All Posts By

Eve

DIY, Food

DIY Fire Cider

You may have noticed fire cider appear at the local health food shops every autumn & winter. Yet instead of purchasing a store bought version, I urge you to make your own as it is simple and you have more control over making it to your tastes. I have been making fire cider for years now, every Autumn to boost my immune system before the cold of winter comes; though admittingly this year I have left it rather late. So today, on the eve of the autumn equinox, I gathered all the ingredients (minus horseradish as I could not find it locally) and made a quick batch.

In recent years there has been quite the fire cider controversy. A Massachusetts company called Shire City Herbals trademarked the name ‘Fire Cider’ and started sueing herbalists who used the name, despite the fact it was simply the name of the herbal remedy that people have been making since the 1970s. Fortunately this did not go unopposed, people banded together against the company, there were petitions, calls to boycott the product, stores refused to sell it and finally it went to court. It is more than just making fire cider, its about companies trying to limit tradition and sharing of knowledge of herbal remedies. Thankfully there was a court ruling in late 2019 determining the term ‘fire cider’ is generic and can not be trademarked, which is important as its a precedent-setting case which will help support herbalists if another corporation tries to trademark a generic herbal term.

The way I make it is based on Rosemary Gladstar’s recipe who came up with fire cider in the 1970s (yes the same brilliant herbalist who’s recipe I shared with on my calendula salve post). However, I add a few more ingredients as I figure the more immune boosting power the better and rather than measuring everything precisely I throw it all in and keep cutting more till I fill up the jar. Feel free to change it to your tastes. As long as there is apple cider vinegar, garlic, honey and cayenne pepper – the rest is up to you.

Processed with VSCO with t1 preset

Ingredients

Apple cider vinegar
5-10 cloves of garlic (depending on size, the more the better I say)
3cm section of ginger root (can chop or grate)
3cm section of horseradish (can chop or grate)
1 brown onion chopped roughly
2 sprigs of rosemary
1 lemon cut into quarters
1 orange cut into quarters
1 green chilli sliced
1 tablespoon turmeric
1/4 tablespoon cayenne pepper
honey to taste

Method

  1. Put all the ingredients, minus the honey, in a jar.
  2. Cover with apple cider vinegar by about two inches.
  3. Use a piece of natural parchment paper or wax paper under the lid to keep the vinegar from touching the metal.
  4. Store in a dark, cool place for one month and shake daily.
  5. After one month, use cheesecloth to strain out the pulp, pouring the vinegar into a clean jar. Be sure to squeeze as much of the liquid as you can from the pulp while straining.
  6. Add 2 tablespoons honey and stir until incorporated. Taste your cider and add more until you reach desired sweetness.

Fire cider should taste hot, sweet and spicy. I take a tablespoon of it in the evening, but I know some people even use it as salad dressing, on rice, or with steamed vegetables. Yes it may give you a bit of garlic breath, but I’ll take that trade for a winter with less cold & flu.

Hope you enjoy making your own too and that it becomes one of your autumn traditions!

littlehaven, seasons

The wheel turns

Spring has come at last to little haven with its beautiful soundtrack of birds chirping and bees buzzing around blossoms, who’s pungent scent drifts through the air with the promise of future sun-filled days ahead, with a few rainy days thrown in for good measure.

After a strange, reclusive winter of being in lockdown at home, I’ve had some time to reflect and I realised it has been an entire year since I updated the blog. At first it was because last spring we were so busy with projects around the property. Then in summer the bushfires happened and our whole region was thrown into chaos. Then came the pandemic. It just never seemed the right time and honestly it felt like I had no creativity and was retreating within myself. Yet now spring has arrived and with it the feeling of new beginnings. Like the seeds that have laid dormant all winter long I have felt a reawakening and a desire to share once again.

We have been busy with projects such as gravelling the driveway and fencing the veggie garden and the beautiful antique gate we found has finally been hung. This area is still very much a work in process as now the sod needs to be removed, back gate installed, wood chips paths to be laid down and chicken wire to be attached to the fence to keep out the chickens and our ever-inquisitive dog Sage.

Not much is growing in the veggie patch apart from some herbs, lettuce, and strawberries. However, in the flower bed there is the new growth of echinacea that I thought the frost had killed, and I am really excited to see the beautiful pink-purple coneflowers in Summer.

We also have put up our little watcher, the owl to keep an eye on our patch when we aren’t around.

And for the rest of the property, Sage is proving to be a very good guard dog.

On a different note, in the last few weeks I’ve  been reminded how important self-care is during these times so I have started with little rituals and meditations to celebrate the changing seasons.

