We are almost half way through our challenge and what a joy it has been. The other night as E and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary at a cosy little restaurant not far from home, we hatched another plan. In celebration of the mid-point of our challenge, we plan to have a Wild and Free party where we celebrate everything great about living off the land. There is also a sub text to all of this…our freezer is now over flowing with produce despite us giving away so much food recently.
When we mentioned this to a group of friends the other day the question was asked whether nakedness and debauchery were to be part of the evening. While we can’t speak for our guests, we suggested that this was unlikely (not from us anyway!). So we are going to have party where those attending will be sampling some of the delicious food and produce we have been discovering and eating of the last 6 months. The menu has already begun to be planned…yum! The photos will get taken and may even get posted as part of some future blog. Who knows????
Winter has finally arrived. As I write this a storm rages outside and snow is forecast for the south. We are having a few fires at night and some long hot baths before going to bed. Nothing like climbing into a cold bed, scunching yourself up into a ball and then slowly unfolding as the bed warms up.
Our garden is now decidedly wintry. The leaves have largely gone from all our trees, the summer veges have now succumbed to the frosts and some of our garden beds lie fallow. E picked the last of the tomatoes from the glasshouse yesterday and even the basil has finished. Wow what an incredibly abundant harvest we have experienced. For 6 months of this year we have bought very little in the way of vegetables and no meat. We can’t wait for the next 6 months!
We have just picked the last of our feijoas. They, along with passion fruit, are such a delicious addition to either muesli in the morning or ice cream at night. This year was the first year our trees really produced and we have bottled, stewed and chutneyed buckets of fruit. Here are a few photos of the stewing process…. just add muesli, yoghurt and a little milk and WOW!
When I was young I used to read authors like Tony Orman or Graeme Hill who used to write beautifully about fishing this wilderness river and that wilderness river and I used to dream about what it must be like to fish them. As E and I have become older and wealthier (it is amazing just how much more disposable income you have once the kids leave home!), we have been able to travel to the South Island and fish some of these rivers I read about as a youth. Rivers like the Greenstone and the Caples are simply magnificent. The fish are fit and strong, the water is usually crystal clear and the valleys that contain the rivers are breathtakingly beautiful. It is easy to understand why people travel all over the world to fish these rivers.
This challenge we have undertaken has meant however that we can’t flit off to the Karamea or the Rangitata if we wanted a feed of trout. We have had to look local and source much of what we eat in and around the land, rivers and sea that surround the Waikato. I am learning as a result, that we live in a wonderful province that has more than enough food and fun that we don’t need to travel more than an hour or two to be able to gather everything we need.
Over the last two weekends, I have discovered 2 wilderness rivers within 1.5 hours of Hamilton. The Tawarau and the Mangaohae lie south-west of Hamilton. They provide everything you could ever need in a wilderness river. They may not have the mountains that the south has but they are equally beautiful and equally fun to fish. They flow though deep North Island West Coast rain forest covered valleys that are topped with huge limestone outcrops. Ponga, mahoe, rewa rewa, kamahi all grow right down to the water’s edge providing a never-ending source of food for the hungry trout. The sound of the rivers as the tumbled over and around huge boulders was frequently punctuated by the song of the tui.
Both rivers are quite gorgy with a wonderful mix of runs, rapids and glides that still give me a thrill as I try to write about them. I fished the Mangaohae with my mate Charlie and I fished the Tawarau on my own. Both rivers however are not for the faint hearted and are physically demanding to fish. Much time is spent wading though water up to chest deep at times, scrambling through bush or climbing up and out of gorges in order to fish the next stretch of water. By the end of both days I was physically exhausted but wow, what a wonderful way to get exhausted!
What about the fishing? The fish were plentiful and very aggressive. They weren’t huge. Most were about 1kg (2 lb for our American readers) but the 2 fish we kept have been great to eat. It shows just how healthy the two rivers really are.
There is an old saying in fishing that you need to fish your feet first. The last 2 weekends have made me realise that when it comes to wilderness rivers, I need to “fish my feet first” and discover more of these Waikato gems!
This season has been amazing for the amount of food our garden has produced. For nearly 5 months we have lived out of our garden and for the last 4 months we have lived solely off meat and fish gathered from the land, sea and rivers around us. We head into winter with a still full freezer and today we had the joy of being able to even give away some of the abundance we have been able to store. Our tomatos and basil are still going strong….
We are still picking strawberries and rhubard, the spinnach is growing like a weed and the chillis are amazing
And now the passion fruit have begun to ripen.
Ripe passion fruit must be one of the most delicious fruit that you can eat. It seems to add a depth of flavour which brings all the memories of summer back. I have three favorite ways of eating them. 1. Cut in half and scooped out and eaten just as they are. 2. Squeezed over ice cream 3. On toast in the form of one of E’s mum’s recipe, Passion fruit butter.
