Make Friends With Pizza

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Pizza is awesome.

When I was little, my parents would get pizza from the shop down the road and I would get a big bag of soggy chips because I didn’t like pizza.

I don’t remember a specific, catalytic event that changed all that, but by the time I was in high school I had developed what I called a ‘pizza stomach’ that allowed me to eat much more pizza than I could of any other food.

The Pizza Hut ‘five-buck chuck’ became my special occasion dinner of choice, their Super Supreme my favourite flavour.

More recently, with my migration to healthier eating, I developed a taste for ‘gourmet’ pizzas. Smoked salmon in particular.

As I get ever further into my home-grown journey, I have started to appreciate pizza as a medium for showcasing my produce.

My kids love what we call the Barbecue Pig Lovers’. This is much like a barbecue meat lovers’, except that all the meat is derived from pigs. Bacon, ham and salami are the staples.

The Elcarim Farm Special was created from all family-favourite toppings. Ham, pineapple, capsicum, salami and later things like sweet chilli sauce, chopped tomato and baby spinach.

Barbecue Pig Lovers' and Elcarim Farm Special

Barbecue Pig Lovers’ and Elcarim Farm Special

This evolved into the Harvest Special, with as many home-grown toppings as possible. Things like yellow tomatoes, greenhouse capsicum, silverbeet and zucchini. And don’t forget the goat milk mozzarella.

Tonight we have a twist on the ‘surf’n’turf’. Smoked salmon, roast beef, silverbeet and four (yes, count them, four) different home-made cheeses.

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Sure, it’s a vanity pizza, but so what? It was really yum and just a bit decadent.

The base is almost as versatile as the topping. Actually, that’s a lie, but you do have a lot of options when it comes to pizza bases. I usually go a scone dough base, as it is quick and easy. Sometimes I make a yeast dough base in the bread maker. You can also use flour tortillas, mountain bread or sourdough.

You can put pretty much anything on a pizza. No more boring ham and pineapple for me. I am looking forward to experimenting with other toppings.

Eat Like Your Life Depends On It

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This dropped onto my Facebook wall today…

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… and it made me think a bit more about maintaining a healthy weight.

I read a lot about how most people who manage to lose weight gain it all back and then some. It makes me wonder if I am some freak of nature because I managed to lose 17kg and almost three years down the track I am keeping it off without any real difficulty.

I think a lot of the problem is that people make temporary changes to lose weight, and then they go back to their old habits and the inevitable happens.

When I decided to lose weight I started by cutting out added sugar. I have known for a very long time that my system does not react well to large amounts of sugar. In a situation where I could make my own food choices I found it easy to avoid sweetened foods.

I started looking at everything I was eating and making a conscious effort to eat nutrient-dense foods. Then I started leaning towards more natural and less processed foods. I drank nothing but water.

From that point, it was easy. I didn’t even take up exercise until more recently. These days I exercise because I want to be fitter. I am even starting to actually enjoy it.

So why is it that I could make these life-altering changes with such relative ease when so many others fall off the wagon? Over my lifetime of having a family of yo-yo dieters, I have seen and heard and read many times phrases like ‘lose 12 kilos in 12 weeks’ or ‘drop two dress sizes in two weeks’.

The goals are short term. Nobody tells you what to do when you get to your goal weight or fit back into your ‘skinny’ clothes. So you go back to your old ways and of course, before you know it you are right back where you started.

I don’t count calories, although I did for a little while. I used a calorie counter to find out where I could easily reduce my energy intake. Things like bread and butter, cookies and high-energy snacks were letting me down. With help from the calorie counter I learned how to make food choices that reduced my overall energy intake. Without resorting to ‘low fat’ foods or starving myself.

I’ve had times where my weight started to creep back up. I have noticed it, and stopped it, then turned it back around. It is much easier to lose a kilogram than to lose 12. The end of your diet isn’t really the end. Eating well and exercising is for life.