I have also lost myself to many good books that have sparked new thoughts and ideas. Just this morning I found myself under the front veranda with a tea and blanket, listening to the rain while reading Dune, when I came across this quote,  

“A person needs new experiences. They jar something deep inside, allowing you to grow. Without them, it sleeps- seldom to awaken. The sleeper must awaken.”

The quote seemed timely with Spring here and my recent feelings of reawakening. Perhaps this is what I needed, new experiences, changes, and the turning of the wheel of the year. I hope wherever you are you are finding ways to look after yourself and to take joy where you can find it.

littlehaven, seasons

Spring returns

So it is that spring has once again returned to little haven. The mornings are still chilly with frost and the ground much too cold to plant spring or summer veg, however the scent of blossoms have started to drift in the slightly warmer air and it is no longer complete darkness when we get home each night.

The ornamental pear & cherry plum trees have blossomed into life and are now abuzz with bees, which is music to our ears.

Four days into the start of spring one of our little hens has laid their first ever eggs, and as first time chicken owners the level of excitement was very much over the top, most likely to the chargrin of co-workers and family. They spend their time free ranging around the property when we’re home, and they are in their chicken tractor during the week so they always have some fresh grass and bugs to peck at.

With spring comes a list of a million of things to do around the garden. The veggie garden is being shifted to a new spot, there is ground to level, fences to be built, pea gravel & soil to be ordered and spread, seeds to be planted, irrigation to be fixed and in other places installed, weeding to be done, trees to be mulched and check which plants made it through the frosts (the clary sage is looking wonderful!)

Despite the large workload we are thrilled to be outside again, enjoying the longer days and the sunshine when we get it. Sage, our puppy that has grown incredibly fast and is now 13 weeks old is loving the activity outside and tries to do his bit by collecting sticks, helping us dig holes for plantings, herding chickens, and nibbling on anything that looks edible.

The thing we have come to realise since living at little haven is that despite the fact that there is always something else we could be doing, making time to literally stop and smell the flowers and be mindful of the beauty around us is something truly worthwhile and it is an act of gratitude and reciprocity.

Then, in-between it all we are trying to plan walks up in the high country to see the spring wildflowers, booking out time to visit all the upcoming farmers and bush markets and making sure to have the last bonfire or two before the fire restrictions come in.

So there you have it. Little haven in the full swing of the dance called Spring & wherever you may be reading this from we wish you a fertile and abundant season.

DIY, littlehaven

books that inspire me

I love reading at any time of the year, and usually have a few books on the go at any one time. However, I find that mid-winter is the most perfect time for catching up on all those books I wanted to get to through the busier seasons and nothing is better than a hot cup of tea, sitting in front of the fire with a good book while it rains outside.

When it comes to sustainability, environmental awareness and connecting with nature, despite coming from an academic background, I strongly believe that the best way to engage and connect people with these themes aren’t books that aim to scare you or present dry scientific data. I think the key is engaging through stories – having people remember where we come from and helping to re-establish our connections with the natural world. Stories that bring joy, enlightenment and shine a light on the wonders that come with engaging and forming relationships with the plants, animals and the very land itself that we are a part of. For once someone starts forming these relationships, earth stewardship and changing behaviours come naturally and is more likely to be sustainable over the long term.

Therefore, with that in mind, here are my winter picks and if you have read any book that has inspired you or brought you joy I’d love to hear your recommendations.

Braiding Sweetgrass – Robin Kimmerer

“Sometimes I wish I could photosynthesize so that just by being, just by shimmering at the meadow’s edge or floating lazily on a pond. I could be doing the work of the world while standing silent in the sun.” – Robin Kimmerer

When anyone asks for book recommendations this tops my list. This piece of literature completely changed how I viewed my relationship with the natural world and from everyone I have spoken to, after they read the book, it is clear I am not alone. Robin Kimmerer is a scientist and a professor of biology, whom came to the realisation that plants are not subjects of study, but instead are teachers to learn from. Drawing on her own heritage and viewing our relationship with plants through an indigenous lens she brings to light the importance of reciprocity and gratitude that is missing from current society when it comes to the relationship with the land, and one another. The book is amazing, however, I would highly recommend the audio book as the authors voice is so enchanting and soothing that the stories come to life in a special way. Get it! You won’t regret it.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life – Barbara Kingsolver

A highly entertaining and thought provoking memoir of a families journey, filled with highs and lows, on disconnecting from the industrial food pipe-line for one year and only consuming food that they either grew themselves or was raised in their own neighbourhood. Although based in America it has a lot of lessons for us here as well and will likely motivate you to examine your relationship with food, knowing where your food comes from and the importance of community. Thanks to this book I will never look at asparagus the same way again either, “(on asparagus) Europeans of the Renaissance swore by it as an aphrodisiac, and the church banned it from nunneries.”

