Easter 2016… and an Update on my Resolutions.

Standard

Easter is always a big weekend on the farm and in the kitchen, and this year was no exception.

It began on Thursday evening, when I retrieved the frame of the Christmas turkey from the freezer and set it to boil down into stock. I also got the first cheese of the weekend, an 8lt Gouda, made and in the press.

Friday was a whirlwind of pumpkin soup, halloumi, zucchini muffins, iced tea, chocolate ice cream and a chicken pie for dinner. The halloumi was kind of a flop, I’m pretty sure it didn’t turn out how it was supposed to,  but it tasted pretty good. The soup, made with a home-grown pumpkin that had split and needed to be used up and stock made from the frame from the Christmas turkey, was really tasty. The rest of the family kindly did the afternoon milking and feeding, allowing me to have the pie made by about 8.30pm. It was a long day.

20160325_201329

This was after three runs of the dishwasher…

Saturday had been earmarked as the day to butcher the excess ducklings. After two weeks in small pens for fattening, the eight birds were left for 12 hours with only fresh water. We went out to buy a machete with which to do the beheading, and after visiting about four different stores we finally got one from Ray’s Outdoors.

20160324_074949

Muscovy drakes in their fattening pen.

The longer blade made for a more accurate cut, and each bird was neatly dispatched with one hit. We did the first two, plucked them, then the second two, starting with the big Muscovy drakes. Then the Pekin drake. Then two excess Muscovy hens.

This left two Pekin hens. By this stage I had hit my limit, and I opted to let the last two Pekin hens run free. I’m sure I’ll be cursing that decision come July when I’m drowning in duck eggs, but six birds in one day was more than enough killing for me.

20160326_164637

Ducks hung on the washing line for plucking.

20160326_164632

I can only handle so much blood on my boots in one day.

Due to the age of the birds, most had lots of pin feathers, making it impossible for me to pluck them cleanly. We ended up with two nice clean roasting birds and I decided to skin and fillet the other four. I took as much skin as I could and rendered the fat from it.

20160326_184412

I wish that I had duck feet…

I had been told that Muscovy hens are not worth killing because they are too small. The birds I was able to keep whole for roasting were a Muscovy drake and a Muscovy hen. They dressed out at 1550g and 1300g, with the female being smaller but still a decent size. From the other four birds I got over 2kg total in breast and thigh fillets. It took ages, I was on my feet for hours, but now I have a freezer loaded with duck meat.

20160326_184422

All cleaned and ready for the freezer.

Sunday was another big day, with a trip to Tatura to visit family. I drove one half of the six-hour round trip while my sister drove the other. It was a very nice afternoon with good food and wine and lots of dog stories.

20160327_092618

Off the visit the cousins, equipped with the three most important food groups – cider, goat cheese and sweet chilli sauce.

Sunday night I made the sourdough, which meant no cheesemaking as the sourdough can contaminate the cheese and ruin it. The milk was piling up. I baked the sourdough on Monday morning then lounged around for a bit. I took a gamble and made chevre on Monday night, which worked out pretty well and used up four litres.

So that was Easter. A bit less dramatic than previous years, but it got the fridge and freezer filled with bread and meat and cheese.

As for my goals for the new year… it is now April and I have exercised about five times. I have managed to get back into yoga over the past couple of weeks after avoiding it for six months, so that is something. I know I need to exercise more, and I will. When I find something that is not uncomfortable and doesn’t injure me.

Reducing food packaging has been a challenge too, but somehow I have managed to stay fairly dedicated to it. I have had to give up some things, like corn chips, that are simply unavailable in recyclable or biodegradable packaging. I have discovered Mountain Bread, which I can cut and bake into crunchy thin crackers, perfect for serving with cheese. This comes in a recyclable packet. I have found a brand of oats that is not only Australian grown, but comes in cardboard with no plastic inner.