I also wonder if my motivation is different. These days I eat well and exercise regularly because my life literally depends on it. I have to keep my body in the best condition possible to keep the surgeon’s knife at bay. After two open heart surgeries the thought of a third one terrifies me, and the risks are great. But I have a severely leaking valve, and there is every chance that one day my heart will not be so able to cope with the inefficiency and I will need another surgery. Looking after my body makes me feel like I am doing all I can to essentially prolong my life.

The side effect of being healthy is that I look and feel good. I mix strength and cardio exercise and I like the results. I almost have muscle definition on my stomach. I don’t have ‘tuck shop arms’. I also have plenty of energy to keep doing all the things that I like to do, that in turn help to keep me and my family healthy.

But if this fear of poor health and desire to look and feel good is enough to motivate me, why doesn’t it motivate everyone? Why are so many people content to load up their systems with crap, to willfully consume toxins, acidify their bodies and make themselves sick?

Obesity and inactivity increase the risk of many of the diseases and disorders that kill the majority people every year in the western world. Reducing your weight and increasing your exercise helps you to live longer. Why doesn’t everyone do it?

Do the people who lose their 12 kilos in 12 weeks not feel better for having lost it? Do they not like the results of their efforts? Why, once they have seen the other side, do they go back?

Another prevailing attitude that puzzles me is ‘falling off the wagon’ while ‘dieting’. People say they were doing well, eating the right foods, and then they had a ‘blowout’, so they decide to drop the diet and start again next week. This doesn’t make sense to me, but it may be the difference in the approach.

If you make changes for life, to reduce your energy intake and minimise sugary and fatty foods rather than cutting them out altogther, then eating a piece of cake is not ‘failing’. You don’t have to write off that week or even that day. Just make your next food choice differently and keep going with your changes.

I still love pizza and chips, although I hardly ever eat biscuits or cake any more and lollies quite frankly gross me out. I eat loads of full-fat dairy products, but also loads of fruit and veg. Sugar really does make me feel unwell, and by eating very little of it I notice when I have too much.

I want to see my children grow to adulthood, I want to enjoy the fruits of my labours on the farm. I want to bask in the happiness and stability that I have fought so hard to attain.

Don’t dig your grave with your own knife and fork. Enjoy good food, but respect your body. If you want to be healthier, perhaps try making life changes rather than setting weight goals. Your life depends on what you eat every bit as much as mine does.

 

My Easter Weekend 2014, Vol. II

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I spent the bulk of Easter Sunday and Monday on my own, with Matt working 12 hour day shifts and my kids still away. My Easter indulgence consisted of a couple of squares of Lindt 85% cocoa chocolate.

Sunday was taken up almost entirely by sleeping in (aka going back to bed after getting up to do the milking), the sourdough bake and dealing with the apples.

One pleasant side-effect of doing the sourdough bake when I am home alone on a weekend is that I get to make pancakes with the excess starter. Sourdough pancakes with banana, walnut and maple syrup for breakfast. Nom nom nom.

As for the apples… I stripped the Golden Delicious tree last weekend since I needed 1kg for the chutney I made with the beautiful big red tomatoes I was given by the boys’ grandparents. For my first go at chutney I was pretty pleased with the result. It is a great combination of sweet and savoury, and it went really well with the sausage rolls I made from Silkie meat and sweet potato.

Sunday dinner - sourdough bread, Silkie and sweet potato sausage rolls, mixed greens and chutney.

Sunday dinner – sourdough bread, Silkie and sweet potato sausage rolls, mixed greens and chutney.

 

I only have three apple trees, and I heard a lot of reports from other backyard producers that due to the extreme heat this summer the crops had been poor. I netted my trees this season to keep the birds off them, and I must admit that my success was mixed. The Jonathan tree, usually my best producer, gave a good number of apples, but they were tiny. I pruned it savagely over winter, and probably should have thinned the fruit early on.

