Tassievore eat local feast – challenge wrapup

Last weekend I held my Tassievore Eat Local Challenge feast for my family. I invited my mum, Lil Sis and Mr Tall to join us.

It’s the second time I’ve done one of these feasts, and I really enjoyed doing it. As a rule I don’t like to cook, but when it’s on a weekend and it’s something I can devote several hours to doing, rather than a rushed mid-week dinner, I do enjoy it because it becomes a bit of an event that I can totally immerse myself in.

As organisers of the challenge, Sustainable Living Tasmania (SLT) suggested that during the feast we have conversation about eating locally, and they had some specific questions for hosts and guests to answer. Here are my answers:

What did you enjoy most about hosting a feast?
I enjoyed it all, from planning the menu, cooking the dishes and sharing them with my family. I was a bit worried that local produce might be harder to source in early winter than it had been in autumn, last time I did the challenge, but I was able to find everything I needed in the end.

Would you do it again?
Yes I would. I didn’t go a huge way outside my comfort zone, and stuck with dishes I knew I could cook, rather than try something new on unsuspecting guests and have it turn out badly. So I might become more adventurous over the next 12 months and turn out some new dishes next time.

Were there any negatives of the experience?
No. My biggest worry was not being able to find locally grown vegetables that I needed.

Is there anything that could be better or that the Tassievore Eat Local Challenge could do to support your local food journey?
As a meticulous, routinised meal planner (because most of the time I hate making meal plans and grocery lists) I would like to see more resources available around seasonal meal plans using produce that is available each month/season, as well as suggestions for substitutes if you can’t find particular vegetables in season when you need them. For example if you have a recipe that needs three or four types of vegetable and there’s one that you can’t get the local version of, what could you substitute for it?

Overall, how would you rate your experience of hosting your Living Local Feast?
5/5 – fantastic. Good food, good company, good wine.

SLT also suggested some conversation starters, which we didn’t cover in a lot of detail at the feast, but I did follow up with my guests later, and here’s a few of the points we came up with.

Did you learn anything new about what local food is available in Tasmania?
I learned that there is such a thing as Tasmanian goats milk feta. I wasn’t aware that there was an Tasmanian-made feta, so I’m glad to know this.

Do you think you will try to eat more Tasmanian food as a result of this feast?
The people that answered “no” said that they already try to eat as much Tasmanian food as they can.

Do you think about the origin of food when you are shopping and eating?
Most of us said that we did, and one person said that they will ask about whether produce is locally grown before they buy it.

How easy do you think it would be to eat mostly Tasmanian for a day/week/month/year/forever?
One person said that, other than a few exceptions, it’s quite easy to eat mostly Tasmanian most of the time. Others said they already try to do this. I think that if I was well-organised and had a good feel for what was available at what times, and had a good repertoire of dishes that didn’t rely on produce that wasn’t able to be grown locally, it would be fairly easy to have a mostly Tasmanian-grown diet, especially if I grew some things that I use regularly myself.

One area where I’d definitely fall down would be days I want to cook things like curries where I need spices that we can’t grow here (and coconut products, which I use a lot of), and things that I use year-round that don’t store well (or that can be stored but that I run out of before they come back into season – or that I don’t have room to store).

What are the problems with eating locally or supporting local business?
People noted that this can be more expensive and that some things can be difficult to source, either because they have a short season or because they aren’t grown in Tasmania.

One example that comes to mind is olive oil, which I use a lot of. Tasmanian olive oil is fantastic, but it’s very expensive, as I think most of the producers are relatively small scale, boutique producers who focus on quality over quantity.

According to a fact sheet produced by the Department of Primary Industries

“Tasmania’s cooler climate allows for a longer growing season than the mainland, and while this provides better quality fruit, it also typically generates lower yields . . . The majority of the production volume from Tasmania is sourced from smaller scale operations developed around key niche markets. Many of these products carry branding extensions which command premium prices in the market.”

So, if you’re not in a position to pay a premium price for this, it’s unlikely you could commit to eating only Tasmanian olive oil. While I do buy small quantities of it for specific purposes, I don’t buy only Tasmanian olive oil.