Recyclable plastic food containers have become one of my favourite things. They can be washed in the dishwasher, frozen, re-used and when they start to crack and break down they go in the recycling. I use them for everything. I’ve been taking my own bags to to supermarket and fruit shop. I buy meat wrapped in a thin bag and paper, rather than on a plastic tray. Everything we buy is compared and considered and where a recyclable or degradable packet is available we take that option. Otherwise we replace that product with something else that will do the job, or go without. We haven’t been able to eliminate packaging waste, but we have certainly reduced it.

What I found particularly interesting is that when I bought my new laptop it came in 100% recyclable packaging. I thought, if they can package a laptop in recyclable packaging, why can’t they package corn chips in something similar? Or frozen berries? It is as though food companies just don’t care.

One friend pointed out that it is hardly fair that consumers have to make sacrifices, buy more expensive options and put in a conscious effort to reduce packaging waste while big food companies and supermarkets go gaily about their production and sale of packets that can only end up in landfill. The amount of fresh food that now comes pre-packaged in plastic is criminal. Things like bananas – organic bananas no less – presented for sale wrapped and on a tray. Grapes pre-portioned into throwaway bags. All sorts of fruits and vegetables on trays and in packets.

Where previously I was determined to buy Australian made or grown products, I found myself having to weigh up between food miles and throwaway packaging. I found bulk rice in a cloth bag, but it had come all the way from Sri Lanka. I opted for Australian-grown rice in a large plastic bag instead, choosing one large packet over several smaller ones as the lesser of the evils. And considering the popularity of bacon, I discovered that there is no way of purchasing Australian grown free-range bacon from Woolworths that didn’t boil down to a big fat throwaway packet wrapped around a relatively small amount of meat.

Growing food at home, buying in bulk and getting as much else as you can from small local outlets seem to be the best ways to keep packaging waste down. We bake a lot, store food in re-usable containers at home and rely heavily on home-made food. It is healthier all-round. And I will continue to work to reduce our reliance on plastic and the amount of rubbish we produce.

 

Advertisements

Watching Shit Movies So You Don’t Have To

Standard

I love movies. I love going to the cinema. But sometimes the movies don’t love me.

Here is a list of some of my viewing experiences over the last year, divided by my opinion of their quality. I’ll link them to their IMDb pages for more info. Some are new, some are old. Some are mainstream, some are more obscure.

 

The Great…

Mad Max – Fury Road – Refreshing, amazing, out-of-the-box action movie that shows women of all shapes, sizes and ages can kick ass.

The Tree of Life – Not a normal movie. Don’t expect a normal movie. Part meditation, part polarising vignette of toxic masculinity. Let it wash over you. It can be an amazing experience if you can forgive it for not being a normal movie.

If These Walls Could Talk – Troubling, devastating and incredibly important movie about abortion. An all-star cast of amazing women, frighteningly real and still all too relevant today.

 

The Good…

Star Wars – The Force Awakens – Nice girl-power adventure movie with a few historical actors to appeal to the purists. Rey is the hero we have been waiting for. Looking forward to the next installment.

The Hunting Ground (documentary) – Eye-opening, disturbing expose of the epidemic of rape and rape culture on college campuses in the USA.

Iron-Jawed Angels – Eye-opening and uplifting story of the horrendous treatment a group of women in the USA endured to obtain the right to vote.

Terminator – Genisys – I actually liked this. I liked the characters. I liked how they worked Arnold Schwartznegger’s advancing age into the story. Jai Courtney and Emilia Clarke are adorable. Much better than any of the other cash cows in the franchise that have come out since Judgement Day.

Hot Girls Wanted (documentary) – a distressing, gut-punch of a film from Rashida Jones, telling the story of young girls who attempt to make their fortune in amateur porn. If you still think porn is harmless after watching this, then there is no hope for you.

 

The Watchable…

Trainwreck – Like every other romantic comedy but with more swearing and dick jokes.