The Golden Delicious tree has never looked totally happy. I was a bit soft in my approach to pruning this one, as it is still recovering from being pruned almost to death by a goat a few years ago. I got some nice apples of a good size, but as usual not a huge yield.

I am not completely sure what variety my third tree is, but I think it might be a Fuji. It usually gives a small number of sweet but small apples. This year it really proved its worth.

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My third apple tree, full of fruit.

My third apple tree, full of fruit.

Not only were the apples a good size, there were plenty of them. I got a box in total from the Jonathan and Gold Del. From this tree I filled a second box and had to go back for the washing basket to bring the rest in.

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I put about 20 apples into preserving jars for winter puddings (hooray for my $22 peeler/slicer/corer), filled two of my fruit stand baskets with the pick of the crop and set to work juicing the rest for cider.

I was given a juicer by a friend who was moving house several years ago. Sure, it makes great juice, but it is a pain to clean. It is a tough and efficient machine in other ways, and it whizzed through all those apples like a champ. I ended up with 12.5litres of juice and a big bucket of pulp. The poultry greatly appreciated the pulp.

I had to warm the juice slightly to dissolve the sugar, which helped get it to brewing temperature. I added the yeast sachet that I got from The Home Brew Shop in Ballarat. Then I parked the whole thing on the heat pad in the small bathroom. Two days later it is fermenting very happily at 24 degrees.

I have never made cider from actual apples before. Until now I have used canned apple juice concentrate, so this batch will be very interesting. Hopefully as long as I manage to keep it warm enough for long enough after bottling it will have the dryness and champagne-like fizz that I enjoy so much.

So that was Sunday.

Monday… well, I had big plans for Monday, but I didn’t really do anything. At least it felt like I did nothing. I had intended to get all the goats’ feet trimmed, mow the lawn and whippersnip the edges, clear out the greenhouse and clean the chook pens. The windy weather put me right off being outside. I did get the greenhouse cleared out and did a load of washing. I created a blog post. Then I considered the possibility of actually taking a bit of a break…

I’m not quite ready for that yet. Once I stopped moving forward I slipped into a guilt spiral. All those things I ‘should’ have done instead rolled around and around in my mind. I ended up curled up in bed with the doona over my head. Yay me.

Nothing that I didn’t do was especially pressing. But when I make a To Do list you can bet your tail that I will damn well do all the things on it. And I won’t be happy until I do. I especially won’t feel that I deserve to sit down until EVERYTHING is done.

For those who bear witness to all the things I do, all the things I achieve, I rarely reveal the flip side. I put enormous pressure on myself to do all these things. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy what I do. Sometimes, though, I find completing the task to be more rewarding than performing the task. That is, I am not happy while doing, only when done. Which is not a recipe for happiness.

I am working on being more present, on seeing life as more than a list of tasks on a whiteboard that I have to cross off. A night of cooking is one of my favourite things, especially with the addition of music, someone to talk to and something nice to eat and drink. But some days the To Do list is all that keeps me going and I am almost afraid to stop. It keeps my brain on the straight and narrow and while I am busy, while I am doing things, it has no right to judge me.

Apparently we all need down time. What I have to do is realise that I deserve it.

My Easter Weekend 2014, Vol. I

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Content advisory: This post includes discussion and an image of killing poultry, and mentions religion, alcohol consumption and controversial movies about sex.

I’ll be doing my Easter post in two volumes, each consisting of multiple chapters, in an homage to Lars Von Trier… you will get the reference a little later on in the piece.

As someone who is not into Easter in a Jesus and chocolate kind of way, I see four days off work with no kids at home as a prime opportunity to get stuff done and hopefully fit in a little bit of relaxing as well.

My kids spend every Easter with their father. This is partly because when I was growing up I always spent Easter with my dad, and partly because my kids’ father is much more of a Jesus and chocolate person than I am.