What would make it easier for you to shop/eat locally?
I think the key is both in being more organised but also being flexible. If I can base my meal plans around what locally-grown produce is in season and, therefore, most likely to be available, it shouldn’t be too difficult. But then I also need alternatives – which I might not always know I’ll need until I’m at the shop – in case something isn’t available. And this has the potential to upset my plans!

I like the way some stores label their fruit and veg bins so you know whether the product is locally grown, from the mainland or imported. Eumarrah gets a big gold star from me for this, because they go further and often provide the locality the produce is from.

I think the Farm Gate Market in Hobart also provides this information in their weekly newsletter on what’s available at the market each week.

These are my initial thoughts, and it’s an area I certainly want to explore further.

So over to you – what do you think? If you have any thoughts, feel free to leave me a comment or if you have any ideas for the broader Tassievore community I’m sure they’d love to hear from you. You can contact Sustainable Living Tasmania here.

If you’re looking for ideas on how to eat more local produce, the Tassievore website has some great resources for sourcing local food, including the Local Food Store and Market Directory.

Tassievore eat local challenge – feast day!

Yesterday was feast day!

I learned last time I held a Tassievore feast not to be too ambitious. I’d thought about including a dessert on the menu like I did last time, but decided in the end it would make things too busy for me. I could have made a cold dessert ahead of time, if I’d really wanted to, but I’m trying to cut back on sugar, so I ditched that idea too.

Last week I learned that proving my bread dough for too long and in too warm a room leads to bread that is edible, but visually unappealing. It basically spread out like a pancake. So this time I left it for a shorter time and kept it in a cooler room, and baked it at about 10.00 am.

20170528 Flatbread combo

Last week’s Loaf of Disaster

If you read my earlier post on the sourdough class I went to in March with Kate from Garden Shed & Pantry, you might remember the drama I had with the 12+ year old oven. We have fixed the problem with a shiny new oven, which is making cooking so much easier, and I’m glad we got it in time for this weekend.

The result was much improved. At least it looked OK.

20170603 Tassievore 14 Sourdough IG

At the class, Kate explained how the climate affects the properties of the flour, and the end result can be dramatically different in terms of texture if you use flour from a colder climate (like Tasmania) rather than the flour she recommends that’s from a much hotter part of the country. However, the challenge was to use Tasmanian produce, so I stocked up on some Callington stoneground flour that was designed for bread making, and looked at the whole thing as a an experiment.

I let the beef bones simmer away in the slow cooker for a few more hours, before straining it into a pot and letting it reduce. I have no idea how concentrated I’ve made it or what size portions I should freeze it in, but at least I now have beef stock.

20170603 Tassievore 16 Final beef stock

My plan was to serve:

  • Dips, carrot sticks and vegetables when the guests arrived
  • Pumpkin soup and bread as an entree
  • Roast beef with side dishes of pumpkin and beetroot salad, and honey-glazed carrots
  • Cheese, pinot paste and crackers for afters

I was originally only going to do one dip, the smoked salmon one, but as I had more beetroot than I needed for the salad I decided to do a beetroot dip as well. That involved roasting the beetroot, stick blending it and combining it with yogurt and garlic.

A lot of the afternoon was spent cutting up the pumpkin and the other beetroot for the soup and the salad. Cutting up a whole pumpkin isn’t something I do very often, and every time I do it, I remember why I don’t do it. I didn’t lose any fingers so that’s a bonus.

20170603 Tassievore 15 Pumpkin IG

I let the soup cook all afternoon, while I got the other dishes ready. For the chicken stock, I used what I had in the freezer. Whenever we have roast chicken I save the bones and, when I have a bag full in the freezer, I throw them in the slow cooker for 12 hours or so to make a basic stock.

My aim was to serve the beef at about 7.30. It needed about two hours to cook (I like mine well done), so it needed to come out of the fridge at about 5pm. A minor disaster hit when I couldn’t find the mustard I’d bought the day before for the topping.

Catastrophe averted when I found a jar of Tasmanian Rainforest mustard in the cupboard. This is from Hill Farm in Sisters Creek, and no one can remember where or when we bought it, but I’m very glad we did!