The Art of Frugal Hedonism: A Guide to Spending Less While Enjoying Everything More Annie Raser-Rowland & Adam Grubb

In our society all to often success and happiness are promoted to be a result of wealth and consumption so it is no wonder that despite living in one of the richest countries in the world so many of us are unhappy and struggle to find a sense of purpose and fulfillment. This is not some pious, self righteous book about living on the cheap – its quirky, fun and a very easy read. This book is about finding joy in things that matter, reevaluating our lives and finding what brings us genuine happiness – and surprisingly (or not) those things are not tied with wealth. It’s something that my partner and I have discovered slowly over time, moving from a high paying jobs to a life out in the country, and finding the pleasure of recognising we don’t care if all our dinnerware matches or not, or what model of car we own as we know that the money could be spent on experiences or items that bring us actual joy. It’s about taking pleasure in things like a brilliant op shop find, the taste of a sweet peach on a summers day and the satisfaction of a good day’s work in the garden. Have you ever thought about what truly makes you happy? Well this book will and it will bring more mindfulness to your spending choices so that instead of that hollow feeling you get after buying yet another item that you don’t really need you start choosing to spend money where it bring you pleasure and joy.

The Hidden World of Trees – Peter Wohlleben

“If a tree falls in the forest there are other trees listening.” – Peter Wohlleben

This is one I have recently started and am half way through at the moment but did not want to delay in recommending it. I challenge anyone to go into a forest or sit by a tree and not see them with completely new eyes after reading this book that explores the magic that transpires within and around these stoic guardians. Peter discusses scientific discoveries of ways in which trees communicate, form communities, share nutrients and warn one another of impending dangers. There is such a warmth to his writing, although this book and Robin’s Braiding Sweetgrass overlap somewhat in subject matter they look at it through very different eyes and the tone of each book reflects this. A very interesting read.

The Lost Words – Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris

This book originated after in 2007 when the Oxford Junior Dictionary dropped 40 nature-centric words such as acorn, bluebell, dandelion, magpie, willow, weasel and wren to make room for technological words such as, broadband, blog or cut-and-paste. This inspired the British authors to create a stunning book of 20 words that each have beautiful water-color inspirations and instead of definitions enchanting poems. This is not a kids book nor an adults book. It’s a book adults could read to kids, but a book that adults can enjoy completely on their own as the poems can be quite complex and layered with meaning. It is a beautiful, large coffee-table style book that is a wonderful discussion starter and quite simply a work of art (see below).

That’s my list for the time being, and remember if you have any books of a similar theme that you would recommend we would love to hear your suggestions in the comments below!

littlehaven, seasons

Winter at little haven

Winter has arrived at little haven and the wheel has turned once more, having crossing the threshold of the Winter Solstice. The temperature has dropped below -2 more than once (-4 scheduled for tonight brrr), and the frost in the morning has given the property a beautiful and stark appearance. The birds greet us in the morning, reminding us to throw out some seed and their little bird bath has a thick layer of ice that we need to break for them.

The alpacas appear to be loving the cooler weather thanks to their thick, warm fleece. They are together in the paddock now and luckily Voodoo has ceased trying to show the younglings who’s boss, and instead has become protective and is on constant guard duty. He even likes to keep an eye on me in the mornings when I go to let the chickens out of their coop, which I find adorable as he is terrible at hiding.

Winter has never been my favourite season but I admit there is something magical about it when it becomes a frosty ,white wonderland, when your breath steams in the morning air and at night you can snuggle up by the fire with a good book or podcast and cups of hot coco. The spider webs outside become dazzling displays of sparkling water droplets and frost and the hit of icy cold air in the mornings is more invigorating than any cup of strong coffee.

Another positive is the celebration of the Winter Solstice, resulting in the days becoming noticeably longer from the next moon cycle. Inside, candles have been regularly lit as a nod to our ancestors, music played, fires burned and rooms decorated to give it that festive feel. A bottle of vodka that we had mixed with sour cherries that had been infusing for many weeks was ready to be opened and the warmth that it spread through our bodies kept away any winter blues.

Of course with the dark season that is Mid-Winter, it wouldn’t be complete without mention of the stag who is the symbol for this time of year from old European traditions. Ancients believed the stag carries the sun in his antlers and is a symbol of rebirth and rejuvenation.  So with that in mind we visited a nearby deer farm on a beautiful, sunny winters day and saw the majestic stags and were also fortunate to make a new friend – an adorable little miniature goat that would follow us everywhere. As a result we now are considering goats at little haven…

So the cold and sickness aside, Winter definitely has its perks and I hope if you are in our hemisphere that you are keeping warm and if in the north you are not taking that sunshine for granted!