So what better way to begin a four-day child-free weekend than with a night out.

Chapter 1 – The Pub Crawl

Our last round - two Cosmopolitans and a Harvey Wallbanger

Our last round – two Cosmopolitans and a Harvey Wallbanger

Two Easters ago I had a fun night out with the Yacht Club DJs at Karova Lounge, and this Easter they played there again. I had thought about going, but my sister suggested that we just go to a pub instead. She recently moved into town, an easy walk from many pubs, so the plan was to walk from her place and crash back there afterwards.

This plan somehow morphed into a pub crawl, starting at Irish Murphys and winding our way back to Sarah’s house via several pubs. Except we got to the third one, Jacksons and Co, and stayed. The music was the right volume, the drinks selection was huge, the couches were comfy and the crowd was small and sensible. It was the perfect spot. We stayed until closing, with every drink different to the last.

I had planned to try a different cider in every bar, but after starting with a Bulmers and trying three others, I gave up. There is a frighteningly vast array of bad cider on the market these days. I rounded out the night with a couple of cocktails instead.

On our way home we took a detour via the magic glowing hole-in-the wall known as The Gravy Spot, a phenomenon that is only visible after midnight and after you’ve exceeded .05. Chips, cheese and gravy gave us the energy to get back up the hill, where with what was left of my voice I struggled to sing to ’90s classics in my sister’s lounge room until 4am.

 

Chapter 2 – Processing

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After four hours sleep, Matt and I went home, as I had a goat to milk. Then we went back to bed. I spent the afternoon bellyaching over whether or not I could bear to kill the young roosters I had deliberately raised as meat birds.

Matt put his hand up to do the actual beheading, which I am incredibly grateful for. The rest is yuck and tedious, but not having to swing the hatchet myself gave me back my resolve.

Easter seems to be a handy time for processing poultry. The summer hatches are around four months old by this point, and there is plenty of time to devote a few hours to the job. This time around we had three Silkie cockerals and three Rhode Island Reds. A new hatchet made the end very quick for these birds. Plucking and gutting was a more laborious task.

The Silkies dressed out at 700g, and with their black skin they do look a little odd. I froze two of them whole, along with all three of the Reds, and filleted the third for 400g of meat. We had carrot soup for dinner.

 

Chapter 3 – A New Goat

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Last Easter was punctuated by the loss of my dear foundation doe Tarra Bulga Lucinda. This year we welcomed a new member to the family on Easter Saturday.

I had been on the lookout for another unrelated buck for quite a while, to put over my Tazzy/Jupiter cross daughters. I was willing to wait for the right buck to come along, and my requirements were stringent. I had seen pictures of Fitz as a young kid, at which point his breeder was planning to keep him.

It was pure luck that gave me the chance to be first to throw my hat in the ring when Fitz’s breeder decided that she would sell him. I was on Facebook at the right time when the notification about the For Sale listing flashed up on my screen.

There were some delays with the transport, but Fitz has finally arrived, and he is exactly what I was hoping for. Well grown and strong, with the length, depth and bone that I need to add to my herd. He also has loads of milk in his pedigree. All being well he will be test-mated to one of my young does later in the year and then if that goes well he will get a few more does next year.

 

Chapter 4 – Nymphomaniac

Matt and I are always on the lookout for interesting new movies to watch. During our searches we stumbled upon Lars Von Trier’s two-part story Nymphomaniac.

I don’t watch R-rated movies often. And when I consider watching one, I always do my research. I read reviews and check out the content advisory. What I read about Nymphomaniac certainly piqued my interest.

It would be fair to say that the majority of Americans who commented on the IMDB page hated the movies. Many reported watching, or trying to watch, the first one, and not going back to finish the story. They complained of it being ‘porn disguised as art’, and deemed it ‘too smutty’ and over-the-top. The critics, in general, were able to see deeper into what Von Trier wanted to convey.

