The summer garden is being very productive and keeping us busy. The heat is back and the rain has largely stopped, so I had to water the garden today. I have been building kilns these last few weeks, more or less full-time, but there are always things to do in the garden and it’s a great entertainment and relaxing break from working on kilns to be able to just walk out of the workshop and spend half an hour with the vegetables as a break. I really enjoy this attempt of ours of the last 40 years to try to achieve some independence and self-reliance, but I still have to earn some money to pay all the rates, regos and insurances that are necessary to be able to live and work here. There are no free lunches in this garden. We know a lot of potters here, but non that makes a living solely from what they can make and sell. Everyone has a second income from part-time work, or a partner with an income who helps to support them. We have both worked part-time to support our artistic ‘habit’. Building kilns and running firing workshops from here are our current income support schemes for our self-reliance. Selling our work makes only a quarter of our income.
The Queen of Quince has started on the late summer preserving sessions. Potatoes, tomatoes, basil, beans, pears, apples, quince and red grapes are all coming on at the same time and have to be dealt with. I lend a hand where I can as an interesting relief from the kiln work. I usually try to keep January free of kiln orders, so that I can be 100% involved in the garden and kitchen at this busy, productive time of year. But this year, events transpired such that I have to work on a kiln to make a deadline that can’t be changed. Being adaptable and adjusting to change is a useful skill I’m told? Organic growing, nurturing, harvesting, preserving and cooking and eating our produce is the most rewarding thing that I can think of doing with my life. It is the reason that we have chosen to live out here in the bush with few services, but plenty of space, clean air and water to live out our self-reliant, creative, self-employed utopian dream. As it’s turned out, and much to my surprise, we have managed to ‘get away with it’.
I could have chosen to make something a lot more ‘commercial’ I suppose? And in a very much more efficient manner, but that just doesn’t seem to interest me. I’m not really very interested in ‘efficiency’. I rather like to spend a long time creating something really beautiful with my hands, whether its making a pot on the potters wheel, or weeding a garden bed, writing a real letter on beautiful paper by hand using an ink fountain pen, or at the current time in spending time hand carving and shaping a fire brick to fit in a specific position in the door of a kiln so that it makes a perfect door seal, with a ground face and precision interlock. Some of these firebricks are cut and shaped on 6 faces.
No-one really understands what goes into a hand-made object. It is no longer part of our Australian culture. It belongs to a time long past. However, I believe that it is important to keep skills alive. So I really do it for me. I’m completely selfish in this. Luckily, there are just enough people out there who are prepared to support me in persisting with this enterprise. The people who buy my kilns or come to my exhibitions have no idea of what they are looking at. “Oh yes, it’s pretty” doesn’t scratch the surface. It’s the back story to all of this that makes it special. No-one can see this in the object. It’s invisible, but the object wouldn’t exist at all without all the preparatory work and research. The research and prep are the two noughts on the price tag. Anyone can make a bowl. It’s the simplest of shapes. Nothing to it! I want to prospect, dig, crush and mill all my own materials for my pots, in just the same way that I want to grow all my own food. This isn’t a business, it’s a philosophy.
With the assistance of her friend Vicki, The Lovely has picked and juiced most of the apples, except for one tree.
The apple juice from these apples are destined to be made into cider vinegar. Tomatoes are picked every few days and reduced to sauce and vacuum sealed in ‘pop’ top glass jars for use later. The basil has been converted into pesto. The first of the pears are stewed and in the fridge for breakfast and desert fruits. We have had the first picking of the 2015 vendage and some is stored as preserved red grape juice while some of it has been left to ferment with it’s own wild yeast to be drunk as Summer Wine. Slightly spritzig, sweet, weak red wine. It’s something that we came across on road-side stalls in Europe some years ago, when travelling around in their late summer/early autumn and it’s so fantastic and relatively quick and easy to make, compared to real wine. Very refreshing and satisfying on a hot summers day.
We start by picking the low hanging fruit.
Then the higher hanging fruit
We have been supplying quinces and beans to a local restaurant in the last week as well.
Kipfler King has been planting little batches of potatoes as they start to shoot and this latest batch has come from a wire compost ring, behind the mower shed.
They are nearly all small kipflers, we steam them in bigger batches. Too much to eat at one sitting, then we cool the excess and place it in the fridge for a later time. This is not to save time or money. We do it because cold potatoes are better for you. Fresh steamed potatoes are digested straight away and go pretty quickly into your bloodstream. High GI. Once cooled however, the potato starch is converted to what is called ‘resistant’ starch or ‘butyrylated resistant starch’. It isn’t digested in the tummy or small intestine, but passes all the way to the lower intestine where it feeds the endemic gut flora that like to live there. It makes for a very fertile environment for this good gut bacteria. So, resistance is fertile, I read an article about this in New Scientist twenty years or so ago and reprised recently, I have practised it ever since. Having a healthy and fertile environment for the good gut bacteria is an excellent way to ward off colorectal cancer. I also remember reading that cooking the spuds a second time and then cooling them, converts even higher percentages of the starch into the resistant form. Providing lots of fibre where it’s needed. We don’t ever seem to get around to doing this second cooking and cooling. We already have enough to fill our days. I should change my habits, but I’m resistant.
The humble spud, not un-like revenge, is apparently, a dish best served cold.
from the highly resistant Steve and his Queen of Quince, the Kipfler King
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