20170603 Tassievore 19 Beef Combo

Once the beef was in, it was simply a matter of remembering to put the vegetables in with enough time for them to be ready at the same time as the beef. I always forget that the beetroot takes a lot less time than the pumpkin when I make this salad, so I always end up with overdone pumpkin. One day I’ll learn.

The honey-glazed carrots included honey we got from one of Slabs’ workmates, who has his own hives. That’s definitely the Tassievore spirit!

The night was fun. I saw somewhere that it was World Cider Day, so Slabs had picked us up some from Wille Smiths.  I don’t know who decides these things but I’m not going to complain.

20170603 Tassievore 20 Cider IG

World Cider Day! Yay!

The bread was fine. It was a lot denser in texture than bread made from the flour Kate recommends, but still very good.  And the beef (with the dodgy red wine sauce – the reason I made the beef stock) was great.

20170603 Tassievore 22 Soup & bread IG

We had to serve the soup in mugs because we don’t have enough soup bowls

20170603 Tassievore 23 Beef IG

Mustard roast beef

20170603 Tassievore 24 Main IG

Main course

We concluded the night with a selection of cheeses from Pyengana and Udderly Tasmanian, a pinot paste from Grandvewe and the crackers I made on Friday, which went soggy overnight, so I had to refresh them by re-baking them.

20170603 Tassievore 25 Cheese IG

Demolished cheese platter

In the end I was too focused on getting all the food together rather than having a discussion about some of the questions that the Tassievore people suggested as conversation starters in relation to eating locally. Although we did learn that you can buy Tasmanian feta – as used in the pumpkin and beetroot salad. Westhaven does a goats milk feta, which worked really well in this dish (along with the Tasmanian walnuts, which I substituted for the pine nuts in the recipe).

I’m going to reflect on the questions that Tassievore has posed and put some thoughts together in another post, as I think this is already long enough.

Thanks to Sustainable Living Tasmania and the Tassievore Eat Local Challenge for putting this opportunity out there. It’s definitely something I’m keen to continue being involved with in the future.

The recipes
Salmon dip
Beetroot dip
Pumpkin soup: I have been using the recipe for years. I originally found it in the instruction book for a stick blender that broke years ago.
Roast beef: Adapted from Cape Grim Beef’s recipe
Roast pumpkin and beetroot salad
Honey-glazed roast carrots

Tassievore eat local challenge – feast day 1

A few weeks ago Sustainable Living Tasmania launched the Living Local Feast challenge. Having been a keen participant in Tassievore Eat Local Challenge in 2014, which culminated in an actual dinner party, I toyed with signing up again this year. Lil Sis strongly encouraged me asked me if I was going to do it and, motivated by the chance to win a Tassievore gift pack if I was one of the first 20 to register, I decided to give it another go.

As in 2014, my challenge is to “invite your nearest and dearest around to your house for a meal cooked with mostly Tasmanian produce”. It struck me that it might be more difficult to do this than it had been in March 2014 because we are moving into winter and there might not be as much locally grown vegetables around.

I was very excited when Lissa from Sustainable Living Tasmania emailed to tell me I was one of the lucky 20 to win a Tassievore gift pack.

20170512 Tassievore Feast Pack IG

Now I had no excuses!

I contacted my family and arranged a date when everyone was free, and started menu planning. Being somewhat conservative, despite my motto of colouring outside the lines, I ended up with a menu not too far departed from my 2014 menu. But there’s enough new stuff to keep me on my toes.

Today was devoted to sourcing my local produce so that I don’t have to rely on our weekly grocery shop tomorrow for Tassie-grown vegetables.

I started my day at Huon Valley Meats in Goulburn Street, where I picked up my main course and some condiments.

20170602 Tassievore 02 Huon Valley Meats

My next stop was Eumarrah in Barrack Street, which I had sussed out earlier in the week and knew they would have most of the vegetables and some of the dairy I needed. I only had a minor panic when I couldn’t see the Tasmanian pumpkins, which are a key ingredient in two of my dishes. But I found them eventually, once I turned around and looked in the corner. *huge sigh of relief*

I had a great time carrying seven kilos of meat and vegetables into work. (I actually didn’t enjoy this. Who would have thought.)

At lunchtime, I went to Salamanca Fresh to pick up most of the rest of the ingredients I needed. All I have left now are a couple of minor things that, if I don’t get them, I can work around.