In short, Nymphomaniac tells the story of Joe (Charlotte Gainsbrough), a woman found lying in an alley by avid reader and fly-fisherman Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard). Joe sets out to tell Seligman how she came to be beaten and left in the alley, and Seligman interjects with stories of how Joe’s sexual exploits are similar to fly fishing.

The construction of these films is delicate and sophisticated, with cinematic tools and scene composition used to full effect to create the story. The visuals are as imperative to the story as the narrative, and the two complement each other seamlessly. As a film experience, in a world of hollow big-budget blockbusters, Nymphomaniac is undeniably satisfying.

The content seems to have been the sticking point for many viewers, though. If you watch it for titillation, you will be disappointed. For a movie about sex, it is stunningly unsexy. If you are offended by boobs, pubes, pictures of willies, vagina close-ups or depictions of sex and masturbation, including that most taboo – the female orgasm, you will be offended by these movies.

Watching them with my feminist-coloured glasses on left me very pleasantly surprised. There was nothing in these films that offended, shocked or upset me. Actually, there was one thing. But that worked out alright in the end.

The symbolism, the things deliberately included or deliberately left out, the narrative, so many things make these movies a collective masterpiece. They raise so many questions, but leave the viewer with definite closure. There are scenes that can be interpreted in many ways, but the underlying message you get from them will depend on the sort of person you are.

I won’t go into any of it too far, because I don’t want to taint anyone’s experience of these films with my own views. I will go as far as to recommend that you might not want to watch it with your parents. But if you appreciate good cinema, you will appreciate Nymphomaniac Vol. I and Vol. II.

Now I must do some gardening before the weather comes in, but I will return with My Easter Weekend 2014, Vol. II.

Breaking Up (With Shampoo) Is Hard To Do

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In yet another of my idealistic hippie moments I decided to give up using shampoo and conditioner on my hair.

It seemed like a logical step, since I don’t use laundry detergent and I make my own soaps. I also use hand-made moisturiser and almost never wear make-up.

Off to the internet I go, with a quick visit to an equestrian-oriented forum that I frequent for some ideas and advice.

I got a few responses of ‘yuck, I could never give up washing my hair’, which made me realise that ‘not using shampoo’ means the same to some people as ‘never washing my hair ever’.

Of course I still wash it. Because if I didn’t, that would be yuck.

The internet will tell you that if you just wait out three weeks your hair will go from sad and lifeless to beautiful, shiny and silky. It might get a little oily in between as it gets used to not having the oils stripped out of it every day.

It has been three months, and I am finally happy with my hair again. Yes, I need a trim and my roots need a touch-up, but my hair is manageable, has a good texture and I actually like how it looks and feels.

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I think it took three weeks for my hair to even notice that I wasn’t using shampoo any more. I had got down to washing about twice a week anyway. It would go through an flyaway unmanageable day while it was very clean, then settle down for a couple of days, then start to get greasy. Then I would wash it again. If I wanted it looking good to leave out on a certain day I would have to make sure to wash it at least 48hrs before.

I started out doing a bicarb and vinegar wash. Initially this made my hair feel like straw. It rebelled by becoming incredibly oily, but I could manage for a few weeks while it transitioned, I told myself. As well as weekly bicarb and vinegar scrubs I took up rinsing it every second day. This didn’t really help.

But I stuck to my resolve. I bought a good paddle brush, designed to spread the oils through the hair. I washed the brush with soap every second day. That brush cost me $25. If you had told me beforehand that you could even find a hairbrush that cost that much I would have said that such a thing was for chumps with more money than brains. I had never previously spent more than about five bucks on a hairbrush. But with all the money it would save me on shampoo and conditioner I figured it was a trade-off I could live with.

After about six or seven weeks I nearly cracked. My hair felt gross. It looked alright, but I just couldn’t find a balance. It was driving me nuts. I was frustrated and distracted by what looked like the failure of my grand gesture. For a while I was very, very tempted to grab a bottle of Pantene and scrub my head until my hair felt like the dog-fur collar lining of a cheap puffa vest. Don’t pretend you don’t know exactly the fashion item I am referring to.

