Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Funky frontyard farmers Challenge Finale


Our final entry for the challenge has been long overdue, and we apologise for keeping any of you waiting. You must be at the point of desperation to know what we ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner on our final day, let alone, what secret we have to reveal for 2011. Fear not, as all shall be revealed.

 The reason for our delay, dear readers, is because we were doing what teachers do best; we were taking a holiday. It was nice to get away from the front yard for a while. we took a trip up the coast to our old stomping grounds in Umina Beach, lazing about in hammocks eating thai takeaway and catching up with some old friends. In particular, we visited Nancy and David our old neighbours, who, as you may remember, started veggie gardening at the same time as us 4 years ago. It was amazing to see what they had managed to do with their backyard. At the age of 86, David had transformed a bare and sandy backyard into a bonanza of fruit and vegetables, including some exotic varieties such as fruiting cactus, naranjilla, and other neolithic looking fruit trees from the deepest, darkest parts of South America. I was amazed that a man of his age could be so productive, and still so enthusiastic about something that started off as some neighbourly competition. but then again, growing you own food never ceases to be entirely addictive.  

But anyway, you must be wondering how the last day of our challenge transpired.  

Day seven, our final day of the challenge, began with an air of excitement. With the party to prepare for, there was little time for a luxurious breakfast, and so, as is the universal tradition, we had cold pizza leftover from the night before. It felt seedy, but good, like left over pizza for breakfast always does.


After cleaning the house, it was time to prepare lunch. We used the last of our broad beans, cheese and macadamia nuts in a delicious summery salad, served with some small bread rolls. This would be the twentieth and final meal made from our own produce for the challenge. It was technically the last meal from our garden, because for dinner, all those invited would bring something of their own that they had made or grown from their own gardens for our "Make your own pizza night".  It was time to get busy making pizza bases.

Jo and the man who shall not be named

Our simple pizza base recipe

Olive oil, 1 cup lukewarm water, 2 tsp dried yeast , 3 cups plain flour, 1/4 tsp salt

In a bowl put 1 cup of lukewarm water and mix in a tsp of sugar, then sprinkle yeast on top, cover with a tea towel and put aside in a warm place for about 10 mins. During this time add flour and salt together in another bowl and make a well in the middle. After yeast mix is ready (has turned foamy) add 1 tbspoon of olive oil to it and then pour this mix into well. Mix until combined then empty onto bench top and get busy kneading with your hands. Knead for 5 mins then chop mixture in 2 and place each part into a bowl, cover with a tea towel and place in a warm spot again. Leave the dough til it is almost tripled in size, 10 mins at least. Flour your bench top and rolling pin and roll your dough to preferred pizza base shape. These bases also freeze really well, I just cover them in cling wrap and freeze them on a flat tray.

Lou's lovely carrot cupcakes
the party 
the party was a roaring success. Joe's sister Louise brought loads of vegetables from her garden, and a strawberry sauce made from her very own strawberries that was delicious on ice cream. Vicki, our wonderful Maltese neighbour, made a delicious egg and spinach pie, using her own hens eggs and her father's spinach. Bug and Steve brought mountains of basil, and Mim made a delicious pizza using her own tomatoes. Everyone took turns in making their own pizzas and shared them together with a few beers and a glass or two or three of wine.
Joe and Lou with her garden goodies
Jo and our lovely neighbour Mim with granitas

steve, jess and pat

 As a token of our friendship, each guest was also given the privilege of tasting Joe's infamous Mulberry wine bio fuel. They were very gracious and said nice things, except for Nick, who was honest and said it smelled of manure, which left Joe to happily finish the bottle by himself.

"i have to say, i really enjoyed this wine" joe...

As everyone sat together on the front balcony, overlooking the veggie garden, Jo and I felt privileged to share a great night with some good friends.

The next morning, it felt strange not having to think about what to cook for breakfast, or forage in the garden for a meal.  In some ways it felt almost naughty eating what ever we liked. The kids had yogurt and porridge as they always used to, and as I munched on some dry toast with Vegemite, I couldn't help but wonder whether our challenge had amounted to anything important at all. 

But it had. We managed to prove that a suburban family could produce enough food to live off, even if it was only enough for a week, and more importantly we had a wonderful and creative time in the process. So much in fact that we will happily do it again, which brings us to our first big announcement.

Who's up for a challenge?

This year, in 2011, we would like to invite you to become a funky frontyard farmer too, and take on the challenge with us. You have the choice between one of three challenges.

challenge 1: first time funkies

If you are new to gardening, this challenge may be for you. buy some seeds, make a garden bed and get planting. Your challenge is to make one meal from your very own garden produce. eat it, blog about it and be very very proud of yourself.
It may be a meal for one, or a dinner party for 20 that will go down in history as the best dinner party ever hosted this side of your garden. You are allowed 1 bought ingredient to add to your meal.