Ricki and The Flash – Cute, fluffy, musical, occasionally cringeworthy, with a dash of age-appropriate eye candy in the form of Rick Springfield.

Magic Mike XXL – A movie about men, by men, for women. Cute road movie with a few glaring ‘nope’ moments. See my extended review of it at The Wild Words.

 

The Disappointing…

The Piano – Not at all the amazing feminist piece I was expecting. Men behaving badly, women doing what they can with what they have. Harvey Keitel’s exposed backside neither adds nor detracts. His character is still creepy and predatory.

The Virgin Suicides – Meh. I was completely unmoved by this. Not sure if that makes me a bad person. The mother in the story was the only family member without a first name, she was just ‘Mrs Lisbon’. That irks me.

 

The Terrible…

The Wolf of Wall Street – Three hours of my life I will never get back. Spent all of it wanting to punch Leonardo Di Caprio in the face. What a thoroughly unlikable character.

The Dressmaker – hideous representation of life in small-town Australia. Portrays old people and women as caricatures of evil, while nice young white men are thoroughly pleasant ‘good blokes’ who shit keeps happening to. Watch ‘Shame’ for a more accurate version of what goes on in places like this.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl – claims to be an empowering depiction of emerging female sexuality, is actually a well-crafted normalisation of grown men having sex with young girls. Wrong. Avoid.

 

Now, I don’t waste time on a movie unless I have a reason to watch it. Whether that is a recommendation, a trailer that piqued my interest, positive reviews or a suggestion based on something else I have watched. And I check the content meticulously. Yet, as you can see, I still end up watching some clangers.

If, based on this list, you know of anything I might like to watch, or at least investigate, please drop me a line. I am also always willing to discuss movies that people disagree with me about, so if your experience of any of these was different, or if it was the same, feel free to say so in the comments.

 

I Want My FemTV

Standard

For something a bit different this week, I have decided to review and recommend some TV shows with a feminist leaning. With the current discussions going around about Game of Thrones and its regular assertions that women are almost exclusively for the use, ownership and entertainment of men, I have been looking for shows that, you know, portray women as people.

The pickings are slim. Most blockbuster TV shows are about men, by men and for men. But there seems to be emerging a trickle of solid series featuring women. Here are a few that I have watched, and what I think of them.

Orange Is The New Black

Set in a women’s prison, OITNB features a diverse cast of women, covering a wide range of ages, colours, shapes and sexual orientations. The central character is a privileged white girl who goes in facing a short stint for drug-related crimes and soon realises that it won’t be a simple matter of keeping her head down and doing her time quietly.

For its fairly gritty subject matter, OITNB manages to remain upbeat and enjoyable, as we delve into the past to discover what makes the various inmates tick and what led them to their life behind bars.

Outlander

Based on the beloved series of books by Diana Gabaldon, Outlander follows the adventures of Claire Randall, a world-wise WWII army nurse, who is suddenly transported back in time 200 years.

Finding herself in the Scottish Highlands circa 1940s, Claire is picked up by a band of clansmen, and quickly ends up in a politically-motivated arranged marriage with a very buff young Highlander named James Fraser.

Written by a woman, and featuring a female lead with a unique personality, Outlander doesn’t skimp on all the ‘man stuff’ required to depict life in a politically unstable, historically-accurate environment. There is blood, nudity, sex, violence, depravity, brutality and bad language. And yet none of it is gratuitous or over-the-top. None of it is purely for titillation or shock value.

Season one is about to end, with season two in the works and plans for several more. I hope that the Outlander star continues to rise and we get to enjoy watching the whole story of Jamie and Claire evolve over the next decade.

The Fall

Gillian Anderson plays Stella Gibson, a no-nonsense MET Detective Superintendent called to Belfast to lead the search for a serial killer who preys on women.