But I had one more ace up my sleeve. Somebody early on in the project had suggested that I use my goat milk soap for washing my hair. I didn’t, assuming that it would make my hair fluffy, something I was very keen to avoid. In a last-ditch effort to save myself from going back to the high-lathering chemical cocktail, I took a piece of plain home-made goat milk soap and washed my hair with it.

I am pleased to say that it worked. My regime is now a wash with goat milk soap and rinse with apple cider vinegar about every five days. Sometimes I rinse it in between. It combs out easily and sits nicely if left out. I can easily pull it into a ponytail without too many fluffy bits poking out.

My hair is now, compliant, looks and feels clean, and doesn’t get frizzy. It is also the longest it has been in a long time. In the past I have not wanted my hair too long because it becomes a maintenance nightmare. It is incredibly thick, to the point where almost every hairdresser who cuts it gets about two-thirds of the way through and says ‘you’ve got loads of hair’.

I have learned to decipher hairdresser language to a degree (‘nice colour, did you do it yourself?’ is not a compliment, in case you were wondering), and being told that you have loads of hair is a double-edged comment. On one hand, it means your hair is thick and has more body and your scalp is probably healthy. On the other it means that the person wielding the scissors has just realised that it is going to take them a lot longer than anticipated to finish the job.

Since giving up shampoo my hair is probably thicker still. I definitely don’t lose as much as I used to when I brush or comb it. I have not been in for a trim and tidy-up, because I didn’t want to go in with ‘transitioning’ hair and have some scalp-expert assume I was just a grot. I think I am ready now, though. Might make that a job for this week.

My advice for anyone thinking of giving up shampoo? Unless you are really motivated, you probably shouldn’t put yourself through the angst. It could take ages to figure out how to keep your hair nice without all the chemicals. If you have a an actual hairstyle, rather than a longer cut where you can just shove it in a ponytail and forget about it on bad days, you will probably have a hell of a time getting through the transition stage.

If you are keen to give it a crack, get a good paddle hairbrush and keep it clean. Brush lots. Get a trim and have your colour updated before taking the plunge. And if one natural alternative is not working for you, have a try at a different one.

The Search for Something Better

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A side-effect of making your own food and drink is that supermarket stuff becomes less and less appealing. When you make your own you can tweak the recipe to your precise tastes. Another big part of this is that real food tends to have a lot more taste than the processed varieties that many people are accustomed to.

These days lots of people will tell you that they started eating free-range eggs for ethical reasons and find that they now prefer them as a superior product with their perky whites and bright yolks. Others are swapping out their Wonder White bread for a nice Helgas or experimenting with the more exotic varieties available from an actual bakery. Sourdough is winning friends and influencing people.

There are many things that I have been making for a while that I no longer consider that there is a suitable bought substitute for. I have never really liked the taste of regular cow milk, but now that I drink raw goat milk I find I can barely even stand the smell of supermarket milk. Don’t get me to sniff the carton in the work fridge to tell you if it has gone off, because to me it smelled bad the day it was purchased.

I stopped buying the regular sweetened processed yogurts years ago. For a while I stuck to locally made brands and then hid in the corner with the pot-set Jalna, made from real milk and sweetened with fruit juice. About a year and a half ago I bought some yogurt culture and started making my own. Lightly sweetened and gently flavoured, I perfected the mix. Now not even my old favourite, Jalna’s full-fat vanilla, can get past my nose.

When it comes to cider, though, my palate has really developed. I cut my drinking teeth on Strongbow Sweet, and when cider made its grand comeback a few years ago I tried a few of the sweeter varieties. Then I started brewing my own. My summer cider is a dry, crisp, beautifully finished example of the genre. It leaves a slight draughty aftertaste but is far from bitter. In winter it is not easy to get it as well-finished due to the cooler weather. In winter I can quite happily drink Bulmers. But by the end of summer, as the batch ages and my taste buds acclimatise, only my Sticky Fingers home-brew will do.