Adventuring

Treasures in Beechworth

It was a wonderful Autumn weekend, with the chill in the air warranting the lighting of the wood fire heater for the first time this year at little haven and the cooler weather made gardening outside a pleasant activity for a change, after the long summer heat. On Sunday we decided to put our home chores aside and we headed to the nearby town of Beechworth to visit the cordial factory that had been recommended to us by Tom’s parents. I admit, I do like sweet drinks, yet the idea of a cordial factory is not something I felt that excited about visiting. However, upon arrival I realised how very wrong I had been to underestimate it.

The building itself is a beautiful gorgeous red brick and it has been the home of the factory since 1865. We met one of the owners, Nathan Cowan, who talked us through the cordial tasting (we bought 3 different types, they were that amazing) and explained how he and his partner had bought it 18 months ago after moving up from Melbourne. They relaunched the business under its original name and now also make beers again, like the factory did 70 years ago!

Not only do they have cordial tastings, they have a café where we had some delicious coffee and breakfast, an old school barber that is decorated so charmingly and a speak-easy bar with old school leather lounges and their beer on tap (think swanky Veronica Lodge’s basement-bar-below-Pops vibes). I wish I had the chance of taking photos of the bar, however it was too early in the morning to be open for visitors so we just peeked through the window. Next time, we promise.

If that was not enough, a small sign directs you to the back of the property where there is an old carriage museum filled with old, vintage buggies and carriages that is so beautifully nostalgic and was magical to walk around and explore with not another soul in sight.

Before heading home we stopped by Beechworth Galleries – our favourite vintage and antiques shop and as usual, our “lets just have a look” turned into a boot full of old treasures. The owners are always lovely and helpful, and their hauls from around the world also extend out into the garden. There are lots of metal sculptures around the property as well that must be created by some local artist that would make quite the statement piece.

We ended up leaving with a concrete bench we plan on painting white, a little wooden house shaped shelf I need to find a place for, an old metal grate that is now decorating the shed by the veggie patch and the find we are most excited about….. our new vegetable garden gate!!! Isn’t she beautiful?

The gate has travelled all the way from South Africa, is heavy iron and handcrafted by a blacksmith. It has whimsical, old world vibes that we love and think it will make the perfect entry way into our garden. Next project? Creating the veggie garden fence!

If you are ever near Beechworth we highly recommend checking both places out, and hope in the meantime you are having wonderful little adventures of your own.

Adventuring, Food

gourmet yarrawonga

We have had a slight reprieve from the heat wave, so with a milder 32 celsius forecast we decided to head towards Yarrawonga to do some op-shopping and visit the olive farm gate we had heard so much about. We picked up some interesting books at the op shop before heading out towards to Glen Rich Olive Estate. We were not sure really what to expect as it was very dry out that way but between the golden paddocks there it was, a little oasis of green and charm.

We headed for the cool inside, not sure really what to expect and were delighted to find olive oil & dressings tastings, beauty products made from their olives and lots of delicious produce.

We bought a kitchen cleaner spray, aromatherapy room spray, a rose hand serum for me and a wardrobe & drawer freshener that smelt divine.

Then we decided to head back outside to explore the gardens and found a lovely little vegetable and herb patch that gave us garden envy and the little sunflowers truly made it feel like summer.

Lastly we headed back into town, decided to treat ourselves to a milkshake at the Naked Tree Cafe though little did we know we ordered the king of all shakes ! I think we will be on a sugar high for the rest of the day but it was very much worth it.

Overall a lovely day and we hope you are making the most of this summer weather as well! x

littlehaven, seasons

Summer days

Summer has well and truly arrived at little haven with the bird bath proving to be very popular with the local bird life, heat waves that has seen temperatures soar to as high as 44.c, summer storms with massive downpours, and the paddocks looking so bare it is hard to believe they will ever return to their previous green, flourishing state. (But they do and they will).

(Now that the leaking pipe has been fixed hopefully the agapanthas recover as well!)

Luckily around the house its still quite green thanks, in part, to the shade of large trees. The alpacas are clearly thankful their fleece has been sheared, though some days it is still too warm and they have been seen dipping their heads into the drink troughs. It is making us contemplate purchasing them a kiddy pool to cool down in.

The vegetable garden needs to be watered once daily to cope with the heat and we already are planning ideas for shade structures for next year. On the plus side, the mixture of hot weather and heavy downpours has seen the garden flourish and we see new growth every day.

