My husband, my son and I went to my Cousin Teresa’s farm at Yalunda Flat in 1996 for a two week holiday. It remains one of the best holidays I have ever had. Two weeks of relaxation, eating good tucker and quite a few fermented grapes thrown in for good measure.
Teresa taught me how to milk Hannah, her gorgeous honey-colored cow so that became my job. I was very slow at milking and Hannah got a bit impatient with me at one point and stomped her hoof which ended up in the bucket of milk! “No worries,” says Teresa and promptly strained it. Warm milk straight from the cow? Nothing matches it. It is like drinking creamy caramel. Andre, Teresa’s husband, reckons that next time I was to make sure Hannah has her gum boots on so her feet don’t get wet.
As I sat on my little stool milking this gorgeous beast, I would rest my head against her rump. It was like meditating. There’s a tip folks, no need for a retreat. Get thee a cow to milk.
Teresa grew everything on the farm. She had fruit and veggies, eggs and a healthy meat supply. She was also a mother to five children who could help in the garden, collect eggs and so on. She made her own sauces, jams, fruit preserves and even preserved Bolognese sauce. Nothing beats the taste of fresh, homegrown vegetables. (See Mumma T’s homemade Kupiti Sauce for a Teresa Original recipe)
Every meal consisted of produce she grew or reared. We did have to pop into Cummins local pub for beer, wine and champagne. A quick dance on the table, and back home to milk the cow which sorry to say was a bit slower after a couple of vinos.
The first night, we celebrated our arrival with champagne. No ice bucket? No worries. Andre popped into the shed and grabbed an old empty paint tin, filled it with ice and plonked it on the table. “There you go ladies, don’t want your champas to get hot.”
On the second last day of our holiday, I was walking around the farm with Andre. I looked over at two turkeys procreating. A big beautiful black male. “I hope he’s enjoying that,” says Andre, “he’s our dinner tomorrow night.” Sure enough, on our last night we were served delicious BBQ’d turkey. I gave my own little thanks to him and hoped he was successful in making turkey babies for ‘ron.
I loved the BBQ too, a 44 gallon drum cut lengthways complete with rack and lid with a real fire underneath the rack.
I am sitting in my garden here in Darwin looking out at my extremely modest attempt at self-sufficiency. A Kaffir lime tree, basil, thyme, coriander and parsley (all still toddler age), a couple of spindly chili bushes, a lemon and Bay leaf tree that I bought last week. It is a start.
My husband is, however, organizing and building a chook house and a raised garden bed for me for my birthday. After sixteen years I feel a bit more confident about growing food up here in the tropics. I have met people who work in community gardens. We have the Mulch Pit calendar that has many useful tips about gardening in Darwin. Leonie Norrington is the gardening guru and we have her book too. I have my mother and Teresa on hand to help choose chooks for eggs and which ones to have for meat. (Just don’t name them Jane…don’t name them) I have to learn how to kill a chook. I must confess I have never done it before, although growing up I had dressed quite a few. The first time my husband and I went fishing I cried when we actually caught one, but since then I have toughened up I am happy to say. It was embarrassing for my husband at the time. I might need a drop of Jameson prior to the deed of slaughtering a chook; which is appropriate since it will be a wake.
I will keep you posted on the gardening and chook house.
In the meantime, it is very exciting to use my fresh herbs and produce from my friend’s community garden.