Living In Mud

This post is long overdue.

Mid 2019 we started fulfilling our dream of building our own mud brick house on some land that we could farm and utilise to become as self sufficiently as possible.

Our Development Application passed and we were granted our Building Certificate.

Mid November 2019 the site was excavated and our slab was poured. The steel frame was being fabricated and due to arrive soon after, ready to be put up before Christmas. We ordered our roof to coincide so it could all be done.

Then the frame was delayed, and delayed. It finally arrived just before Christmas, however with no time to be put up. The roof arrived too.

We headed to Sydney for Christmas as planned, managing to get through as the roads had been closed due to major bushfires everywhere. They hadn’t reached our area and although ember attack was being predicted, we’d had a few bushfires very close before and had been safe. We lived close to the village surrounded by dairy farms – not next to the bush.

It happened though. History repeated. There was a fire that wiped out almost the entire district 70 years ago. It started as a “normal” bushfire however the weather and the wind – in less than hours it had spread hundreds of kms and wiped out entire villages. It was insane. And on New Year’s Eve 2019, it happened all over again. The same path, the same wind, the same destruction.

Where we lived with Kel’s parents was completely decimated in minutes, the neighbour watched as a fireball leapt from the old Quaama tip and swallowed up the property.

We lost practically everything. Our home, our possessions, our business, and our history. We were devastated.

The property we were building on was impacted too however not nearly as ferociously as Kel’s parents.

The fire went around the slab. It burnt over the steel frame, which had been sitting in the grass. Had it been built and standing as hoped, it would have crumpled and warped, potentially cracking the slab with it. We are deeply aware of how the delay was indeed a true blessing. We realise now even in the midst of tragedy and trauma, we were still being looked out for, looked after.

The roof was gone. It didn’t really have a hope. We were generously donated funds from people all over, setting us up to purchase a new one.

Over the next month we stayed with family and friends and in emergency accommodation. However we decided it was only right to live on our block. It would be rough to begin with however we wanted to be there. We wanted somewhere that was ours and that was permanent. We also knew that if we didn’t live onsite, the build would not progress.

This is where our Instagram @living_in_mud was born. It’s been over a year now that we’ve been posting on it every day. One to update family and friends and also as a memory diary – one day we can look back and see our journey.

We haven’t blogged in almost two years and I don’t see that changing, however our original dream and purpose for starting the blog has not changed –

“Our dream is to live self sufficiently on our own land; rearing our own animals for meat, dairy and eggs, growing all of our own fruit and vegetables and providing a place for people needing regeneration and a new lease on life. With this dream in our hearts and the start of our adventure upon us, we have decided to record it all through videos, pictures and words on this blog.”

I feel the chapter on Chef and the Waitress has closed. That’s not really who we are anymore. It’s where we began, who we were. Although we are on the same path as before, our journey is evolving.

This isn’t how we imagined ourselves in ten years. Although it’s kind of exactly where we hoped we would be – just minus the traumatic bit and the grief of losing everything. It’s weird how life works.

We’d love for you to follow along if you’re interested @living_in_mud both on Facebook and Instagram. We also want to thank all those once again, who generously donated funds, needed items, time and more. We never would have been able to get to where we are now without you all. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.


Recipe Recommendation: August

Unfortunately i don’t have any recipes to recommend this month. Usually i have a pretty good reason why however the only thing i can think of is that i sliced my finger tip open and was out of action for a week or two in the kitchen (that’s actually a pretty good reason come to think of it). Never rush when you’re cutting up bread!

Anyway I’ll leave a picture for you of this great cake we made for Ethan’s 3rd birthday. He’s a mad Disney Cars fan and he was stoked with his birthday cake and two new cars.

Ethan's 3rd Birthday Cake

Recipe Recommendation: November

Sadly i don’t have any recipes to recommend for the month of November. However there’s a pretty good reason why.

We had a baby!

On 30th October we welcomed our beautiful baby girl, Ava, into the world.

Like with Ethan, we won’t be posting any photos as we aren’t comfortable with photos of her floating around the Internet. This includes Facebook much to the shock and horror of many!