Passion fruit butter is a very old recipe which has been handed down by the women in her family. It is incredibly simple and very yummy.
Lightly beat 2 eggs (don’t make them go frothy) and add in 2 dessert spoons of butter and 1 large cup of sugar. Mix and then scoop into the mixture 8 passion fruit into a double boiler
Boil slowly and stir gently until the butter melts. The keep a slow boil going for about 15 minutes or until it has begun to thicken
Bottle into warmed jars and when it has cooled down a bit, ladle onto Vogels toast
I haven’t seen my good mate Charlie for sometime which says a lot about just how busy I have been. But its Easter and we have 4 days to do a whole heap of stuff apart from celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. So we have a list of things that E and I really want to do. These include things like replastering our pizza oven (us), fishing in the Thames Gulf (us), sewing (E), and a days trout fishing (me).
Today was my day fishing. We decided to fish the Mangaohae River in the King Country just south of where we live. This was the first time we had fished this river and wow what a river!. It is the closest thing to a wilderness river that the Waikato can offer. I love fishing with Charlie. We always seem to spend the time getting to where we are going to fish talking about deep issues that are ticking over in either or both of our heads. When we arrive at the place where we are going to fish, there is always a race to get the rods erected, flies attached to leaders, wading clothes donned and then into the water to start fishing. Today was a wee bit different in that we still had to walk down the river for about 30-45mins before we started fishing.
When we got to where we were start fishing, I was blown away by the beauty of the place. The river was clear, and the banks a deep rich green that only NZ’s native bush delivers. The crowning glory however was the white limestone cliffs that towered above the river and the clear blue autumn sky that framed the whole scene. Simply amazing!
And the fishing???? Well once I got past the frustration of catching every tree that seemed to over hang the river (Charlie had to give me a good talking to about stopping being so intense and enjoy the moment), the fish started to attack the flies as if they hadn’t eaten for ages. My little Hare and Copper did most of the damage but the Adam’s dry took a few as well. We clambered our way upstream, fishing pool to pool. In the end we kept 3 fish, one of which we ate for dinner when we got home.
I cleaned the fish and E cooked fresh trout with chives and green ginger….Excellent!
This weekend there was a big lotto jackpot hit…. $26 million! Lotto are pretty smart as their promotion has all been around the idea of winning Lotto to achieve your dream. Life and work has been really busy for E and I and the stress levels are certainly on the rise. I have found myself buying into the Lotto promo by line and asking “What would I do if I won Lotto?” and reasoning that $26 M would give us the “freedom” to do what ever we want. Or would it?
Needless to say that it got me thinking about what it means to be free
Does freedom mean lack of restraint? I don’t think so, as lack of restraint is only good for the person who is not being restrained and a problem for everyone else around the unrestrained person. Their lack of restraint tends to impinge on the rights of others for peace and quiet. Or in the case of the Lotto winner, the financial freedom has come at the cost of others (usually the poor) and often results in even greater loss of freedom as they now have all this money that everyone else wants or possessions that they need to protect.
or conversely, does true freedom only come, as some totalitarian regimes (and certain conservative religious groups) would argue, through strong discipline and tight control? I don’t think so either as it seems to me that strong external control demeans people and doesn’t allow them the right to fully function as normal individuals within communities. In fact my experience of tight control is that it usually results in bondage of spirit and death of creativity.
So what is true freedom and where is it found?
The second part of the question is a lot easier to answer than the first. I believe that true freedom is found in unconditional love. Unconditional love as I experience from Jesus in my relationship with him, enables me to not have to prove myself to anyone. It means that over the years, I have been able to do some pretty out there stuff (e.g. move with E and kids to the slums of Manila) when those around us thought E and I were at best, crazy, or at worse, irresponsible. Jesus’ unconditional love means I can be me.
Unconditional love as I experience from E enables me to be secure in who I am despite the aging body, despite the sometimes grumpiness pre dinner, despite life when it doesn’t go the way we planned it to be. It is an amazing feeling lying in the arms of someone knowing that you are deeply loved. It just feels so good!
So what is true freedom? Maybe it is the guts to be the person that I know God wants me to be and the lack of fear to give it a go???? I have added a photo of our dog Eric…. for him life is certainly free and he seems to be in his element chasing birds, or barking at the wind or sleeping on his back under the tree on hot summer afternoons. Hmmmm…….
The Beatles sang that song ” You get by with a little help from your friends”
Someone who has helped this blog a lot and provided a lot of the amazing photos is our friend C. If you want to see some amazing food photos and look at some pretty outstanding recipes then have a look at her blog at delacasa.wordpress.com . C and her husband J have been living with us for the last few weeks before they head off overseas. They are both pretty amazing cooks and we have eaten a fair few of the recipes in her blog. Everyone is simply divine and recommended. It’s going to be a bit sad when they leave us!
