In Animate Rescue

Fatso will always go down in diary-life history as being my favourite cow in our heard.

During the afternoon milking hours, my younger brothers (Tommy and Jimmy) and I would often be found lurking around the dairy. When we weren’t scooping milk from the poddy vat – kept as a back up during high production times for the 10,000 L milk-holding-behemoth and for storing colostrum during calving periods – then you could bet your bottom, parlour-duty dollar we could be found scaling the fences encircling the awaiting 400 head of cattle in an attempt to endear ourselves to the mongrel-breed giants. While most turned away in brazen disinterest or afternoon-heat lassitude, Fatso would always humour our nurtural senses with a winsome nudge of the neck or head into our outreached hands. Fatso was also highly prized by my older, more productivity minded brother Charlie. For despite her age (a sturdy 8 years), Fatso was one of our top producers, was always “in-calf” and had a well formed, tit-cup-enduring udder.

Two days after giving birth to her 5th baby, Fatso developed an unrelenting tremor in her legs. Having been witness to this symptom in calving periods past, Charlie and Dad astutely shifted her to a more comfortable and therapeutic location. While mum disagreed with her apprized native garden being used as a palliative care ward, my more optimistic brothers and I reveled in the opportunity to nurse our Milk Fever (Hypocalcemia) stricken, beloved cow back to good health.

In the first 12 hours, Jimmy, Tommy and I took it in turns to deliver her plenty of calcium rich clover, read her our favourite picture book stories and nestle ourselves into her rapidly collapsing frame in the hope that our love and Dad’s regular, medicinal injections would breathe new life into the highly venerated old Murray Grey-Fresian girl. When we awoke the following day, Fatso had collapsed onto her side. In an attempt to provide relief from the advanced stages of her metabolically-commandeered fate, we hand milked her burgeoning udder.

Jimmy, Tommy and I didn’t wait to see the truck arrive. Forlorn and aggreived, we spent our afternoon bunkered down in the calving shed. When we could no longer stand the wrenching sound of winding chains undignifyingly pulling Fatso into the haulage cart, we busied ourselves at the feeding troughs whence the loud sloshing sounds of colostrum being pressure-hosed into teeted milk-troughs helped ward off the accosting and vivid imagery that would remain with us for days to come.

On a particularly grey day last week, following an uncharacteristically large dump of rain, my morning school cycling troop spied a rather curious addition to the road side vegetation. Having developed a habit of sequestering many a verge-side dumpings into the family home, K1 and K2 felt obliged to investigate. Upon discovering that the item was not made of wood or metal, I issued the standard firm and immediate “No way…that’s just gross and totally unhygienic” repost made to all stuffie (and other fabric related item) rescue requests.

Maybe it was the pleading eyes of my children…or the cute floppy ears… or the winning smile…

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…or maybe it was the fact that for the next two days of seemingly disinterested cycle passings, I couldn’t delete from my mind the fact that Elliot von Snorter, our newest addition to the family furniture collection, had fur almost identical in colour to that of my greatly adored Fatso.

So…for anyone else previously turned grey by the idea of having second-hand stuffies in your home, I can safely say that Rescuing a Stuffie can be done:

Before you even think about bringing potential biowaste into your house, check for condition. If the fabric item has mould spores, tears or any significant areas or fraying, then sadly, you might need to consider providing the once-lovied a respectful burial into your nearest landfill bin instead. Otherwise, once you’ve approved the adoption papers, the revival process can begin.

First, give the fur a once over with a standard comb to remove any burs. Using a quick-unpick tool, unpick enough of the seam to enable you to remove all the stuffing with ease. Place the stuffing into a pillow case with a zip or one tied very tightly in a double knot and throw it into the machine with your next load of washing. Leave to air dry on your hills hoist (or other). Meanwhile, use a stain-removal bar of soap to clean any marks off the stuffie’s hide and leave to soak overnight in a tub of warm water.

