A New Farm Celebration – Vegetarian alert!!!!

We have three kids, Grandpa and I, two farmers and an arty type who is a wannabe farmer.

The eldest lives in Victoria with his wife on their dairyfarm, with a couple of dogs, lots of horses and a herd of cows. The middle  one, lives in the city, in a house, with a fully mulched front yard turned into a food forest and a backyard with a little space for the kids to play in and a space for her hubby to light fires and cook sometimes. And then there is the youngest who, with her hubby has bought a farm in Rugby to carry on what was left when the old family farm died.

It was to Rugby that we went to help celebrate the first anniversary of them owning their own farm. They raise free-range Berkshire pigs and prize winning pigs they are too. They also have three very free-range kids, some beef cows, a Jersey cow, Wiltshire sheep and numerous chooks. Money might not be plentiful, but there is always something to eat.

They give their pigs an incredibly spoilt existence until they have their “one bad day”. This includes, sleeping in the shed with the new born litter to make sure the sow doesn’t squash her babies, feeding them warm mash during the day and ensuring their last trip is as stress free as possible. There are lots of dramas along the way and it can be difficult to decide the best way to deal with animals that are not able to be productive in an economic sense but still have a place in your heart.

I could get into a very philosophical post about ours and animals places in the world but that can wait for another time. One thing I have wanted to do for a very long time is to make sausages. It was a real revelation to me to find out that traditionally, sausages were made from pork! I was brought up to think that sausages were filled with the scrapings from the butchers floor and filled with anything goes and that was why they were so cheap(?). But now I had an excuse to buy a mincer and sausage stuffer and work on some fancy sausage flavours.

When an older sow with an injured leg could not be sent to the abattoir, there was a decision to be made as to what would be the best outcome for her. Rather than disposing of an unwanted animal we could make sausages from her.

A butcher was not available to do the deed, so they were brave enough to do it. There was nothing left to do then but marvel at the size of a pig and how many sausages we were going to be making that weekend. It was the middle of winter so we didn’t have to worry about keeping meat cold, the forecast was for a maximum of 10⁰c, in the shade it was very chilly. We had a repertoire of recipes, some sharp knives and hopefully enough garlic. The butcher must have thought I was a bit crazy buying so many sausage casings and I must admit I didn’t really know what I was getting us into. But, then I thought, this is Lisa and Todd we are talking about, the couple who have accomplished and overcome so much in their young lives.

Friday, we drove down and we were early enough the get to the school to see the kids at their assembly to see Tyler receive an award and Reuben perform with his Kindergarten class. If you knew these two boys you would understand what a marvel and an achievement these simple things are. Then it was back to the farm to get on with the work. Of course, the kids joined in and we started sectioning off the meat and cutting into manageable chunks for mincing and preparing for the two days ahead.

There was crushed fennel seed; dried apple and sage and white wine; plum sauce and ginger; porcini mushrooms, dried tomato and red wine; Toulouse; turmeric; paprika and lots of beer and more wine. All up, nearly 100kg of sausages, enough to keep the family fed for a year or so. We tasted each recipe on the BBQ and had Pork sausage rolls and ribs for dinner so by the end of the weekend, I felt as though I had been on one of those fancy high protein, low carb diets and didn’t feel too bad for it.

Sunday afternoon, all of our backs were sore from working at a too low table and we wearily made our way home to go back to work on Monday. It is great to have a break from everything in a place removed from the rest of your life, the internet, phone and are only doing what you want and what is important, like, feeding your family. One day we may get to do this in our own way….now that will be an adventure!!!!

The Ultimate End-to-end Larapinta Trail

I just couldn’t get enough of the scenery of central Australia on my walk to Mt Giles in 2016. So, when a full pack end to end Larapinta walk was offered in July 2017 I just had to do it. I knew it would be hard and it was but so worth it. I trained and learnt a lot about specific muscles that would help me carry myself and all my gear for 15 days. At work, our Exercise Physiology students ran a staff fitness program and I now know what the difference is between my gluteus maximus, medius and minimus and about hip flexors and how they help when walking up and down hill and carrying a load. I still wasn’t real sure about how I was actually going to do it and survive. But too bad, I just have to do it or die trying.

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I did invite Grandpa, you know, just in case, but no, “you go and do it and enjoy yourself” he said, what a champ! 2017 has been my year of bushwalking in case you hadn’t guessed after our big motorcycling year in 2016.

I am becoming quite familiar with Alice Springs and this time I flew in 2 days before the start of the walk. I wanted to acclimatise a bit so I wouldn’t feel like dying on the first day like what happened last time. We had a meeting with the guides and the group the afternoon before setting out and they gave us the run down on what to expect and went through our gear to make sure we had what was needed. I had some luxuries, like my little chair and some red wine and some snacks, not that we had to worry about going hungry as there were food drops along the way.