Anyway, i should be back to cooking and baking soon, and now we have two kitchen hands to help us!


In my previous post, Recipe Recommendation: June, i mentioned that we’ve moved house!

In reality, we’ve moved in with Kel’s parents. Haha. They have decided to sell the general store and post office that we manage.

We lived in the house behind the shop however just before the place was put on the market, we renovated parts of the house and gave it a coat of paint. Now it’s all shiny and new, which means the more you use it the less shiny and new it is. So we decided to move out. Plus we are SUPER interested in the tiny house movement so we thought what better way to help us start adjusting to living in a smaller space than to move into Kel’s parents’ large games room. So now we essentially live in a 50sqm room. There is no toilet, bathroom or kitchen so we have to use their facilities in the main house however we have a kettle, a toaster and a small fridge in our “space” so we are able to have light meals, snacks and hot drinks.

Although there are no walls, we arranged the room into sections so we have our bedroom, Ethan’s bedroom, a study, and a food prep/eating area. We didn’t use furniture to section off these “rooms” per se as we wanted to still keep the open plan living however we do have some furniture strategically placed so that we have some privacy 😉

So far I am LOVING our new living arrangements. Due to the way we’ve arranged the room, it feels so roomy and spacious yet keeping it clean and tidy is super easy. I’m also finding I have a lot more time for things that I didn’t before. Probably because I’m not trying to maintain a three bedroom house. I definitely feel I could live in an even smaller space however that means we’d probably have to “downsize” our possessions. We already sold and donated furniture, clothes and bits and bobs when we initially moved however now that we are actually living in a smaller space we know what we are and aren’t using and what we could potentially get rid of.

I do miss our wild garden however I’m definitely enjoying living on acreage with nothing much to look at but the cows and the hills and the trees. It’s a lot more peaceful than living behind the shop and a lot more private. Ethan LOVES that the “Moos” are right there and he’s enjoying helping Pop with his various building projects.

Gillies' Residence

Recipe Recommendation: June

Sadly i don’t have any recipes to recommend for the month of June. However there’s a pretty good reason why.

We’ve moved house!

I’ll write a separate blog post for that news however you can all understand why now. When you’re moving house you don’t have much time for cooking/baking – you’re mainly eating what you can find!


Refined Sugar-Free and Wheat Free Banana Cake

Most households have “their banana cake recipe”, which is always “the best banana cake recipe”. Well this is our households!

Originally this recipe was full of sugar and wheat however I’ve experiemented with it a number of times to make it what it is today. And it’s still equally as delicious!

We find that this recipe works best if you use frozen bananas so the mixture has time to caramelise and the sloppier the bananas the better.

The cake also tastes fantastic when frozen and defrosted for some reason. It’s super fudgy.

Refined Sugar-Free and Wheat Free Banana Cake



125g butter
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 overripe bananas, frozen is best
1 egg
1 cup rye flour
1/2 cup barley flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk


  1. Preheat oven to 170°C fan forced and grease and line a loaf tin (or standard cake tin) with baking paper
  2. Melt the butter, honey, maple syrup, vanilla and the frozen bananas in a large saucepan. As the bananas defrost, mash them into the mixture. When fully mashed, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flours and baking powder.
  4. Quickly whisk the egg into the banana mixture to avoid it scrambling and then stir in the flour mixture. Add the milk and stir until just combined.
  5. Bake for approximately 30 minutes

Grain Free AND Dairy Free? Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That!

If you are a regular follower you know that we are aiming for a grain free diet because for some reason it cleared up all of my acne (click here to catch up on that post).