I ended up with an impressive haul for the day.

20170602 Tassievore 07 Today's haul IG

Today’s tasks were:

1. To start off some sourdough bread – the challenge here being to use Tasmanian flour rather than the (not Tasmanian) flour that was recommended on the course I recently attended.

20170602 Tassievore 01 Sourdough Starter IG

The dough is now proving so that I can bake it some time tomorrow morning.

2. Make crackers using the recipe from Tassievore. It wasn’t until I re-read the recipe I realised butter wasn’t part of it.

20170602 Tassievore 08 Crackers

Also I am not 100% sure that South Cape is Tasmanian, but the address on the label said Burnie, and I couldn’t find any Ashgrove or Elgaar parmesan, so it’s the best I can do. I think 2 teaspoons of cheese is OK.

Here’s how the crackers turned out.

20170602 Tassievore 09 Crackers

3. Make beef stock.

Here we have beef bones from my lovely friends at Two Metre Tall roasted in the oven for a couple of hours and transferred to the slow cooker, where they will simmer overnight and give me a beautiful rich beef stock tomorrow.

So my dough is proving, my stock is cooking, and I have a lot of things to do tomorrow before my guests arrive.

I’ll be Instagramming my preparation until things get crazy busy, and using the hashtag #tassivorefeast there (@straightlinesgirl) and on Twitter (@straitlinesgirl) if you want to follow the fun.

Book 6/24: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I’ll start this post with a confession: I’ve never read any of Barbara Kingsolver’s novels, although I’ve long been intrigued by titles like The Poisonwood Bible and Pigs In Heaven.

I first saw this book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life on Instagram, where one of my friends, Mrs Smyth, posted a photo of it and commented on what a great book it was. And it really is! It tells the story of how Ms Kingsolver and her family pack up their life in Tuscon Arizona, move to a farm owned by her husband, Steven Hopp, in Virginia, and attempt to live for a year without industrial food. That is, food grown and raised locally – either food they grew themselves, or food from “so close to home [they’d] know the person who grew it”. The plan was to spend a year “in genuine acquaintance” with the sources of their food, with only extraordinary reasons for sourcing something from outside their state or county.

2016 Book 6 - Animal Vegetable Miracle

I loved this idea, and was hooked on their journey as soon as I picked up the book. The timing was fitting: March is the month of the Tassievore challenge, something I’d been an enthusiastic participant in for the last two years, but hadn’t quite gotten into this year.

The book, published in 2007, begins as the family drives out of Tuscon and, ironically, given the forthcoming venture, calls into a gas station for fuel and junk food. It makes the point that “the average food item on a US grocery shelf has travelled farther than most families go on vacation”. Ms Kingsolver observes that the energy used by producing and transporting food far outweighs the energy we get from consuming it. The case for eating locally grown food is compelling. “If every US citizen ate just one meal a week composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.”

Ms Kingsolver weaves the story of her family’s efforts to eat locally or do without with observations on the status of food in our modern life, and the book includes some brief articles by Steven Hopp that provide some interesting facts and statistics on issues raised in the book.

She writes of the conflict between cheap convenience industrial food and small locally-driven enterprises trying to stand up to chemical companies, big food producers, supermarkets and governments. It’s a story that plays out everywhere: small egg producers battling ever-increasing red tape to get truly fresh eggs from happy chickens to their customers; Elgaar Farm having to crowdfund new equipment to continue to be able to produce their products using centuries-old methods and still being tied up in the approval process; Two Metre Tall making glorious beer through natural fermentation that the big brewers claim is “off” because they don’t understand the methods.

I found myself nodding at pretty much every point Ms Kingsolver makes in the book. I’m not sure that everything she describes happens in Australia, or to the same extent, but the overall picture is the same – we live in a society that is largely disconnected from its food sources, demands everything all year round, wants cheap and convenient – all of which comes at a huge price – our health, animal welfare, the environment and local farms to name just a few things. Cheap might be good for our hip pockets, but we pay for it in other ways.