We also painted our old rocking chairs that we found at an op shop and one from Facebook marketplace and they look as good as new with their bright white new coat.

Also we upgraded the compost into a large two bay system out of recycled wooden pallets which makes me excited about the wonderful compost we will be able to produce. If only 16 year old me could see me now – excited over compost!

In many ways summer, like winter, is a time of rest. Except instead of cold days with tea by the fire we have lazy hot afternoons, cooling off at local swimming holes, reading books under the fan or planning out next season’s garden activities. However you like to spend your summers remember not to push yourself too hard during this season and always find some time for rest and rejuvenation.

Wishing you a very happy new year, Eve & Tom and all the animals from little haven.

DIY

DIY Calendula Salve

Calendula salve is the first salve I ever made so I can attest to how beginner friendly it is & how useful it is to have around the house. It soothes sunburns, dry/itchy skin and is anti-fungal. I was astounded by the prices of calendula salve online & in retail shops, so if it is something you use I really encourage you to make your own as not only will it save you money, the feeling of having created your own product and knowing the origin of each ingredient is well worth it.

So first, make sure to check out my post about making calendula oil as that is the essential first step. Once you have a calendula infused oil its just a few simple steps before its turned into a luscious salve.

Ingredients

1 cup of calendula oil
1/4 cup of grated beeswax
3-4 salve tins (I purchase mine from here)
4-6 drops of lavender essential oil (optional)

Method

  1. Over a double boiler slowly heat the calendula oil.
  2. Add in the grated beeswax and stir gently (I tend to just swirl the saucepan around to allow it to blend)
  3. To test if you like the consistency, put a spoon with some of the salve into the freezer for a minute or two. If you want a firmer slave just grate slightly more beeswax into the mixture, if you want it softer you can add more oil.
  4. If you want some lavender in your salve now is the time to add a few drops, depending on how strong you want it to be.
  5. Pour the mixture into the tins and let it cool for a an hour or two.
  6. Put the lids on the jars and store in a dark, cool place. These should last at least a year.

Additional info: Sometimes I want plain calendula salve & some tins with lavender. So I pour the plain salve in first, then bring the pan back to the heat to ensure it is still a smooth liquid consistency, add the lavender and pour the rest of the mix into other tins. It takes a minute but you will have best of both worlds.

See how easy that was? And if that inspires you, I recommend checking out my favourite herbal beginners book by Rosemary Gladstar that has many recipes and also teaches you how to grow wonderful herbs in your garden that you can turn into teas, tinctures, salves and balms.

littlehaven

our first alpaca shearing

The weather has warmed considerably and the paddocks are starting to turn golden, so it was time for our 4 alpacas to be sheared so they would be much more comfortable throughout summer. As new alpaca owners we called a professional to do the job, and at 8am Rob & his lovely wife Pat arrived to give them the much needed haircut.

It could have been done much quicker, but it was so wonderful to see him caring for their welfare and ensuring they didn’t get too stressed out. We all pitched in helping steady them on the ground and they had a blindfold to ensure they were as calm as possible. We were told they remarkably calm, especially the two young ones who had not been sheared before which was a testament to how well they are being looked & handled. This was a compliment we both cherished as we do our best to give them a nice home here at little haven and Tom spends time trying to get them use to human contact.

Tom was also given a quick lesson and an opportunity to try shearing and while he did very well for his first ever attempt, we both agreed it was still one for the experts as its not worth accidentally hurting them or prolonging the experience for them.

Each alpaca had such a different coat, Spartacus was the hardest to shear, Voodoo was more silky and very luxuriously thick, Merlin had his unusual Suri coat and Odin’s was praised due to its richness and how it had a marbled sheen in the sunlight. The below picture is the fleece from just two alpacas, Spartacus and Voodoo. We now have 6 large black garbage bags of alpaca fleece sitting in our kitchen and we are trying to figure out what to do with it and how to store it in the meantime.

It was amusing to see how different they looked after the shearing,  it was like two thirds of them had disappeared and  they had turned into a different animal. Suddenly they also look more vulnerable and I feel much more protective over them again, even the big ones like Spartacus in the photo below who now, isn’t so big. Overall it was a fantastic day of firsts and learning, for the young alpacas and for us, and Rob & his wife were so amazing and shared so much useful knowledge. Living in the country can be challenging when you are from the city and have a lot to learn but there are people in the community that are wonderful and generous in knowledge sharing, and overall it was a wonderful way to start our long weekend. Tomorrow we are heading off to the famous King Valley’s La Dolce Vita wine festival so stay tuned for that blog entry in the coming days! (once we have recovered)