Rohan Anderson is a modern-day hunter-gatherer and all around DIY-er. He provides food for his family purely from what he can grow in his garden, hunt in the forests and streams of Australia, or trade from his neighbors. Here, he takes us out on a typical day looking for the evening meal in the middle of a Southern Hemisphere heat wave.
The cool breeze snuck in through the old fly screen window and broke my deep slumber. It had been a very hot few days here in Australia. Sometime in the night a cool change had come in from the south, and it was very much welcome. It’s been a hot summer, dry too with a handful of local bush fires and dangerously fast grassfires. Thankfully the old school house has got away unscathed with most of the fires being far away enough not to be a concern. But it is a sign that things are dry.
I rubbed my eyes, sat up in bed and convinced myself to go for a walk. Out here there is plenty of walking space. It’s country. I can walk uninterrupted without seeing another person for hours if I choose. As soon as the track turns from bitumen to gravel then enters the bush it’s No Man’s Land. Just me and the beasts. A far cry from my days living in the city, where there is no option but to bump into people, and it’s so packed this is often literal. Out here I can really sink my teeth into the serenity.
Lately I’ve been taking a rifle on the morning walks as I figure that I may as well bag a few furred beasts for the pot while I’m walking. The rabbits being an introduced pest from Europe have learned that the Australian summers are far too hot to hang out in during the daytime, so they’re active from dusk to dawn. This suits me well as it’s the time when I’m more available to hunt them. My days are often spent working on the garden or doing odd jobs. Daylight is precious as we don’t have street lights or outdoor illumination other than the moon and the stars.
I slung the rifle over my shoulder, fastened a belt of ammunition and with a pat of the dog I was off. The cool air was such a blessing, all yesterday I’d been hot and bothered, I’m often as cranky as a meat axe on the hot days, so being up at dawn in cool weather made me a pretty happy bloke. The first thing I listen for when I start my walk is the noises of the real world, the birds, the stock, the breeze through the grass and leaves and the unavoidable sound of summer insects starting their day or just finishing their evening. It reminds me of living in the city where I’d see late night revelers coming home just as I was heading off to work in the morning. It’s the same thing here, only it’s birds insects and beasts coming home from their late night party.
There are some mean old sounds some birds make, like the shrill call of the black shouldered kite. It’s eerie and devilish at the same time, the prehistoric call of the Black Cockatoo, the sweet tweets from the fairy wrens….I could go on. Suffice to say that it’s the best way to start the day, listening to all the beauty that is our natural world. Makes me sad to think that the lifestyle of the western population has a detrimental impact on this beautiful world with our unquenchable appetite for natural resources. But enough of my discontent with the modern world, this morning was going to be all about a hunt.
I headed down towards old Bill’s place, a farm consisting mostly of grain and potato with the odd paddock of spring lambs, feeding on the lush grass of summer not far off from going to market. The rabbits tend to stay where they are protected by cover, anything that provides them shelter from birds of prey, feral cats and red foxes. The wild blackberry that provides us with abundant fruit in late summer is a common hide out for skittish bunnies and on this morning it was the blackberry bushes that hug the fence line of Bill’s paddocks that provided me with my first shot.
A new season rabbit, not large in size but perfect for the plate. The older rabbits, especially the males, are often harder to cook with, a bit chewy really! The young bunnies however, cook to perfection. Though the meat is of wild origins it cooks superbly if cooked gently enough. And this is what I had in mind for dinner, a young rabbit marinated in pimenton, fresh thyme, sage and garlic, wrapped in fine bacon and slow cooked in the hooded BBQ. It’s my favorite summer recipe for rabbit.
I bagged a two rabbits early in the piece and decided to leave them in the grass save me carrying them all morning, as I planned to trace my foot steps back home and I could pick them up later. I walked down the hill of the paddock, bagged one more then, then another, until I was carrying 4. This was more than I needed so I convinced myself that this had been a good walk, a good hunt, nature had been kind to me and it was time to turn around and head home for a hearty breakfast. I followed my track back to the spot I’d shot the first few rabbits to retrieve them, but also some cheeky foe had nicked one. This has happened a few times, you’d think I would have learnt by now. Last time it was an owl that swooped down and took my rabbit dinner, this time it was a fox. Well as frustrated as I was I only had myself to blame. It was a stark reminder that as nature will give, she will also take.
I collected the sole remaining rabbit added it to the bunch and tramped off home. Tonight there would be rabbit on the table, full bellies and happy hearts.
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All images taken by Rohan Anderson. Find him at www.wholelarderlove.com