I know this post is not about hunting or fishing or even about meat. This is about a practice I grew up with called bottling or preserving. In fact as a child, I grew up peeling, coring, slicing and cooking nearly every kind of fruit you can imagine. Late summer was spend gathering black berries for jam and autumn was when I climbed the peach tree to pick peaches for the family to bottle.
So you can only imagine the excitement I felt when last night I strip picked the first real crop of peaches from our Golden Queen peach tree! As soon as we had finished all the other stuff we had to get done, we started to bottle the peaches. It has taken us two nights but now are finally finished. 25 jars of peaches all to be eaten over the next year….yum!
Preserving fruit is so easy and so much fun. You often hear people say stuff like it is more expensive than buying canned fruit or there is too much sugar involved or even it is unsafe. What a load of BS! Nothing tastes better than home-grown preserves. We use minimal amounts of sugar in our syrup and we have never got sick from eating home preserved fruit.
So how do you do it.
1. Take some fruit (in this case peaches)
2. Peel them while listening to some great music (tonight it was Joni Mitchell)
3. Slice them up and put them into a large preserving pan of boiling syrup (1 part sugar to 4 parts water)
4. When they are almost cooked, stack them in clean, warm jars, fill with a little syrup (overflow the jar) and secure a lid on top
5. Store away for a rainy day and the enjoy…..
Hey! Amazing! Two months now and we are doing this challenge easily. The freezer still remains full of fish and rabbits and a number of other delicious dinners all ready and waiting for when we can no longer gather or hunt.
We are amazed at how food is still just turning up. For example, a friend came around the other day for a yarn. he bought with him 2 Fallow back steaks. You simply can’t get any better food than this! Another couple of mates gave us a large bag of meat for helping them with some pre marriage counseling. Looks like we will be eating Jamie Oliver’s rich mince this week.
And then another friend turned up with about 30 pigeon breasts for us to try. We froze them individually on a tray and free flowed them to use as we needed them.
We decided that seeing we didn’t have any chicken for our pizza’s and seeing that we were about to have a pizza night with some friends, we needed to try pigeon breast as a chicken substitute. It worked perfectly.
We simply gave them a very quick (about 2 minutes) fry in butter and olive oil. There is very little fat in pigeon meat and so I was really concerned that I didn’t over cook them. Fortunately the quick fry solved that problem and they were delicious!
Not only do they look pretty amazing but they tasted fantastic!
We have finally had a day all to ourselves so after church we packed up the boat and headed out to Lake Arapuni to spend the afternoon adventuring and hopefully gathering. What an amazing place the Lake is! Once we got past the ski boats, the lake narrowed down and we headed up through some beautiful bush lined banks. There was no-one else up there. We found a little stream, anchored up in the mouth and had lunch consisting of fresh ciabata bread, avocado, tomato and lettuce, all washed down with a cold Steinlager Pure. I spent a little time fishing but a cold wind got up and so we upped anchor and motored back to the boat ramp.
On the drive back home we passed a bush of blackberries, so we stopped, picked enough for a pie and headed on home.
Once we got home, E heated up last Thursdays ratatouille, and put the pie in the oven. We sat down to a delicious ratatouille, complemented by a glass of last night’s left over Merlot, and reflected on the lovely day we had just had. There is something really special about eating left overs. It must have something to do with being raised by parents who grew up through the great depression who detest any form of waste!
Anyway, just as the pie was ready to come out of the oven and there was a knock on the door and our friends Paul and Sylvia walked in with a chicken. They knew about the challenge and had been at the super market where there was a 2 for 1 deal on chickens. They decided to get 2, 1 for them and 1 to trade with us. We invited them to share in the freshly baked pie and they handed over the chicken! Aren’t friends wonderful. The foraged black berries ended up being traded for a corn-fed chicken!
The real cool thing is that we now have some back berry pie left over for tomorrow……excellent.
The summer is a little colder than normal and as a result the numbers of trout that gather at the Awahou river mouth are down. Despite this, my mate Graeme and I decided to try our luck so we left the Tron late afternoon and headed over to Rotorua. The wind was blowing from the East…not good. But reasoning that we couldn’t catch fish standing on the bank, we geared up and got into the lake. After we entered the water, the wind dropped and the fish started to bite. Graeme hooked up immediately and I followed not long after. By the end of the evening, we have had lots of bites and landed 3 fish each, 2 of whci we kept for the smoker
Awahou is an amazing place. When the fish move into the river mouth trying to escape the heat of the late water, the word gets out and fishermen arrive from everywhere. An evening’s fishing is often defined by noise … the splash of fish, squawk of crested grebes, the hoot of the swans and the mumbled voices of fishermen talking about everything from what fly is catching the most fish to how the fishery is being managed. Our evening was defined by the quiet companionship of friends doing something they both enjoy AND some trout for the smoker.
The next day we took these….
and turned them into this..
Smoked trout, ciabata and fresh green salad drizzled with Pepler’s Black Raspberry vinaigrette.