When I fell pregnant I succumbed to the usual symptom of being pregnant – morning sickness. I had every intention of remaining grain free plus I had high hopes of being sugar and caffeine free (who was I kidding). I managed it for the first three months however when the morning sickness DIDN’T GO AWAY at that point, my resolve started slipping. Whoever named it morning sickness obviously had never really experienced it. All day sickness more like it! It was relentless and when it was still going strong through the second trimester I gave in. It was a cold day so I heated up a vegetable pastie and ate it. It sat like a lump of concrete in my gut – and I’d never felt so good!!! After that I slowly introduced grain again. Not everything though. Just because it was grain didn’t automatically mean it helped. White bread and crackers didn’t do a thing. However dense Hot Cross Buns were amazing. You might say I could have baked dense grain free foods. And you’re right. I tried. However for some reason they aren’t as plain and have a taste that set me off. I made these delicious coconut flour dinner rolls before I had morning sickness however I made them again during and even now I feel sick thinking about them. Even the smell makes me want to vomit. I also gave into sugar because I was having grain again. Funnily enough I didn’t have all that much caffeine though. That came later on when he was born 😜

Anyway I felt super guilty because I wanted to be so healthy for our unborn child and I’d completely fallen off the bandwagon. However I came across another blogger who was going through the same thing and I’d link the article however she has since deleted her blog. Basically she pointed out that while you have morning sickness – your one goal is survival. So very true. And unfortunately I had it for eight of the nine months that I was pregnant. The most difficult thing was that I couldn’t even drink a lot of water. Some of the super hot days, if I drank too much water in one go – I would just spew it straight back up. I had to have constant little sips. It drove me nuts. I used to daydream of being under a waterfall and just gulping the water down. Anyway funnily enough THE DAY he was born I was able to gulp down water again. Weird.

Anyway I’m totally off track. So I went back on grain. However my skin remained PERFECT. I had concluded that my acne was hormonal and for some reason grain was altering my hormones and causing my skin to break out so it made sense that while pregnant, where my hormones are all over the place, that it would make a difference.

Anyway soon after giving birth, I could feel my skin reacting again when I ate grain. I don’t know how to describe it except that it gets really itchy and irritated and I just want to rub my face all day and I can feel the oil oozing out of my pores. However trying to eat grain free after a new baby and breastfeeding for the first time? It was hard enough finding time to make food and enough of it, let alone grain free! Anyway I tried to eat as well as I could and my skin didn’t go back to the way it was pre grain however it wasn’t clear anymore and my skin was quite bumpy and rough.

When Ethan was around three months old, he was diagnosed with Cows Milk Protein Intolerance (CMPI). And for the sceptics out there, he had blood on his stools.
Anyway there are two options when this happens: 1) You continue breastfeeding however you must strictly adhere to a dairy free diet 2) You put the infant on a hydrolyzed/hypoallergenic formula.

It took so much hard work to breastfeed that I wasn’t about to give that up in a hurry once we’d actually succeeded so dairy free for me it was. I threw grain free out the window for the time being until I’d gotten in the groove of dairy free and had time to figure out appropriate meals and snacks that could be both.

And then the conundrum. My skin cleared and I was acne free again. Even though I was eating grain at almost every meal.


I mean, I’ve read that dairy can give you acne, but seriously?! Just like grain, it was that simple a solution all along? And after all that time of touting grain free when dairy is a culprit too? And I was eating copious amounts of dairy when I was grain free and having clear skin…I WAS SO CONFUSED!!!

I guess like I concluded before, the acne is caused by my hormones and for some reason my body can handle grain or dairy but not both together.

Anyway the question now is…when he weans, which option will
I choose?


Introducing The Kitchen Hand…

It’s been nine weeks since our last blog post and almost seven weeks since the birth of our little boy!

In case you missed the memo see The Chef, The Waitress…And The Kitchen Hand.

Anyway here are the all important details:

Ethan Harold Gillies
Born Sunday 16/08/2015 at 3:30PM
Weight 3.29kg
Length 50cm
Head Circumference 33cm

He was a week overdue and there were a few minor complications with his birth however through lots of prayer and perseverance we managed to avoid an emergency c-section.

We won’t be posting any photos as we aren’t comfortable with photos of him floating around the Internet. This includes Facebook much to the shock and horror of many! So you will just have to take my word for it that he’s most gorgeous baby in the whole, wide world 🙂

The Chef, The Waitress…And The Kitchen Hand…

Well, that makes it official! We will soon be joined by our very own kitchen hand. Due August 7.

If you still have no idea what I’m talking about…WE’RE HAVING A BABY!!!

