a few hundred metres from camp to the deeper and slower pools to drop the lines for the eel. Henry boy had a ball this weekend, running in the long grass, pretending to be the hunting dog that he will one day be. I’m so proud of this dog. So glad my mate convinced me on English Pointers.

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I normally smoke the eel and then it ends up featured in many different meals. It’s a nice meat, even though it’s snake-like appearance and slimy skin tend to put people off. I like it. And like all the other meat I hunt in the wild, I view it the same as the rest. It’s something I can hunt for easily enough and like rabbit can replace chicken, smoked eel can be used as a substitute for trout. But it has a unique flavour of its own that can’t be dismissed.

On this trip Kate bought us a rare treat from John Harbour, our local butcher…some delicious lamp chops, which I marinated overnight with rosemary, garlic and olive oil. We don’t eat lamb really, so this was a real treat for us to devour red meat. And boy did we enjoy it! One day I’ll start raising a few lambs for us. But until then, I’ll stick to mostly wild meats, with the occasional purchase from the butcher.

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One thing that I was pretty excited about for this trip was being able to use my new general purpose knife, crafted by GRAYBEAR. It’s a real piece of craftsmanship from this backyard craftsman based in New South Wales. To be honest I’d given up on finding an Australian maker of knives that would suit me, but I’m glad I stumbled on his work. The knives are Scandinavian influenced in design and materials, but it’s the sharpness of the steel that I find most amazing…in fact I was intimidated by how sharp it was. I’ve never handled a knife like this, and now she sits on my waist every day I’m out bush hunting, fishing or in the veg patch. She’s my everyday tool.

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If you’re looking for that one of a kind knife that suits your needs specially, contact Graham and he’ll chat knives to you.

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We stayed just the one night, but next time we’ll take provisions for two as we really struggled to pack up and head home, it was just so beautiful to be out there again. We had all the comforts, a warm fire, plenty of driftwood, good food, a comfy rooftop tent and an ice box full of cold beer. Honestly what more do you need for a successful camp?

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It’s so good to have the old tent sitting on top of the Jeep once again. Now home is where I park it.

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whole larder love – the book

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Firstly let me just say thank you to all those who have at some point taken the time to read my blog. The only reason I continue with it is to share my world with you. And as some of you may know my world will also soon be available to read in the form of a new book, cleverly named Whole Larder Love after the name of the blog. It took a team of creative geniuses to come up with the name for the book. My initial suggestion for the book title was ‘Cooking and Stuff with Rohan’ but the publishers didn’t like that idea. Apparently it didn’t have the right ring they wanted.

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I have two publishers, one in America and one based in my home country Australia. Thus there are two versions, and the distinction is in measurements, imperial and metric. Pick your choice. Below I’ve provided two links for orders. The book appears to be online at many internet retailers, and it will also be available in all good bookstores of course, so order where you want to, but remember the difference for US and Australian measurements.

Here are the release dates and links:

AUSTRALIA (Released September 26th)- PRE-ORDER HERE at Readings and get a signed copy.

USA and the rest of the world (Released October 9th)- Amazon ORDER HERE

what is possible

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I’m often asked how much time I spend on working for my food. The answer is very little really. Once a veg garden is set up you don’t need to do much ongoing maintenance. Maybe I’m just used to it – the work in the patch that is. To be honest, once the plant is in the soil you just keep an eye on it, water it when it’s dry and then harvest it. It’s really not hard. The same goes for keeping chooks. Once you’ve built the hens’ enclosure, you just have to feed and water them and collect the eggs.

Nothing is hard in life unless you allow it to be hard. How you live you life is a matter of choice. I choose not to watch telly. I choose to work for most of my food. I choose to grow veg, to look after some chooks, to hunt, to fish and to learn what food I can take from the wild.

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This is not applicable to everyone. And what I do here on this blog is merely a documentary of what I get up to. It’s my food story. It’s open to the reader to take what they want and possibly the reader (you) may incorporate some elements of the WLL approach, and maybe you won’t. That’s your choice…isn’t that fantastic?! I don’t say that what I do is the perfect answer, it’s just what works for me. It’s my priority in life to work at the production of the food for the house…and let me reiterate…not all of the food, but most of it. I don’t grow wheat, I don’t own a flour mill, I don’t make salt or cheese. I’m totally realistic of the fact that I’m striving to be ‘semi’ self-sufficient…not totally self-sufficient. There is a big difference. But I truly believe that if a lot of people tried to grow SOME veg and shopped from local producers we’d reduce food miles dramatically, and slightly sever that umbilical chord we have to the supermarkets of bland.

This approach to food and life might not be yours. And that’s the rad part. Especially in regards to my life and blogging…as a reader you just take out of it what you want.

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Here is a breakfast meal that I’m really proud of. It’s a poster child for my work to be semi self sufficient. I grew the asparagus, made the tomato passata, collected the eggs from my hens and flavoured it with fresh garden herbs. I love meals like these, where I’ve been responsible for the production of the raw ingredients and the cooking. It’s really simple but it made me really happy when I ate it. I really do adore these most basic of pleasures. It’s a little reward for the effort I’ve put in. I don’t know…maybe I’m a dreamer. Yes, I am a dreamer. But I’m happy to say I’ve put this dream into action. For that I am glad.

The next round of veg has been planted in the toilets rolls we’ve been saving. Spring will lead into summer and we’ll be blessed with plenty of vegetables. I chose to spend a few hours with my girls on the weekend planting the spring veg. It’s always about choice.

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the smokehouse

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I have a mental list of things to do in my life. Don’t we all!

One of them is to learn to play blues harmonica. Another is to hunt deer in America, another is to go fly fishing with my friend Joakim in Sweden. I have many things that I’d like to do in this short life. One of them was to build a log cabin. But that’s off the list now. I built a log cabin smokehouse recently, so now my list is one item shorter.

Thankfully the guys at Smith Journal and Commoner (the filmmakers) were there to capture the project from start to finish. It’s a collaboration that I’m glad to have been a part of.

My bacon, trout, eel, salmon and many more items will now get the slow smoking touch. And the beauty of it is that it’s portable. It can be pulled apart, the logs loaded on a trailer and moved to another place if needed. And for those people wondering…the logs I used are an invasive weed species in Australia, pinus radiata. I harvested the logs from a property that has a pine problem in native bush. Now that weed problem is a diminished problem! All the roofing iron and floor boards I sourced from house wreckers, thus totally recycled.

The whole build is available to read in the new issue of Smith Journal. Details here.
While you’re waiting for your copy in the mail….you can watch the film.

The Smokehouse from Smith Journal on Vimeo.

Thanks to Mark and Aaron at Commoner for their excellent film work.

Thanks to Nadia and the dudes at Smith Journal.

Thanks to the mates that came over for a few cold hours on a cold and rainy Sunday to help peel logs.

Thanks to my brother who spent two cold days helping me chop and peel pine.