The commentary on the current situation was somewhat deflating, and made me wonder if there really is any hope for the world to reconnect with its food and to get back to more sustainable ways of feeding ourselves. But the anecdotes and stories of what people are doing at a local level made me feel more positive, in spite of the massive obstacles that exist.

I loved reading about Ms Kingsolver’s youngest daughter Lily establish her own poultry enterprise at the age of nine; the fact that Ms Kingsolver had to check the security of the house whenever they left in zucchini season so the the neighbours couldn’t break in and leave zucchinis for them; and the wonderful story of buying a huge pumpkin in Italy, hacking it open at their accommodation and trying to dry the seeds out during their trip so they could take them home. Oh and the expose on the sex life of turkeys, which was horrifying, fascinating, amusing, and ultimately heartwarming.

There’s also a very thought provoking chapter on meat eating when it comes time to harvest the poultry that’s destined for the pot.

Each chapter ends with some thoughts from Ms Kingsolver’s eldest daughter Camille on her perspective on the family’s project, as well as some of her recipes and meal plans for the produce that is available in season each month. These are also available on the website.

I love the whole idea of this project, and would love to be in a position to be able to commit to doing something similar. 12 months of Tassievore-ing and getting food from my own backyard! It seems quite doable at this time of the year when the markets are overflowing with beautiful fresh produce. Ask me again in July or August. I was encouraged by the fact that Ms Kingsolver and her family didn’t end up eating dandelions (or roadkill) in the leaner months like other people they knew of that had attempted similar projects.

Realistically I know that doing this would mean some fairly big changes, a large vegetable garden and time I don’t have. But rather than giving up, I have to get out of the habit of all-or-nothing thinking. No, I can’t  source absolutely everything I eat from my backyard and from people in my immediate area that I know personally, but this doesn’t mean I can’t do anything at all. This book has inspired me to start thinking about some smaller changes I can make to increase the amount of local food in my diet. One baby step at a time.

It’s important.

Tassievore Eat Local – Weeks 3 and 4

 

The Tassievore Week 3 challenge was to support a business that uses local produce. I didn’t explore this as much as I’d have liked to over the week, mainly because I was focused on walking as much as I could for the Walk In Her Shoes challenge. Even so, since last year’s Tassievore challenge I’ve been more focused on supporting Tasmanian businesses and buying local produce. 20150320 Locavore box from Hill St The Locavore box from Hill Street Grocer is a great way to get hold of in-season veggies from Tasmanian suppliers. I also spent some time at Two Metre Tall Farm Bar – a business that is 100% committed to real food, real ale and that is completely committed to ethical and sustainable production. I wrote a post about Two Metre Tall in last year’s Tassievore challenge, and that sums up everything I love about them. 20150301 Summer fruits cider Moving on to Week 4, and the challenge was similar to last year: Feast with your family and friends on great Tassie produce. I cooked my own feast last year. It was a 5 course extravaganza that started at about 7.30 am and took all day.  I loved doing it, but this time an all day cook-fest wasn’t possible.

I decided to do a soup, a salad and a beef main course. Dessert would happen if it happened (it didn’t). The main was slow cooked osso bucco from Two Metre Tall. The vegetables I used were all Tasmanian-grown, mostly from the local market. I had a minor panic on Friday night when I hadn’t been able to find any locally sourced tomatoes for the beef dish, but the fabulous veggie growers at the market were there with heaps of tomatoes on Saturday morning, so everything was good. 20150328 Tassievore Feast 04A Combo I’d never cooked osso bucco before, and the advice from my friends was the slower and lower temperature it’s cooked at, the better it turns out. According to the recipe, I seasoned it with salt and pepper, dusted with flour and seared it before putting it into the slow cooker with the tomatoes and other vegetables. 20150328 Tassievore Feast 05A Combo In hindsight, I would have started it a bit earlier in the day – maybe 7 or 8 am – to allow a full 12 hours cooking, but it still turned out OK. A bit softer would have been better, but that’s a lesson to learn for next time. It still tasted great.