We set off from the Old Telegraph Station and headed west across the highway and the railway track. The day was quite warm and the pack was heavy and I was regretting some of my luxuries but too late now.

One member of the group was suffering badly and fell behind, I was glad it wasn’t me this time. Our first campsite at Wallaby Gap set the standard for the rest of the trip, plenty of dirt, a shelter, toilet, water tank and a beautiful waterhole and red rock.

The second day was a killer, up at 5.30 for porridge and ‘cowboy’ coffee then 27km which seemed to never end and a burnt, hard campsite at the end. The next day was a cruisy 10km to Jay creek and it seemed like we were on holidays. I camped in the sandy creek bed without the fly on my tent and watched the moon and stars. Some members of the group started to suffer from blisters but my feet were doing fine.

I was starting to get a feel for this adventure. The next day we had our first challenge, take the high route along the ridge to Standley Chasm or the low (and boring) route. We stopped at the junction and the guides gave us a great pep talk and off we went up and over the top. It was our first real view of Mt Sonder, about 180km away. How the hell were we ever going to get there? We were all feeling trepidation about how we would keep going to the end.

There were some hard days to come, over Brinkley Bluff, down Razorback Ridge, scaling up a cliff to Giles Lookout, boulder hopping up gorges, sandy creek beds and rocks.

Did I say rocks, hard, sharp, pointy, broken, rounded, endless, endless rocks. For every heart pounding ascent there was a spectacular view to make it all worthwhile. By about Day 6, I was confident that I would make it and everyone in the group agreed that nobody was allowed to wimp out now.

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Our guides kept us going with encouragement, stories and lots of great food. Even though we didn’t need the extra weight of fresh veggies and our share of the food, it was so great to get into camp and have our ‘salty snacks’, tea and then dinner and dessert cooked for us. Larapinta wraps for lunch were better than any café fare and I was amazed to find that I found the Kraft packaged processed cheese that went out of fashion years ago could taste SO good after the fresh stuff ran out.

The guides knew how to motivate us, apart from food they would lavish praise at the end of the day or after a particularly hard part. You know, “Well done there”, “Awsome job today”, “You guys are epic” etc. This all went to our heads so much that we needed more and more reassurance to keep us going and we would complain if we didn’t get it. We talked about what would be the best way to commemorate our epic, awesome effort in the first of these treks the company had put on. Well a couple of months later, we all got a certificate of Awesomeness! How awesome is that? Pretty cool.

Another load to carry was 4 or 5 days supply of trail snacks, snakes and muesli bars. All that sugar adds up surprisingly to about 2kg. Add 4 or 5 litres of water and I was having a good workout everyday.

Each night we camped at one of the shelters at the end of each section along the track, except one night we camped up on a high ridge, you know, just to enjoy the view and had to carry extra water up. At each camp there was water in a tank resupplied by National Parks, a toilet, a shelter to cook, hangout in or sleep for smaller groups than ours and a map of the whole walk where we could ever so slowly measure our progress. It was such a thrill to reach the highlights or pass the points we had been dreading. We had two nights of luxury at the trek company’s permanent camps set up each winter for their ‘daywalk’ trekkers. As they were outside of the National Park we could have a fire! What a treat, they had sit down toilets and a ‘birdbath’ with hot water!! And tents set up, so we could just dump our stuff and sit in a chair!!! While the guides cook up even better treats like bread and butter pudding and ice cream.

It was such a letdown the next morning to leave but I chose this hard option after much long and hard deliberation to be right out there carrying everything and not glamping. I am so happy with that decision.

We saw quite a lot of other walkers, in groups or solos, it was quite busy really in some places but there was plenty of opportunity to enjoy the solitude and peace. Then you would get to the ‘tourist’ spots and it was overload time. We might take advantage of an icecream or proper cappuccino but we were keen to get away from the crowds and look at trees.

And sunrises and sunsets.

I had one down day around Day 13, partly, missing home, knowing the end was getting closer and it was hot and we were walking through sand. It didn’t last long, we climbed our last, well second last hill and there was Mt Sonder, so close. There is an Indigenous story about a woman turned to stone as she slept with a man not from the right skin colour group. You can see the profile of her face, breasts, pregnant belly and belly button. It is so beautiful.

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We would be camped at Redbank Gorge the next night and then we would walk up there to watch the sunrise, which is what you do at the end (or the beginning) of the walk. Getting up at 2.30am to have breakfast and walk up in the dark just seemed like the most natural thing to do.

The sunrise was spectacular and so worth it and the feeling of having DONE IT!!! All 234km.