Challenge 2: A Fab and Funky Day
For the slightly more ambitious, try a whole day of making meals from your garden. What will be on the menu for breakfast, lunch and tea? not to mention some in between snacks. Tell us what you are growing, planning on cooking and send in some photos. You are allowed up to 3 bought ingredients to help you along the way.
Challenge 3: Funkious Maximus
Up for a challenge. try 3 days or more, living off the produce grown from our own home. You are allowed up to 5 bought ingredients to help you along the way.
If you are up for the challenge, here's how to join in...

We have created a new blog site 'funkyfrontyardfarmersfriends.blogspot.com'.  This blog allows multiple authors for you to write about your experiences. We would love to read about what challenge you've chosen, where you're from and what gardening tricks and treats you have up your sleeve. The rules of the challenge and how to become a part of it are on the new blog site, check it out!

In the meantime gang we will continue our own blog and update you on our progress throughout the coming year. Some of the plans we have for 2011 include turning the lane way beside our house into a community orchard and kick starting a bartering of produce goods at our local markets. Stay tuned and thanks so much for your support and lovely comments over 2010...now go and eat some vegetables. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Funky Frontyard Farmers Challenge: Day 6


Its hard to believe that day six has come and gone already, and that there is only one day left of our challenge. Today felt slightly melancholic, a sense that our challenge week is coming to an end, and yet joyful that we will soon be able to eat chocolate and ice cream again.

That isn't to say that we haven't enjoyed everything we have eaten this week. We have voted our favourite meal so far to be the broad bean brushetta and our least favourite were the pide prototypes that we had for lunch today...more on them later.

Over this week we have eaten at least 50 eggs, silver beet, mushrooms, garlic, onions, tomatoes, rocket, shallots, pumpkins, potatoes, chives, zucchinis, basil, parsley, rosemary, blueberries, blackberries, lemongrass, strawberries, broad beans, nasturtiums, sweet potato leaves, blue borage flowers, sunflowers, chamomile, beetroot, carrots, lavender, chillies, grapes, yadda yadda.. and best of all its all been grown on our suburban block.
The ingredients that we did buy for the week of coffee, milk, oil, honey and flour came to a total of less than $45.

stockings over our grapes to protect from the birds. Works well.

Our initial idea for this challenge sprung from our curiosity as to whether or not you can grow enough food on an average suburban block to be self sustainable or at the very least produce a significant amount of your own food from your garden.

Whilst this last week doesn't prove anything conclusively, we have gained a great deal from this whole experience and have really enjoyed the week overall, so much in fact that we have every intention of doing this again in the future.

Anyway, lets wizz through today's menu

Breakfast: hash browns

grate 6 or so potatoes, add an egg, 2 or 3 tablespoons of flour, and mix well. pan fry in olive oil. and some salt. yum.

Lunch: the shameful pide...we said we'd talk about it later...that's all there is to say.



1) a spicy egg and spinach pizza

2) potato and rosemary pizza

Tomorrow evening we have invited some friends to celebrate the end of our challenge with us. We will post the final challenge post in a few days time and will fill you in on our plans for the coming year and how they might include you!

Goodnight Gang...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Funky frontyard Farmers Challenge: Day 5


flowers for the tea
tea for the day - nasturtium, blue borage flower and mint

Breakfast Confessions...

After a lateish evening last night we rolled out of bed this morning still on a high from last night's dinner party and still feeling pretty full. With three days to go the garden is looking quite depleted and we are not out of the woods yet. So far we have surprised ourselves at how creative you can be with only a few raw ingredients... but this morning, a mishap was made.
carrots for the carrot and honey muffins

For breakfast this morning we baked some light and fluffy honey and carrot muffins...well they may have been light and fluffy and incredibly irresistible but they were swallowed with a heavy weight of guilt...we unwittingly broke the FFFC rules. 

As you may remember other than produce from our block we permitted ourselves to use flour, milk, honey, oil and coffee throughout the week. This morning without even thinking I added ... 1/2 cup of brown sugar to the muffin mix. Perhaps it was fatigue or a general lack of protein preventing my normally acute mental state from functioning to its fullest but the sugar had dissolved and was mixing happily with our other precious ingredients before I realised what I had done. So I confess, brown sugar was used in the FFFC. I'm feeling bad, guilty and indulged, but those muffins were truly delicious.

guilty little carrot cupcakes
While we're on the topic of confessions there are a few other teeny weeny indulgences that we should confess, we have used salt and pepper and a little teaspoon of vinegar. So dear readers if you can forgive us these slight temptations we would be very grateful... annnnnnd we will let you in on one more HUGE one...ice cream? take-a-way Thai? chocolate? you're all thinking. Well how about yabbies! Today Joe and N went for a bush walk to our local creek and caught two giant yabbies. Which brings us to this evenings dinner menu.

