Book Review – A Year of Practiculture, Rohan Anderson

 

Book Review: A Year of Practiculture by Rohan Anderson

There is nothing like the passing of a close loved one to sharpen your focus on living a simple life.

My husband’s father passed two weeks ago and we are still coming to terms with it all.

At the same time, I’ve been doing some contract work and while the work is meaningful, it’s challenging and I don’t have the internal resources to do that job well and continue to live simply.

So – I’ll be finishing up work in six weeks before we head overseas and I’ll head into another stage of simple life re-evaluation. Life is too short. Loved ones need to be loved. Life is to be lived and not endured.

So as a little break from my low waste journey, I thought I’d review a book that makes me happy. A Year of Practiculture by Rohan Anderson is just that book. It’s so many things! It’s a:

  1. Biography of one man’s journey from office worker to self-sufficient simple lifer. It’s a great story of how you can prioritise your health and have a meaningful, nearly self-sufficient life.
  2. Funny book. It’s hilarious. If you have a teenage boy sense of humour like I do, you’ll be chuckling the whole way through this book.
  3. Recipe book. It’s got 100 no-fuss recipes from Rohan, his garden and things he hunts. AND THE RECIPES ARE DELICIOUS. Fancy some lamb-neck with summer broad beans anyone? It’s a wonderful seasonal recipe book that you can use as your garden produces fresh, bountiful crops.
  4. Practical how-to in the garden book, written especially for Australian conditions. I love the way he makes mistakes and records them so we can learn from them. Like investing too much of the garden bed in a crop that didn’t produce (corn) and the precise calculations you need to make when surviving off the land.

I have a major confession. I am only half way through the book. I made my kids buy it for me for Christmas, and I greedily started zooming through the pages, sneaking little moments to read a little bit more. But then I realised because this book gives me such pleasure, I will eek it out through the seasons. I read Spring; Summer has been read, recipes tried and now I will wait until Autumn to dive in again to my favourite book. In the meantime I might re-read Spring and Summer again. Thanks Rohan for producing amazing material and inspiring us to grow our own, and live a simple life.

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Root to stalk, suburbia style

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One of the amazing things I am learning as I reap the benefits of my slow growing brassicas and beetroot is that the winter/early spring crop can provide a family like mine an abundance of greens for dinner. I’m almost at an over-supply moment where I am going to have to start blanching and freezing. How exciting.

I’ve learned to cut off the broccoli head and to keep harvesting as smaller off shoots present themselves. This alone is keeping our family of seven every second week well feed. My cauliflower is now being harvested and eaten as well.

But the true gem of the garden, to provide sustenance during the lean late winter/early spring months is all wrapped up in amazing little book called Root to Stalk cooking by Tara Duggan.

I did know about cutting off the outside of broccoli stalks and slicing the inner stalk thinly for a stir fry, but my mind was completely blown when I realised that not only could I utilise the broccoli or beetroot in my suburban paradise, but I could also utilise their leaves. Kaboom. World blown.

Just like the snout to tail philosophy, much more of the vegetables grown organically in the suburban back yard can be eaten, providing essential nourishment.

So now, as I see the tender little leaves of broccoli and cauliflower growing, I harvest them, wash and slice finely for stir-fries. Beetroot leaves are harvest also and used for salads or stir-fries.

My brussel spout plant heads are also harvested (as well as the brussel sprouts of course !)

And my garden has become so much more interesting as a result, as I learn about the parts of the garden that I can harvest for nutritional value) and feed my family. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Bread bliss – homemade sour dough

Each week or fortnight, I make a little change towards being more self-sufficient. Too many changes and I get overwhelmed. One a week or so seems achievable.

This week – I am baking my own bread. I lashed out and purchased a Breville Gourmet bread maker because it makes baguettes and we are suckers for a good baguette. I must admit these babies are the best thing the bread maker makes in my view. Crusty exterior, yummy middle and delicious straight from the oven with lashings of butter. They have also passed the fussy husband I-only-like-Bakers-Delight test.

My second adventure into the wonderful world of bread making is to make my own sour dough. This is day two of making the starter. I’m using the River Cottage recipe. You basically make a starter over a period of seven days, and “feed” it over that period. Post seven days, you can start making daily sourdough. How exciting.

sour dough starter

The starter recipe (that’s above, in all its smelly glory at day 5):

100g strong baker’s flour

Enough water to make a paint like consistency

Mix and cover with gladwrap or a lid and leave in a warm place.

Each day, remove half of the starter, add 100gm flour and some water to return to the paint consistency. Keep feeding in this way for seven days. Each day you will see bubbles (natural yeast) and over time, I am led to believe, it smells better.

The night before you are ready to bake your loaf, take 100gm of the starter to 250gm strong flour and 275mls of water to make a sponge. Leave it overnight and it will look fermented again.

The next day, add 300gm of bread flour, 1 tblspn of olive oil and 10gm fine sea salt.

Hugh recommends a good hand knead and rise process, but I am little bit more practical right now. Rather than hand kneading, I will be using the bread making function in my bread maker – takes away a little of the whole connection with food part, but while I am still working full time it seems like a sensible compromise. I’ll update you on my first loaf.