This is horror TV for women, with a cold and calculating killer who manages to prey on successful young women even when they take measures to protect themselves. That he does all this without his wife and children even noticing anything odd makes him all the more terrifying. Stella sets out to match wits with the killer (played by Jamie Dornan of 50 Shades of Grey fame, which made it really easy for me to dislike him) and use his pathology against him to bring him to justice.

This series is a slow burner, you’ll find yourself thinking nothing much is happening and then suddenly the episode is over and you just have to find out what happens next. Gillian Anderson’s Stella is the perfect balance of tough and vulnerable, composed and emotional, authoritative and imperfect, whether doing laps in the pool or rocking killer heels and a power skirt in the office. The monochrome bleakness of Belfast and contrasts sharply with the raw humanity of the characters.

Greys Anatomy

Hold on a second, I know what you are going to say. Greys is pure fluff and certainly doesn’t qualify as feminist. But bear with me. With hand on heart, I have to say that Greys Anatomy is my favourite TV show of all time. And I recently finished re-watching all of the first 10 seasons. Yes, it took months. And from my scattered memories of the last ten years, I expected to find it tedious and overly dramatic. But I thoroughly enjoyed it, even with my recently acquired feminist perspective.

This show is full of diverse female characters. Yes, they spend a lot of time talking about boys and dealing with boy problems, but they live their lives, they survive tragedies, they save people, they learn, they grow, they mess up, they fall apart and they pick their shit up and get on with it. Sometimes you get the feeling that the women are the meat-and-potatoes of the series and the men are the window dressing. Story arcs vary from one episode to spanning the entire ten years, and creator Shonda Rhimes keeps finding new ways to touch your heart and sometimes break it. This is a show by a woman, about women, and for women, and I can happily watch it for hours on end.

Orphan Black

It would be easy to give too much away about this series, which features Tatiana Maslany in a number of very different roles. The main character is Sarah, a con-artist looking for the big score that will allow her to escape her troubled past and start a new life with her young daughter Kira and her flamboyant foster-brother Felix. But when Sarah picks up the handbag of a young woman who has just committed suicide, she starts a journey down a path of intrigue where the answers lead to ever more questions.

Apart from the raft of female characters, this series takes a refreshingly honest approach to sexuality, with relationships and sexual encounters handed out liberally and without judgement to the characters without discriminating on the basis of age, appearance or orientation. The story twists and turns, heads down side streets, goes off on tangents, and still manages to stay coherent.

Top of the Lake

I am only one episode into this miniseries, created by Jane Campion of The Piano fame. I didn’t expect to be hooked by the first episode, but it took some serious will power to turn it off and go to bed without watching ‘just one more’. Once I am finished writing this I will be hopping straight back in front of the telly to continue where I left off.

This series has been accused of having an ‘aggressive feminist agenda’, probably because it is brave enough to actually discuss male violence and not take the party line of portraying men as heroes, or at least all-round good blokes. It certainly pulls no punches, with the storyline focusing on Tui, a slight 12-year-old girl who tries to kill herself in a freezing lake and in the aftermath is discovered to be pregnant. Detective Robin Griffin, played by Elisabeth Moss, takes an interest in the case and ends up uncovering a hotbed of small-town secrets.

Child abuse, domestic violence, rape culture and male superiority are all put under the microscope. Set in New Zealand, the scenery is magnificent.

So those are some series to consider if you’re after a change of pace from all the man-centric, ultra-violent, mainstream TV that everyone seems to be into these days. You may notice that I didn’t include Lena Dunham’s Girls in my list. I watched the first two seasons because of the reported realism and out-there female characters, and found something I could relate to in the interactions between flawed characters. But a few episodes into season three it got to the point where I just wanted to slap them all in the face for being so completely self-absorbed, and there seemed to be no more real human connections to distract me from how much I disliked them all. So no, I don’t really recommend Girls.

But the rest of those should keep you going for a while.

My Easter Weekend 2014, Vol. I

Standard

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

20140418_162439

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

20140420_123521

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.