Fresh Yabbies served with a lemongrass and chilli sauce, jacket potatoes and a garden salad.
The boys bustled in with their catch, and after a fair amount of ooohhing and ahhing we fridged the two yabbies in preparation for dinner. Whilst the yabbies were cooling off Joe made the most amazing sauce using coriander seeds, garlic, chillies, lemongrass, silverbeet stalks, tomatoes and honey. He reduced it until it was a lovely saucey consistency. Once the potatoes were cooked through we popped the yabbies into boiling water for a few minutes until they had turned a dark orange colour. Minutes later dinner was served!

If you've never eaten yabbies before the taste is probably closest to prawn or lobster but is sweet rather than salty. It is a hands on affair and a hammer doesn't go astray either (no need for a sock this time).

Over dinner tonight Joe and I discussed the week and what we have learnt so far. What surprised us both is how we have been compelled to be creative with less. Cooking has been a delight this week because of the preparation we have put into each meal. Every mouthful comes with a certain appreciation in understanding where our food has come from and the level of effort that has gone into getting it on to our plates. This experience has totally redefined 'a satisfying meal'. Although it has been difficult at times we would highly recommend anyone to attempt preparing a meal purely from their garden. It is a fascinating, humbling and satisfying experience.

 This week has also shed some light on us understanding better our parent's attitude toward food. Our parents don't seem to blink at the prospect of buying copious loaves of bread from the supermarket, as opposed to our desire to return to our roots and knead grain and seeded dough then bake our own. They grew up during a time when making bread by hand and preparing every meal for hours each day, was the norm. And now that we've seen how time consuming it is to do this every day, we can appreciate why many in their generation would jump at the chance to buy 3 loaves for $6.45 during the weekly Coles run.

what did you have for dinner?

and yes, it was delicious too... again... I know...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Funky Frontyard Farmers Challenge: Day 4


Breakfast : A tough nut to crack

Truth be told, last night, Jo and I seriously questioned whether or not we could complete the full seven days of the challenge, and discussed the possibility of pulling up stumps after day four or five. Our "funky" had turned frumpy, and the reality of what we had embarked upon had began to wear at our stamina. Since starting the challenge we have come to appreciate those who cook from basic ingredients; those stay at home organic mums and dads who bake bread each morning, the Italian mummas who make fresh pasta every day with their big, strong, Italian mumma hands, even those inspriational pioneers from a few hundred years ago who didn't have the convenience of a local IGA, Aldis or bottleo...what legends.

Cooking from scratch is time consuming and hard work. Each morning we have got out of bed at the normal 6 am and immediately made bread, then foraged in the garden for breaky ingredients, cooked it, fed the kids, fed ourselves then faced what seems like an ever present mountain of washing up. By 8:30 am it is time to prepare something for morning-tea, a cake or biscuits for the kids who will be hungry within the hour. At 10:30 we need to have lunch planned and begin its preparation, more bread making, pasta making, shelling broad beans etc....and so the day continues. Up until last night a concoction of cabin feverish children, the rain, and no ripe tomatoes was downright depressing.  But before we fell asleep, we resolved to press on, even if it meant eating green tomatoes and rusty silverbeet.

By morning time, the occassional glint of sunlight through the grey clouds was enough to lift spirits, and it was time for an equally inspirational breakfast: Blackberry and Macadamia nut panackes.

As you may know, we are very fortunate to have a macadamia tree growing in our front yard. The nuts form in summer and fall later in autumn. The nuts are particularly hard to crack, and no set of conventional nut crackers will do the trick without undignified straining.

We use a less conventional method, but it works well. Firstly, heat the nuts in a dry pan. This helps the shell and nut flesh separate inside the nut. then drop them in a sock (Preferably clean), and wack them with a hammer. Dont get too carried away though, or you will have mushed macadamias. Finally, empty your socked maca's into a bowl and pick the nuts out.

the cracked macadamia shells and pieces of nut


The nuts were divine in the pancakes and tasted wonderful with the honey drizzled all over the top.

Lunch: Broadbean bruschetta

Shelling broadbeans can be a little daunting at first, but the end result, taste-wise is worth it. the easiest way that we have found to shell them is firstly by blanching the beans, for about a minute, until the skins swell from the heat, then strain and cool them immediately in cold water. This makes the skins contract, and they should look wrinkly.