Yep, that’s right. We’re thirty weeks today and although it’s now common knowledge in the “real” world, we have not made it official in the “virtual” world. Not even on Facebook. Although someone joked that it’s not official until you’ve announced it on Facebook. What’s the world coming to?

Anyway I’m not sure what else to say? We’re obviously very happy, excited, nervous etc. And we haven’t found out the sex as we’re happy to keep it a surprise. And the pregnancy is going well however there have been some minor concerns so your prayers would be appreciated!

I’ll leave you with this picture, which I think about sums it up.

Pregnant(And that’s just my navel ring, my bellybutton hasn’t popped!)


I didn’t even have to come up with a title for this post because what I’m sharing about needs no more introduction than itself.


Although this is no ordinary bacon. It is home raised, home made bacon. It makes all the difference. Once you’ve tried it, you will never go back.

As Kermit was older than the average slaughter age (most pigs are culled on average at 6 months, Kermit was around 18 months) he obviously had a bigger middle, which is what you make your bacon out of (middle = belly and loin). This meant that we could make a lot more bacon so we decided to try a few of the types of bacon mentioned in the book (The Gourmet Farmer Deli Book – see previous post) to see which ones we liked best for future reference.

1. Dry-Cured Bacon – the whole pork middle is marinated in a mixture of salt and brown sugar for several days.

2. Wet-Cured Bacon – the whole pork middle is marinated in a brine solution for several days.

3. American Bacon – technically you only use the belly and not the loin however we were more interested in the flavour, which is a generic wet-cure with added honey or maple syrup (or both! We used a half/half mixture of both), so instead of having proper “Streaky American Bacon”, we used the whole pork middle and just noted the flavour. Also Kel did a dry-cure rather than a wet-cure (we only had one tub and that was being used for the plain wet-cure).

4. Stout and Molasses Cured Bacon – Kel actually adapted this from one of the cured ham recipes from the book. The curing ingredients were salt, stout, molasses, bay leaves, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, and allspice. Instead of wet curing it as you would do for a ham, Kel dry-cured it however it was more of a liquidy dry-cure due to the stout.

Kel also added bay leaves and black peppercorns to all of the cures.

It is suggested that you use the chemicals sodium nitrate and sodium erythorbate when curing bacon however we don’t believe they are necessary, especially on a home scale basis. The book is very open minded about it too, which we liked. Plus we portion and freeze our bacon rather than just vaccuum seal. Also you cook bacon, unlike other cured meats that you eat as is e.g. salami.

With each type of bacon, we only smoked half so we could do a proper taste test of unsmoked and smoked.

The verdict?

1. Dry-Cured Bacon – it was good, just like a classic homemade bacon. It cooked well and both smoked and unsmoked were equally delicious.

2. Wet-Cured Bacon – this turned out more like ham, it was a bit sloppy and not like bacon at all, both in texture and flavour. When cooked, it dropped a lot of liquid and didn’t caramelise very well (which is essential to bacon!!!) As the bacon was hot smoked, it didn’t really work either due to the amount of liquid that it was producing. We probably won’t cure bacon this way again.

3. American Bacon – very delicious however due to the added sweetness not as versatile as the dry-cured bacon e.g. too sweet for a Carbonara. Definitely best eaten as is and not as an ingredient e.g. Canadian pancakes! It cooked well, dropped the least amount of liquid however caramelised the fastest so with this one you have to make sure you watch it carefully while you’re cooking. Both smoked and unsmoked were again, equally delicious. Just choose what you feel like!

4. Stout and Molasses Cured Bacon – delicious, this cure paired really well with Kermit’s meat. As he is older, the cure brought the gaminess out and added a heavy earthy flavour too. Cooked well, pretty much like the dry cured bacon. The smoked was even better than the unsmoked as it increased the afore mentioned flavours.

There you have it. Now our freezer is stocked full of bacon of various types.

Unsmoked Bacon LoinUnsmoked Bacon – Loin

Unsmoked Bacon Belly and LoinUnsmoked Bacon – Belly and Loin

Smoked Bacon LoinSmoked Bacon – Loin

Smoked Bacon BellySmoked Bacon – Belly