My other (entree) course was soup, inspired by the menu board at the pub when Juniordwarf and I went out for dinner during the week. Chicken and leek soup. One of the things in last week’s locavore box was a leek, but I had no idea what to do with it. Chicken and leek soup. Perfect! It wasn’t proper Cock a Leekie soup, because that has prunes and rice in it, and I’m not aware of any Tasmanian prune supplier or any rice that’s grown here. So I omitted the prunes and substituted Tasmanian quinoa (from Kindred Organics) for the rice. 20150328 Tassievore Feast 09A Stock The recipes I looked at involved using a whole chicken, so you basically make the stock with a whole chicken and, therefore, cook the chicken meat that you use in the soup at the same time. Then you take the stock and add the cooked chicken meat, plus some extra chopped leeks and chopped prunes, to make the soup. I don’t think I’d do it this way again, as I have a lot of bones and meat left over and frozen from chicken roasts that I use to make stock.

When I make roast chicken I usually cut the back bone out of the chicken before I cook it and spread it out on the baking tray (which reduces the cooking time significantly), then I freeze the back bone and all the other bones, and when I run out of stock I throw all the frozen bones into a pot with vegetables and make my own stock. If we have left over meat from a roast that we don’t use in a couple of days, I freeze that too, so I can use that in a chicken soup. I think I’d have had enough frozen roast chicken and bones to make this soup without using an entire chicken.

Never mind, I now have lots of stock and lots of chicken meat in the freezer. Even without the prunes, the chicken and leek soup with quinoa was a nice basic entree.

I made a similar roast pumpkin and beetroot salad with spinach and goats cheese as I did last year to go with the main course, together with one of my favourite Two Metre Tall ales that I’d been saving for this night. 20150328 Tassievore Feast 17A Combo And while I was waiting I made a tzatziki dip and some carrot sticks because I was feeling a bit peckish. 20150328 Tassievore Feast 18A Combo Juniordwarf made a sign for the night. 20150328 Tassievore Feast 19 - Sign IG I’m pretty happy with how everything turned out. I learned a lot about what to do differently next time, but for my first attempt at two dishes, I think it was a good effort. And everything (except the salt, pepper and olive oil) was Tasmanian.

Thank you to the organisers of the Tassievore Eat Local Challenge. The challenge is a great way to get people thinking about supporting local businesses and eating local seasonal food. Even though I haven’t participated as fully as I’d have liked to this year, it’s been great just to take the time to think about where my food is coming from and to try and source as much as I can from local suppliers. It’s something I hope to continue to do into the future.

Tassievore Eat Local Challenge Week 2: Grow something

I used to live in my vegetable garden. I’d quite happily spend all weekend in there, get totally engrossed, completely lose track of time, and occasionally even get something to eat from it.

Then we moved back to Tasmania, had a child and my passion for gardening disappeared into the cracks between dirty nappies, the Wiggles, play group, rushing between work and daycare and, later on, school and work.

I tried, but my old garden was full of oxalis, stinging nettles and stickyweed. With a small child, I didn’t have as much time to devote to it, and when I did get a chance to get out there, all I ever did was battle the weeds. It wasn’t enjoyable any more.

In the end I gave up my dream of a productive vegetable garden. Much as I had loved gardening, the spark had gone. I couldn’t spend the time in the garden I wanted to and was used to, and when I did go in there I didn’t enjoy it, or I felt bad for taking time away from Juniordwarf. So I didn’t go in there at all.

I felt enormously guilty. I was a self-proclaimed ‘gardener’ who didn’t have a garden. I wanted to grow food, but it all seemed so hard.

Then we moved into a house we both loved, but one with a yard that was mega-challenging in terms of its slope. I describe it as a cliff. It’s not far off that.

And we got chooks. Instant fertiliser! Instant destruction!

I dug out a few flat spots and installed some 1×1 metre raised beds, which is where the straw and chook poo goes to rot down and nourish the soil. My original idea was to have 5 of these beds that I could rotate over a 12 month period, with 3 being used to grow vegetables at any one time, one being the leave-alone-to-break-down bed and one being the add-the-fresh-stuff-to bed.

So far I’ve put 3 of the 5 together. I haven’t planted anything in any of them. I just keep adding straw and poo. The chooks get into them and scratch them up and most of the straw ends up on the ground.

Most of the time it all seems to hard to figure out what to plant, when to plant it, how to get the beds filled up enough to grow something in, how to keep the chooks out, how to maintain it once I’ve planted it. Everything I can come up with has become an excuse for why I’m not gardening.

