Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia

How to bag a bargain

‘Who wants the last one?’

‘Last what?’

‘Half a lamb.’

The farmer pointed at a massive slab of meat, piled into a tray and covered with cling film. The top layer was neatly cut into portion size pieces and I thought about the tiny joints I bought for Clyde each week, at twenty dollars a time.

‘How much?’ I asked.

‘Ninety-nine dollars the lot, and that’s a bargain. Must be seven kilos of meat there.’

‘I’ll take it.’

I may be a vegetarian but let’s face it, a bargain’s a bargain.

Attempts to grow vegetables in the back garden in Sydney aren’t proving too successful – so far this summer I’ve harvested several tomatoes (two were almost ripe) a handful of rocket leaves and three lettuce that went to seed. That’s it. Powdery mildew struck the lone tomato plant before I’d thought to spray with a 60/40 solution of milk and water and the spores quickly spread, first wilting then crisping the leaves. Wettable sulphur may help the mildew on the melons I trumpeted in last week’s post but since I’ve yet to spot a single pollinated flower on any of the six trailing vines I’m probably wasting my time. It’s a disheartening picture.

It’s not much better in Broken Hill. Last year I grew more food than we could eat, harvesting bumper crops of fruit and veg that had me rubbing my hands with glee, stoking the fires of my avaricious nature. Several times a day I would open the fridge door and stare at the bounty I’d managed to accumulate. I gave some of the harvest away but not nearly as much as I should have. I simply enjoyed the sight and feel of it, rubbing the fur on soft peaches, sniffing ripe melons and pressing the flesh of blood red plums.

I was greedily hoping we’d be in Broken Hill around harvest time this year too. You can decide for yourself if we made it.

Compare the picture last year…


With what I managed to collect this year…


The only bright spot is Orange Grove market, a farmers’ market within cycling distance of home in Sydney. Until I can work out what (if anything) will grow in the humid and frequently shady spots in our back yard I’ll be shopping at Orange Grove. Buying from a grower has to be the next best thing to growing it yourself.

‘You won’t go wrong love, pasture fed that was,’ the farmer said, handing me a thumping great parcel of meat. 

Call me crazy if you like for buying half a sheep when I’d only gone for a punnet of blueberries and a loaf of German rye, but I had a plan. While Clyde was away I was going to separate all the cuts of meat and bag them. Some I would store in the fridge and most would go in the freezer. When he got home – surprise! There would be enough meat to keep a carnivore happy for weeks.

Identifying the leg was easy but it’s been so long since I handled meat everything else just looked like…well, like meat. I filled the freezer bags with whatever would fit, occasionally writing Maggie’s name on a bag with a totally unidentifiable chunk of something that looked like it belonged in a dog’s bowl and not on a dinner plate.  After an hour of gruesome work I had two shelves of neatly stacked bags.

Compare what the fridge looked like last year…


…with what it contained yesterday (look away Jessica).


I think I can safely say I bagged a bargain.

Of course, there’s every chance I’ll be serving up prime cuts of pasture fed lamb to the dog and Clyde will be forced to tuck into some scrag-end lump of fat and gristle. Who knows? 

Not me, that’s for sure!

6 comments on “How to bag a bargain

  1. wendylockyer
    February 6, 2014

    What a difference! Never thought I would see a fridge of yours looking like that Deb. Meat looks good though. Clyde should be happy. Keep trying with the veg Deb. You just need to discover what suits your new garden xx


  2. debhuntinbrokenhill
    February 6, 2014

    Yes, it’s a bit alarming isn’t it? Tom would love it. I’ve planted a blueberry bush in the sunniest spot in Sydney and at least the lemon, lime and grapefruit seem to be thriving. Has it stopped raining in England yet? xx


    • Photodee
      February 6, 2014

      No it is still relentless. The ground cannot hold any more and the storms in Cornwall/Devon have washed away the main train line! Farmers are having to move or sell their stock and there are lots of flooded homes on the Somerset levels. Families who are staying in their homes are having to get around by boat or tractor and the Army have been sent in to help. More rain and storms forecast this weekend!


  3. debhuntinbrokenhill
    February 6, 2014

    I read you’ve had the wettest January in over a hundred years, what misery it must be for everyone involved. Meanwhile parts of inland Australia are suffering another extreme drought, from one extreme to another. Let’s hope for better times ahead


  4. Adele Hughes
    February 23, 2014

    Reading this Blog a little belatedly.
    Oh my Deb……I can image the conversation you and Philip could have had over the chopping board!! The lamb looks good and the vegies will come along. Not much rain here, but Banchory is ok now.


  5. debhuntinbrokenhill
    February 24, 2014

    I so could have done with Philip’s help over the chopping board! A friend came for dinner last night and she had lamb, I’ve no idea what but she loved it. Glad Banchory is doing ok, hope you get some rain soon


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This entry was posted on February 6, 2014 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , .

I'm a writer based in Australia with a passion for gardening, remote places and people with a story to tell.

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