I’ve done the mixed half-dozen, I’ll try whatever is on tap when I go out, and sometimes I find something good. When I do, my comment is usually ‘this tastes like mine’. I have people sing the praises of Rekorderlig (too sweet), Magners (smells like wee), and the other high-end imported ciders. But in the absence of a bottle of my best, I find there are a lot of good local dry ciders that are well worth a try. And don’t say ‘pear’ or ‘berry flavoured’. Those are for people who don’t really like cider but are too proud to drink Cruisers now that they are past a certain age.

Eating out can be hit and miss too when you realise that you may have become a food snob. As someone who cooks, I can tell you that there are few greater pleasures than going out to eat and actually being impressed by the food. I can also tell you that there are plenty of places that serve food seemingly without any real idea of what it actually tastes like. Over-dressed salads are an epidemic. Extravagant pizzas with several flavour themes fighting for supremacy in the one bite are also popular. Less sophisticated eateries seem to err on the side of making sure your taste buds are busy, rather than letting the basic ingredients make their own impression.

One of the best meals I ever had was at Dyers Steak Stable in Ballarat recently. It was a special-occasion dinner, and we made the most of it, with three courses plus a very good bottle of bubbly.

I openly admit that I am not the steak-eater of the partnership. This limited my menu choices somewhat. We chose an entree to share featuring smoked salmon, and then I asked what the fish of the day was. Atlantic salmon. I ordered the duckling.

When the main courses arrived I was a little surprised and very pleased to see very simple food. Alongside the meat was one roasted potato, half a grilled tomato and half a dozen long green beans. That was it. The potato and tomato were lightly seasoned with herbs. The meat itself was clearly the main event.

As a duck breeder I was well able to appreciate the well-conditioned cuts of what was most likely a young male Muscovy. I am a big fan of duck meat, and the bird on my plate was clearly a very good size for his age. The meat itself was pale, tasty and tender, the skin perfectly crisp and the delicately sweet sauce complemented it perfectly. I hope that one day I can cook a duck that echoes this high standard.

The steak, I am reliably informed, was also cooked to perfection, and despite its size was comfortably consumed.

In too many restaurants these days the meals are huge and I almost never order dessert. But on this occasion I put my hand up for the champagne poached pear. This was another triumph, with the strong but balanced blend of spices in the sauce really catching my attention. It might be one of the pricier places to eat in Ballarat, but I will definitely eat at Dyers again.

Just quickly, if you are after a less extravagant experience I can also recommend The Unicorn Hotel on Sturt St. I love their all-day breakfast; the eggs are always perfectly poached and the sourdough bread is an ideal base for their current twist on Benedict or Florentine. The home-made dips, sauces and chutneys are reliably awesome. The music and the decor create a great atmosphere that completes the experience.

Size Is Not So Important

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Those who saw the 10.30am milking demonstration at the Dairy Goat Society of Australia (Vic. Branch) stand at the Ballarat Rural Lifestyle Expo yesterday will have met my little brown doe Elcarim Sienna.

Sienna was the first doe kid to receive the Elcarim prefix, as she was born in my first year of kidding registered goats. She was a twin, born just after her brother Victor, out of Traybonne Rianna and by Capricorn Cottage Tazzy.

She was a jolly, bouncy little bundle of fun. As a kid, Sienna went to one show, the Daylesford Agricultural Show, which also happened to be the DGSA Victorian Branch Show that year. And on that day my noisy little girl was sashed Champion Doe Kid.

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She went out a few times as a goatling, but it soon became apparent that she wasn’t going to end up as tall as the others her age. It didn’t take long for her four months younger half-sister Meredith to catch up and then outgrow her.