Place the stuffie hide into a pillow case and repeat the method used for the stuffing.  Refill your new, now lovie, with the stuffing. When ready to stitch, bring together the two raw edges of fabric – ensuring that you fold each edge inwards slightly to create a neat seam – and pin together. Close the seam using a slip stitch. Give your lovie a once over with the comb or brush to liven up the fur…

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and Elliot von Snorter lives happily ever after as a treasured addition to one of our many reading corners. The End.

Holy Communeon

“…Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our tresspassess…”

extract from the lords prayer (Catholic)

Lunchtimes always started the same way.

One by one, in alphabetical order (sometimes in reverse), we would each rise from our cross-legged, straight-backed position on the floor and gracefully exit through the back doors of the classroom. Once out of school-mistress sight, previous cassocks of sensibility were ripped free as our hungry souls became possessed with a touch of competitive spirit. After hurriedly retrieving our stock-standard plastic lunchboxes from school bags hung half mast and genuflecting to the adjacent convent, we would then race to secure the prized possie under the limited shade of the nearby peppercorn trees. When the last of our catholic-school girl cronies had joined the clique’, it was time to unlock the lunchtime tabernacles, unveil the home-brought sandwiches from their tightly cling-filmed covers and let the trading begin.

Very rarely were my CLC (grated Carrot, Lettuce and Cheese), multigrain sangas competitive on the tanbark trading floor but every now and then, following an extended family Sunday Roast, my chicken and spiced chutney roll was worthy of an enviable punt. Since opting out of the trading stakes would challenge even the most pious of friends to forgive one for trespassing against the unwritten social code, I quickly mastered the art of prudent dinner time consumption: saving enough chicken for a second, all-to-myself, roll.

While lunchbox trading seems to be a fad of school days past, K1 and K2 have kept the in-house, tradition well and truly alive, utilising skills in mercenary bartering to secure the best dinner-left-overs for fillings. So named after the serminal father and son morning chess sessions, Bishop Bread sandwiches have gained prime position at the alter of lunchtime feast offerings, with Scott having to declare a coin-flipping truce to secure a peaceful end to a morning session of kitchen industry exchanges.

Packed with plenty of inspiriting micro-nutrients, carbohydrates, fats and proteins, these wholesome rolls prove healthy on the conscience and see my inordinately energetic children through the host of cognitively intensive activities delivered by the school deus.

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Bishop Bread (makes 12 – 13 divine rolls)

2 ½ c milk

2 tsps instant dried yeast

2 c rye flour

1 c spelt flour

2 c wheat flour

2 tsp salt

Warm the milk to blood temperature in a saucepan on the stove. Meanwhile, place all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Make a well in the center. Pour the milk into the well then gradually stir in the surrounding flour until a soft dough is formed. Add more wheat flour if the dough is too sticky.

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Knead the dough by raising it to eye level and then throwing the dough down hard onto the kitchen bench. Repeat this for 5 – 10 minutes or until the dough seems elastic in texture. Return the dough to the mixing bowl. Moisten the top with a little water and then cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place (out of direct sunlight) for 1 – 2 hours or until doubled in size.

When ready to make into rolls, punch down the dough. Using scales, weigh out approximately 100g of dough. Knead the dough briefly then shape into a tight ball. Place the ball onto a greased and lightly floured tray. Repeat this with the remaining dough, reserving some for the Bishop Bread tops.

Divide the remaining dough such that there is enough to make a small top for each roll. Roll each dough -top into a tight ball. Moisten, using a bulb sprayer (or pastry brush), each roll and give each one a top. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise for 20- 30 minutes. Sprinkle each roll with a little wheat flour then bake in the oven at 200oC for 12 – 15 minutes or until brown on top.

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Freshly made basil pesto…heavenly!

When the school sanga making hour comes around, slice the rolls in half and load them with your child’s favourite fillings…such as left over roast chicken…or that basil pesto comprising freshly collected herbs from your green-thumbed friend’s up-cycled foam wicking box. Heavenly!

Wax lyrical: School wRap

As the sun steams through the curtains,

‘member som’thin’ kinda cool,

it’s time to get my kit on,

it’s da first day back at school.

 

I wolf down all my brekky,

scrub my teeth and brush my hair,

jump on my two wheeled pushy,

racin’ to the school house lair.

