Thursday, September 19, 2013

interview: farmer liz

We are in for a treat today. Some of us are just starting out on our wholefood journey, others in the middle and others are immersed in a wholefood way of life at every level. Blogger and hobby farmer Liz is featured here today sharing her wholefood story that is nothing short of inspirational. Settle in for a good read that by the end you'll be wishing you owned a cow to milk, and made your own cheese with the raw milk.

Liz is pictured on her farm with Bella the cow

Liz lives on eight acres in south east Queensland, Australia, with her husband Peter and two dogs. They have a passion for small-scale organic farming and producing and eating real food.  They keep chickens, beef steers, two jersey cows and a big vegetable garden. Liz writes a blog, called eight-acres, about their farm to both inspire and help others interested in self-sufficiency, sustainability and permaculture.  Pete and Liz both work full-time and spend their spare time on farm work, its a hobby that keeps them both occupied and fed.

harvest from Liz's garden

Who or what started you down your wholefood/organic/sustainable path?

Its been a long and slow transition!  I started about 5 years ago with a visit to a naturopath for help with stubborn acne.  At the age of 24, I really thought it was time I had clear skin.  The naturopath was great, she considered my health holistically and suggested many changes to my diet, including removing all processed foods, eating more vegetables and fruits and trying different grains.  I also cut out sugar and caffeine.  I felt so much better and my skin cleared in a few months, so I was convinced that diet was an important component of overall health (I started eating sugar again, but I can’t handle caffeine, it makes me shake).

When I moved to a small farm with my husband about a year later, we started a garden and got chickens, I gradually began to eat more and more of what we were growing.  It wasn’t until we got our cow and did a cheese-making course that I first heard about the book Nourishing Traditions, and when I read that amazing book, I started to get into fermented foods, sprouting and making my own stock.  I now also make all our bread.  At the moment I’m learning more about herbs and how to grow and use them every day.  No doubt I will continue to learn and change how I eat accordingly.

Liz's tea cupboard, many teas are from her garden
Liz's homegrown, home made sauerkraut with seaweed

What do you enjoy most about sustainable living?

I love growing my own food.  I love knowing that we have everything we need right here on the farm and that it is grown organically.  It is a lot of work, but it's usually enjoyable and always rewarding!

What do you find challenging when it comes to following a wholefood/sustainable path?

The hardest thing for me is living in a rural community, my nearest health food shop is a 2 hour drive away, so anything that we don’t grow and have to buy (such as organic flour) has to be bought in bulk.  There is also nowhere to go out and eat real food.  Everything is fried here.

What would you say to someone who says they don't have enough time or money to eat organically and prepare meals from scratch?

Eating whole foods doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive, in fact it can be quicker and cheaper than eating processed foods if you know how.  Firstly the time issue.  You need to set up systems that work for you.  A few weekends spent creating a garden, and then allowing plants to self-seed will result in a garden that produces endless vegetables for very little ongoing maintenance time.  If you spend the time at first setting up good soil and an easy watering system, the garden will almost look after itself.

This philosophy applies to so many whole food concepts.  At first I thought that making real stock would be a lot of work, but then I figured out that I could use my slow cooker, I set up a system where I put vege off-cuts and bones in a bag in the freezer and when I need more stock, I can just tip the whole lot in the slow cooker, add some extra veges, top up with water and turn it on.  Learning and setting up a system takes time, but once its done, you will be surprised how quick it can be to prepare whole food.  My main advice is to choose one thing at a time and perfect it, for example, when I decided to make bread, I just focussed on getting that right for several months, I didn’t try anything else new in that time, until I had bread sorted.

As for money, again the set-up costs can be expensive, but they don’t have to be and the more you can grow yourself or buy in bulk, the more you will save.  You don’t always have to buy something new or the latest gadget or superfood in order to eat well.  Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.  I bought a new worm farm to make compost for my garden, but many people make great worm farms from found materials.  I bought a second-hand ice-cream maker very cheaply from ebay so that we could use our own cream to make ice cream without all the additives.  I have a stick mixer that does EVERYTHING, so I don’t need a blender or food-processor, and I don’t have a thermomix (sigh!) 

Liz's home made ice cream and chocolate cake

Once you get a good system going and you’re producing much of your own vegetables (and eggs if you have space for chickens), you will find that your food bill reduces and that the initial investment was worth it.  Even if you still have to buy many staples like flour or dried beans in bulk, it will be cheaper than buying processed foods, I promise you! And for me, ducking out to the garden to pick fresh vegetables and collect the eggs is quicker than going to the supermarket.

Who is your wholefood/sustainability hero and why?