To shell them simply tear the skin a little by pincvhing it with your nails, then squeeze the bean at the fatter end. The bright green yummy been will easily pop out. Once you've got the hang of it, your away.

broad bean bruschetta

For lunch we had the most delicious broad bean bruschetta, using onions, rocket, basil, parsley, and a lemon (even though it wasnt ripe) from the garden. The ingredients were tossed with a tablespoon of olive oil, some sneaky cracked pepper, and served on some toasted bread. Deeeeeeeelicious!.

tea for today
 Todays tea was an iced camomile and mint tea, served with blue borage flower ice-cubes. Very refreshing, and all from the garden.

mint and chamomile tea with blue borage flower ice cubes

The dinner party

Tonight we decided to throw a small dinner party with some close friends, Bug and Steve. It was time to go all out in the kitchen and pop another of our special reserve bottles of mulberry wine. Jo baked some lovely bread rolls, and for the main, beetroot coloured ravioli, stuffed with silverbeet and home made ricotta, served with a broad bean and rocket salad.
we roasted 2 beetroot in the oven until soft then blended and added to the pasta mix of eggs and flour. the colour of the dough was a beauiful candy pink. The silverbeet was finely diced and steamed with garlic then mixed with the ricotta and some grated lemon rind. the ravioli was topped with a tomato puree. the tomatoes were roasted in the oven with some garlic and basil, then blended into a sauce.

I don't mean to boast... but it looked and tasted fantastic. finally, Jo served a beetroot and coffee granita topped with a red hibiscus. daring and delicious. wow! please give it a try.

Well, by the end of day 4 we are feeling more resolved than ever to finish our challenge with a bang and we are so pleased that we could share our food with some good friends. its been a great day!
Joe with some beaut beets!

beautiful fresh beetroot

jo's buns

makin' beetroot ravioli

beetroot ravioli topped with a tomatol puree & chives

coffee and beetroot granita... to die for.

Hump day is over... 3 days to go.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Funky Frontyard Farmers Challenge: Day 3


Sunflower espresso coffee

Two white cockatoo's rampaged our sunflowers this morning, chewing off half of two sunflower heads and knocking over a third entirely. Joe scared them off with arm waving antics, and primitive growls but the were back again within minutes. After an hour or so of charging out into the rain to shoo them away again, it became clear that we simply needed to cut their heads off. The sunflower heads, that is. We chopped off what was left of them and brought them inside. With loads of sunflower seeds at our disposal, its now a matter of what to do with them, so after a little reseach, we decided to try sunflower seed coffee.

Sunflower seed coffee

I recalled reading somewhere that sunflower seeds could be used as a substitute for coffee. So we decided to give it a try. Firstly, we roasted the sunflower seeds in the oven until they were brittle. Then we blended them in the blender. A coffee grinder would have probably been better. We used the grinds as normal in our coffee machine. Surprisingly, a watery brown coffee was the result and tasted somewhat like a chai tea. While it was not as strong as regular coffee, it did have a nice nutty taste, and apparently, still contains some caffiene.

Not a bad drop for a morning coffee, but I think we will stick to our Aldi's coffee tomorrow.


N & G making breakfast for mum & dad

This morning, G &and N made us breakfast. Our last 2 mushrooms and some silverbeet was masterfully chopped and diced before dad pan fried them with garlic. Tragically, our mushroom kit keeled over this week. All of our baby mushrooms turned grey and stopped growing. I suspect we may have overwatered them. Alas! no more mushrooms for the challenge.

thanks kids

For lunch we made some more potato wedges, and served them with zuchinni fritta's and a garden salad. It was at this point that we realised our egg consumption required immediate rationing for the rest of the week. With only 8 eggs left in the fridge, and 3 being collected each day, we will have to limit our use of eggs to 5 per day.

By the end of day 3, things are beginning to look a little desperate. The relentless rain has stopped any tomatoes from ripening, and the silverbeet has developed rust spots. We have used more than half the carrots and the thought of a lamb roast is depressingly tempting.
N & G have lunch outside in the tent.


By dinner time, spirits are a little damp at the FFF HQ. Joe and Noah tried in desperation to catch some yabbies down in the local creek, but the rain had made the creek too swollen to see any yabbies. They returned wet, hungry and covered in leaches. A lovely hot vegetable pie was just the thing to lift the spirits.

While the weather has been miserable today, we wont complain too much. It doesnt seem right with the terrible floods in Toowoomba and Queensland in general, after spending my childhood in Toowoomba, our thoughts are with all the ppl there this evening.