And I’ve sat here for weeks, months, looking at these damn garden beds, telling myself off for not taking the next steps towards using them and feeling incredibly guilty that I’m not growing a single food for myself. I’ve been feeling totally in conflict with my own belief that growing your own is a good and important thing.

But in this last couple of weeks I’ve had a slight shift in perspective, which has got me going again.

In Lisa Grace Byrne’s book ‘Replenish’ (which is a book I would highly recommend if you are a strung-out, overwhelmed mother or just plain old strung-out and overwhelmed), she talks about the principle of starting where you are.

Lisa tells the story of a very overweight woman who decided she wanted to take dance classes. At first all the woman could do was go to the class and sway to the music. But she didn’t let this stop her. She kept going to the class each week and she did what she could. Very slowly she started to be able to do a bit more, and then a bit more. Eventually she started fully participating in the class and she went several times a week. But she didn’t start out like that. She started by doing what she could do, which was turn up and sway.

Last week’s Tassievore Eat Local challenge was to grow something. I already had a couple of herb pots on the go but they’ve survived by good luck rather than good management.

I wanted to do the Tassievore challenge, but as soon as I started making a list of all the things I’d have to do to get my first garden bed ready to plant something, I started to make excuses about why I couldn’t do it. There were too many obstacles and I didn’t have the time. It looked like this was going to be another good idea that I didn’t go through with.

Then the other night one of my lovely Twitter folk said they’d started sowing peas. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just a tweet about sowing peas. I love peas. I’ve always wanted to grow peas, but I never have. I tried once and they all died. I still want to. I think about doing it a lot.

But at that moment something in my brain clicked. Why can’t I sow some peas? Why can’t I just throw a few seeds in and see what happens? No fancy soil preparation (no preparation at all, fancy or otherwise), no checking the calendar to see if it’s the right time (if a farmer is doing it then that’s good enough for me), no moon phase timing, no fencing out the chooks. Nothing. Forget the garden bed. Just do it.

So I went out and did it. I chucked some seeds into a pot on my deck and watered them. It took about 5 minutes.

Maybe peas

Maybe peas

The seeds are past their best-by date and the potting mix is a bit dry, so I don’t hold out much hope, but I’ve tried. I’ve shown up. I’ve thrown some seeds out there. I’ve started where I am. The list of jobs I’d set myself to do before I started gardening again was so overwhelming that it was stopping me doing anything at all. I don’t think that’s a good place to be.

Now I’ve done something. I’m the lady in the dance class. She didn’t expect to be dancing beautifully the first week of class, and I shouldn’t expect to have a perfectly planned and set up garden bed today.

You don’t walk 25,000 steps a day by going out and walking for 3 hours today. Starting big is unlikely to be sustainable in the long term. You start out with a flourish and then exhaust yourself after a few days or weeks and you give up. (Or at least that’s what I do.)

If you want to walk 25,000 steps a day, you start by telling yourself that when you get home you’ll put your bag down and go for a walk around the block instead of collapsing on the couch and going on Twitter.

You set the bar so low you can’t fail. Then you do it. And you do it tomorrow and the next day. Once you’ve started small and succeed consistently, it gets easier to get bigger.

I was going about my gardening the wrong way. I was aiming for 25,000 steps a day when I should have been aiming to just get out the door.

‘All or nothing’ creates inaction. If I can’t do it all (and I can’t do it perfectly and be completely prepared with all the information I could ever possibly need) then I’m not going to do anything. This doesn’t get me to where I want to be, because I’ll never get started. It’s pretty obvious isn’t it?

I’ve known this for a long time, but haven’t ever really accepted it as true. The message from Lisa Byrne and the lady in the dance class of ‘start where you are, do what you can do right at this moment and keep showing up’ has been forging a stronger course through my subconscious than I realised.

I’ve heard this same message many many times since I was a child:

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – Lao Tzu

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.” – attributed to Goethe

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe

“Just do it.” – Nike slogan

For once it sunk in and all it took was that one simple tweet about sowing peas to get me up and out the door.