 

There’s a rumble in my tummy,

time to break and get some fuel,

aint no plastic in my lunchbox,

cos that’s just kinda cruel.

 

Instead I have my sangas,

all wrapped up in colours bright,

which helps me save the planet,

keep food fresh and sleep at night.

 

Knowing what to put in your children’s lunchbox can weigh heavily on a mothers mind. Throw in a few plastic centered facts – such as, based on current trends, estimates have us (by 2025) putting enough plastic in the ocean to cover 5% of the earth’s surface in cling film each year – and ones already backpack-sized guilty conscience can quickly shift into overload.

I first discovered beeswax wraps a couple of years ago while Christmas shopping for a dear friend who lives in my Riverina, highschool-hometown. Hedda, well known for her exceptional welcome platters with the works – a plethora of fruits, nuts, biscuits and cheeses – quickly put her gift to good use…encasing the only remaining sliver of cheese not devoured by my ravenous children in a sheath of re-useable and compostable waterproof cotton.

The following summer, ensuing a sizable injection of beeswax from my mums’ backyard apiary and some inspirational lessons from my eco-ceptionally talented Toy Library friend Terry, I was ready to pull those discarded, hole-ridden summer dresses out of retirement. A year later and our home-made, up-cycled wraps continue to enrapture my children’s school day…with a few additions to the consumer care list:

  1. Sponge bath the wraps using cool water only…unless you’re a fan of melting moments.
  2. Embrace the heat to revitalise. That is, put the wraps onto a tray lined with baking paper and place in the oven for 5 – 7 minutes at 100oC when you notice the wax starting to break away from the cotton.

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    Well used beeswax wraps ready for revitalisation
  3. Lower the clinging standards. They aint like the traditional plastic film. They work best in warmer weather and the hold around your food item is more like a secure embrace than a stranglingly tight clasp.

Last Tuesday saw an extra loud buzz about the morning routine as K1 and K2 were kitted up, packaged off and pushed out the door for their first day of the school year. While the beeswax wraps swaddling their Bishop Bread sangas will make but a pin sized difference toward reducing the 275 million tonnes of plastic produced annually, I can atleast take comfort in knowing that I am part of a wider community of parents who are also passionate about sowing the biodegradable beads of change among our next generation of eco-warriors.

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For anyone keen on joining the eco-swarm, then forage no further: a method for making your very own Beeswax Wraps.

Resources:

A4 sized pieces of scrap or new cotton or linen fabric

Pinking shears (optional)

Beeswax (you can purchase this from most health food stores if you don’t happen to have a personal cache)

Grater

Baking tray (atleast as wide as an A4 sheet of paper)

Baking paper

Clothes horse (or other to hang the wraps to cool)

Wooden pegs

To get in on the hive of activity about making your own beeswax wraps, you’re gonna have to accept that things will get a little messy. I recommend purchasing (or rescuing from your local tip or charity shop) a tray that you use only for making beeswax wraps…you are never gonna get the stuff off.

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Before you begin waxing, neaten the edges of the fabric using pinking shears (optional). Set up your clothes horse. Place a large sheet of baking onto the base of the baking tray. Lay your fabric flat on the surface of the tray. Using a grater, grate 10 g of beeswax. Sprinkle this evenly over the surface of the fabric. Place the tray into an oven at 100oC for 5 – 7 minutes or until completely melted.

 

Moving quickly, remove the tray from the oven. Pick up the fabric at two of the adjacent corners and hold it in the air, over the tray, for 30 seconds or so to allow the fabric to stiffen and any excess wax to drip free. When stiff enough to carry, peg to the clothes horse. The wrap may at first look a little yellow in colour but will lighten after further cooling. Repeat with your remaining fabric pieces.

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When your busy brood are ready to fly off to school, secure their sangas (or other) in the wrap, and encase them snuggly in the protection of a good quality lunch box. Waxtastic!

Advance Australia. Fair.

…in joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia Fair”

excerpt from the Australian National Anthem.