I follow an amazing blog called Throwback from Trapper Creek, Nita has a farm, a dairy cow and a massive garden.  She cooks from scratch, including canning and fermenting what she grows.  She has a great system to produce most of her own wonderful whole food and she is generous enough to share some insights into how she gets everything done.

Your three favorite ingredients and why?

Homemade stock – apart from being nutrient dense, the flavour of stock improves any meal
Herbs – I am just starting to learn about the healing properties of herbs, and I try to include some in every meal, which also adds wonderful flavour
Garlic – again, amazing health properties and tastes great

Sugar or salt, which do you crave? And when you do, what satisfies you?

Sugar!  I don’t actually like sweet things necessarily, but I love chocolate.  I eat it even though I know I shouldn’t (because when I did manage to not eat it for a few months, I felt great, but the short-term enjoyment always wins).  I try to eat the darkest chocolate I can buy, then I don’t scoff it so quickly.

Favorite books and blogs you'd like to share...

For books I have to recommend Nourishing Traditions.  I know that its tricky to follow some of the recipes if you don’t have your own cow or access to raw milk, but if you at least understand the principles, you can then adjust what you eat depending on what ingredients you can source.  
Also Gaia’s Garden, or the Permaculture Home Garden, which I think are two of the more accessible permaculture books, that will help you think more about setting up systems that are self-maintaining (particularly your organic vege garden!).
There are so many blogs that I love to follow, and they change all the time as new ones appear and others are neglected.  Throwback fromTrapper Creek is a favourite, and the others worth a mention are LindaWoodrow’s Witches Kitchen, and Emma from Craving Fresh, who both share some wonderful recipes from their own produce.

What inspired you to start your blog and what do you enjoy about blogging?

I started my blog because things that I wanted to know about were not on the internet.  When we got our first poddy calf, we had trouble getting him to take a bottle, and I found very little information to help us.  Also when we wanted to tan a steer hide, we couldn’t find any first-hand instructions.  That’s when I realised that the things that we do and the things that we learn through trial and error may be of interest to others.  I don’t claim to be an expert, but I at least want to start the conversation and get some information and ideas out there for other people to use if they need it.

What are you loving about your life right now?

Owning two dairy cows and starting to feel more confident about milking, managing the calves, weaning and making cheese!  Getting closer to self-sufficiency and constantly learning new skills along the way.

I mentioned that I bake my own bread.  I make a loaf once a week, and I’ve learnt the recipe by heart, because I just do the same every week.  I have tried sourdough, but I never got the hang of it, so I use a technique called “soaking” the flour and add normal bakers yeast.  I also use a bread maker for the mixing and first rise, but do second rise and cook the loaf in either the wood stove in winter or the BBQ in summer.

Here’s what I do:
330 mL rainwater
0.25-0.5 cup sunflower seeds and chia seeds
2-3 tablespoons of kefir (or whey or yoghurt)
1tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of raw honey
3.25 cup flour (I use 2 cups organic white wheat and the rest wholemeal wheat or spelt)
½ tablespoon of yeast
½ tablespoon of sea salt

Combine everything apart from the last two ingredients in the bread maker bowl first thing in the morning.  Shut the lid and walk away.

In the afternoon, around 4pm, add the yeast and salt and start the breadmaker.  I have modified a program so that the machine kneads the dough for 30 mins, then lets it rise for an hour, then kneads it again for 30 minutes, then stops.

Pour the dough into an oiled bread tin and cover with a damp tea towel, allow to rise in a warm spot for up to an hour. 

Bake in a hot oven for up to an hour.  You might have to experiment with some of the times!  And you could just cook it in the bread maker, we just don’t like the shape of the loaf. 

The time between mixing the dough in the morning and rising/baking allows the microbes in the kefir to start to work on the proteins in the flour.  The result is lighter bread without any bread improver and is similar to sourdough, except this recipe using bakers yeast instead of relying on wild yeast to rise the bread.  We have a slice each every morning with our breakfast egg, so one loaf lasts about a week.

Read more about how Liz bakes bread on her blog.

**if you don't have a bread machine, knead the bread by hand until it is elastic like.

Thank you so much Liz for taking the time to share your wholefood story with us. Now, where to start? Homemade sauerkraut has been on my to-do list for a while, how about you? I love Liz's tip to tackle one change at a time. What will yours be? 


  1. What a great post, and life. We have an acre, and are growing our first fall garden. We talk about getting chickens, but not there yet. A local farmer supplies us with raw milk, and a friend free range eggs.

    I would love, love for you to share this post on Real Food Fridays Link Up. These are the kinds of posts others need to read to inspire them to go real food.

  2. Thanks so much Joyce for your comment. I'm happy to hear you enjoyed reading about Liz's life. I have linked up to Real Food Friday which is a great idea/way of inspiring others to eat real food. x


Thanks for your comments. I read every one!

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