Sienna kidded triplets first time around, three big bucks, and it didn’t go well. The first kid born was weak and did not survive. The second was found to have his elbows tucked up, his front feet under his chin, and I had to help him out. The third I pulled out by his hind legs.

The second kid was vigorous, up and feeding by himself, but the third did it tough. He was found very cold on the morning after his birth, and was brought inside to be re-warmed. He was tiny and grey, with massive ears. He looked like a baby rabbit, so he got the nickname ‘Thumper’. He was bottle raised, has grown to be the tallest goat in the yard, and remains a family favourite pet.

After her assisted kidding Sienna was given antibiotics, but after a couple of days she was obviously not well. She stopped eating, her milk dried up, and she seemed to be preparing herself to lie down and die. Another round of antibiotics and some pain killers for good measure got her back on her feet, to my great relief. She was able to raise one of her kids.

Even once physically recovered from her difficult birthing, Sienna was an unhappy goat. She objected greatly to being put on the milking stand, hated being milked, and was an absolute nightmare to milk at shows. I stopped taking her out as a first lactation doe, partly because of the theatrics involved in milking her out, but also because she was small and lightly-framed compared to the others in her classes.

Sienna at towards the end of her first lactation.

Sienna towards the end of her first lactation.

Once her kid was weaned, Sienna proceeded to out-milk my other does. She was the last one producing, despite being the first one due to kid. She was eight weeks into her pregnancy before she began to dry up, which she did very quickly. I fed her and rugged her and kept up her minerals.

She kidded for the second time early in the morning of July 11th, 2013. Triplets again, this time two bucks and a doe. I re-homed the bucks and managed to convince Sienna to raise the doe kid. She started off producing five litres of milk per day, and I wondered how on earth I was going to keep the nutrition up to her to sustain it. By the end of the first month she was sustaining just over four litres per day, which she kept up for nearly seven months.

With her second set of triplets.

With her second set of triplets.

She went to the Royal Melbourne Show with her nine-week-old kid Juno. And much to my relief, she was no longer the sour, milk-bucket-kicking fiend that she had been the previous year. When the judge at the Royal asked for the does to be milked out in the show ring I had a moment of panic. But my little brown doe, and her taller sister, stood like rocks.

These days I consider Sienna my best milker. So far this lactation she has produced 900 litres, and I hope she can get to 1050 litres and become eligible for Type and Production classes. Her udder is not ideal; her teats should be smaller and her front attachment could be a lot better. But she milks her little socks off and consistently has the highest butterfat content in my herd.

Sienna's udder

Sienna’s udder

At a mere 78cm tall, she is my smallest adult doe, and one by one I watch my goatlings and kids outgrow her. But she holds her own as a respected member of the group. These days she leaps up onto the milking stand twice a day. She stands like a rock while I set her up with the hand pump and leave it running while I milk Meredith on the other stand. She is the goat I use to teach visitors how to milk, the one I will get my helper to milk at a show, as she now stands so calmly and reliably.

Yesterday she excelled herself as the demo goat at the Rural Lifestyle Expo. She jumped up onto the stand, in the middle of the busy livestock shed, without hesitation. She stood without moving a foot, munching her grain, while a dozen children and a couple of grown-ups had a go at milking her. I got comments on the fact that I could leave the milk bowl under her while I talked to the people around me and trust her not to stick a foot in the milk.

My goats on display.

My goats on display: Thumper, Sienna, Victoria and Meredith

She hasn’t been an especially successful show goat, and she is definitely not the stand-out among my taller, more exotic girls, but Sienna holds a special place in my heart. She is quietly stoic and endlessly good-natured. She calls out to me morning and night, just in case I have forgotten that I need to milk her. She isn’t a fussy mother, doesn’t object to having her blanket on, and happily eats what she is given. A ‘meat-and-potatoes’ milking goat, my little farmyard companion.