If I’d sat and thought about what I needed to do to get to the point of being able to sow some seeds, I wouldn’t have done it. There would have been too much to do to get ready. I did what I could do right then and there, and either nothing will happen or I’ll get peas.

That’s OK because I’ll also get some coriander and some baby spinach (or I won’t) because I put some of those seeds in last week too. That’s 3 lots of seeds more than if I’d decided to wait until I was ready.

It felt really good to take some action.

The sum total of my growing efforts this year. Coriander seeds on the bottom right.

The sum total of my growing efforts this year. Coriander seeds on the bottom right.

This baby spinach has managed to self seed from some spinach that went to seed over summer.

This baby spinach has managed to self seed from some spinach that went to seed over summer.

Tassievore Eat Local Challenge Week 1 – Food Forager

I’ve been busy walking this week, so I haven’t given the Tassievore Eat Local Challenge my full attention.

I wrote a post about getting started last week,  and have been doing what I can for Week 1’s challenge, which has been to “seek out Tasmanian food and drinks . . . whether an old apple tree on the side of the road, a bottle of wine you haven’t tried before, or a recipe that has tweaked your interest”.

Funnily enough, the apple trees on the side of the road that I noticed last Sunday got pruned to within an inch of their lives during the week. Something about power lines, I believe . . .

Foraging at my house is primarily the search for eggs.

The oldest chicken decided long ago that the laying box wasn’t for her and has taken to laying in a spot in some bushes that we’ve nicknamed The Egg Butty. This comes from something Juniordwarf used to do when he was very small, and it kind of stuck. She’s had more than one Egg Butty over the years, but this is the current go-to spot.

Egg Butty

Egg Butty

The new chickens are gradually getting used to laying and are figuring out where to do it. One of them has even found the laying box.

Laying box

Laying box

The other one has decided it’s better to lay in the very back of the chook house, between the two perches, right in the chook shit from the night. She invariably knocks the perches off and we have to perform contortionist acts to get the egg and set the perches back up.

Not the laying box

Not the laying box

Foraging in my own back yard.

One of the new chickens

One of the new chickens

I also got 2 strawberries off my plant this week. I think that’s about 10 now. None of the other plants have fruited, so 6 plants for $10, and 10 strawberries = $1 per strawberry. Bargain! At least they aren’t fumigated with methyl bromide.

Gourmet strawberries

Gourmet strawberries

And by happy accident I discovered a self-seeded oregano plant in amongst my pennyroyal in one of the most shady parts of the yard. How it got there is anyone’s guess, but I’m not complaining.

Feral oregano

Feral oregano

Because I managed to kill my raspberry plants, I didn’t get any raspberries this year. So as a consolation, I’ve been drinking the raspberry cider from Two Metre Tall. It’s very good.

My main source of raspberries this year

My main source of raspberries this year – note deliberately out of focus cider so you can read the sign in the background (ahem)

I had a couple of ideas of new places to go foraging, but other things got in the way and I didn’t make it.

I did pick up some Tasmanian produce from Eumarrah in Hobart, and I really like the new labelling that Hill St Grocer has for its fruit and vegetables.

Apples at Eumarrah

Apples at Eumarrah

Garlic at Eumarrah

Garlic at Eumarrah

Hill St's produce labelling

Hill St’s produce labelling

This morning we went to our local market, the Big River Growers Market, which has some wonderful people with fantastic produce (and also excellent laksa).

Big River Growers Market

Big River Growers Market

20150307 Big River Market 1 20150307 Big River Market 2 20150307 Big River Market 3

Laksa!

Laksa!

And we were walking past a new business that has recently opened, so decided to have a look in there and picked up a few different vegetables as well.

Spud Hut

Spud Hut

So we ended up getting a pretty good haul for the weekend.

Weekend's haul

Weekend’s haul

And dinner tonight was accompanied by one of my favourite wines (which I foraged for in my fridge because I needed wine for the dinner recipe . . .)

Derwent Estate Chardonnay

Derwent Estate Chardonnay

Week 2’s challenge is to “grow your own”.

I used to be a gardening fanatic, but since we’ve been in this house – in fact probably since we had Juniordwarf – my commitment to the garden has declined and I haven’t grown anything (successfully) for several years.

Perhaps this is the time to fix that.

Stay tuned.