By the end of a long summer holiday period, the Australia Day Parade was a much anticipated event in my bucolic home town on the Murray. As many would gather with their fellow community club cronies, the rest of the townsfolk would huddle en masse under the canopys of eucalypt and plain trees, sparsely dotted along the parade-route nature strips between the Shire Office and the Civic Centre. At the conclusion of the meandering spectacle, paraders were careered and packed like over-fished Murray Cod into tightly spaced isles of vinyl, flip seats in anticipation of the formal ceremony to come. Local sporting, volunteer and business heroes were cloaked in accolades of glory. Community doyens gave endearing addresses. And, to close the morning, we all stood to sing in unison the first two verses of the Australian National Anthem. Never once, as a young country girl proud to be dressed in my Girl Guide uniform, did I feel the need to question the euphoric feelings of happiness that naturally accompanied the deeply rooted sensation that was belonging.

In recent times, the sea of joyous “celebrations” that gurt Australia Day have been called into question and appeals to change the date, name and historical underpinnings of the commemoration have gained political and societal traction. For many Indigenous Australians, the arrival of the First Fleet in Port Jackson (1788) marks the beginnings of what has been a gradual demise in identity, self respect and culture. In a survey conducted by the Australia Institute in 2018 only 38% of the 1,417 Australians questioned could correctly state the historical reasons for the public holiday. This somewhat alarming level of ignorance may explain why, despite the well publicised use of the overtly negative moniker “Invasion Day”, only slightly more than one third (37%) of those polled thought that the day was offensive to our First Australians.

I confess without shame, that the 26th of January will always be a day that comes bearing the gifts of jovial, wealth for community-toil memories of my girlhood past. While I acknowledge the wrong-doings of my White-Australian Ancestors, I cannot rectify the bygone atrocities. I can only hope that, together with the many other parents in my spheres of kinship influence, our commitment to raising children who respect and value the contributions that all people make to our ever-evolving socio-cultural milieu, Indigenous Australians will gain a sense of long-term reparation and restitution.

This Australia Day, after a morning of cultural infusion at our towns local museum, Scott, the kids and I, relished in the joyful strains of BBQ centred banter before rounding out the rather salubrious afternoon with a touch of third generation family fare: three layers of cream filled, golden soil-esque pavlova topped with a bevy of young and free strawberries.

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For your delectation. The Recipe for Pavlova. Courtesy of my Grandmother…from New Zealand!

8 egg whites (preferably at room temperature)

½ tsp salt

500 g caster sugar

4 tsp arrowroot flour

2 tsp white vinegar

1 tsp vanilla essence

300 ml pure cream

1 punnet of strawberries

We are renowned throughout our neighbourhood lands for being able to put leftovers to good use. Thanks to my children’s growing summer appetite for ice-cream, egg-whites – which we keep frozen at the ready – are a boundless, plain-ingredient to share. Whipped up with a tin-roofed-shed load of sugar and you have a good ol’ fashioned “Australian” dessert.

Grease and line with baking paper, three trays (they must be atleast 22 cm wide). In the middle of each sheet of baking paper, trace around a plate (18 – 20 cm in diameter) using pencil. Preheat the oven to 150oC.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg-whites and salt until stiff, satiny peaks can be formed. Adding ¼ of the sugar at a time, beat the egg-white mixture, again, until stiff and satiny. Whisk in the arrowroot flour, vinegar and vanilla essence. The egg-white mixture should be able to hold form when a spoonful is released on top of the meringue-like mound. Whisk in a little more sugar if you need. In the middle of each baking paper circle, drop 1/3 of the egg-white mixture. Using a butter knife, spread the mixture to the edges of the circle ensuring an even covering.

Place the trays into the oven and cook for 25 minutes. Reduce the heat to 120oC and cook for a further 35 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the meringues to cool inside for 1 – 2 hours. Remove and cool to room temperature on a wire rack.

When ready to serve, whisk the cream until stiff peaks form. Create the meringue stack by lathering 1/3 of the cream on top of each meringue. Stack the meringues. Slice the strawberries into thin slithers and pile on the top most layer.

Using a sharp knife, cut the Pavlova Cake into wedges. With courage, let you and your guests combine their best sugar eating spirits to Advance Australian Fare!