Friday, 19 May 2017

Hello There Stranger

It feels a bit strange, and I feel a little guilty.
I'm sitting at my laptop in the middle of the afternoon!
A couple of hours off in the middle of the day is what I thought might be normal for my newly retired status, but life just keeps getting in the way.
No complaints from this quarter though, I'm just so grateful for every day and what comes up to keep me happily occupied.
Today I'm having a catch up of some of the blogs I love to read, and I see a pattern there. Everyone is busy, life is full.
To my blogger friends, and you are all friends, not just on-line acquaintances, I apologize for my lack of comments to you of late.
The rain that was promised for today, has arrived and it's tipping down outside. I don't feel quite so bad about being in here now. :)
A few bits of rain over the past week, so I'd say our opening rains for the season have arrived. The paddocks were greening up well after the rain a month ago, but with no rain in the interim, the grass was about to die off again.
The big farmers are out there morning and night, plowing and seeding their paddocks, hoping for good follow up rains.
Here at our patch there's no plowing, no burning off stubble, no spraying of toxic pre-emergent weed poisons, or spreading of chemical fertilizers or super phosphates.
Instead, Brian has put out Bio-Dynamics Prep 500 and direct seeded with some mixed pasture seeds using the no-till method.
The biology of our soils has been improving ever since we moved to Bio-dynamic and organic methods and therefore, the weeds don't have a chance to get a hold because the ground is never allowed to become bare through over grazing.
Where there is bare ground, there will be weeds.
So what's been happening around the farm of late?

Animals- sheep

We took the remainder of our last year's lambs to market last month.

They were still classed as lambs, almost one year old, not quite hogget.
We were pretty happy just to see that they had been placed in the first row of pens where the high priced lambs are always penned.
However, the best was yet to come, to hear the auctioneer running the price up..and up...and up?
Neither of us had ever expected to top the sales. Ever! We must be doing something right.


 At present, Mulga Bill (bull) is "working" at Mt Crawford on a Hereford cattle property, and is due to return home in June.
Lavender's calf, Freddie, had to be weaned three weeks ago, when he was just over four months old. I had planned to leave him with her for another month, to allow us the freedom to milk Lavender whenever we wanted to. However, he was getting big and boisterous, making a mess of her teats with his teeth.
 I call it "gentle weaning". We separated them, with a fence between them so they could talk to each other and hang out together when they wanted to.
This year we have cut down on our stock numbers here on our home block, in order to allow the paddocks to recover from a long stretch of grazing, so the decision was made to sell Freddie now rather than wait until he grows out further. More growth, better sale price, but we didn't want to compromise our plan of de-stocking.
We took him to market last week, and once again walked away with huge grins. The price we achieved by selling him at five months old was higher than our one year old steers sold in the recent past!  Such is the present market for sheep and cattle.
Lavender is here alone now, but she has company over the fence on two neighbor's boundaries, and seems to be quite happy. Her next calf is due in December and now that we don't have her calf to share the milk, I'm milking twice a day, morning and evenings, and bringing in fourteen litres of creamy milk every day.


 We had too many meat bird hens (Cornish Game) and not enough layer hens, so we had to part with some of them and bring in a new Australorp rooster.
We were out of balance.. an over abundance of meat, but not enough eggs, so the next generation of hens will be egg layers, to bring us back into balance.
Here are some of the girls eating their morning yoghurt.

Excess skimmed milk is poured into the outside yoghurt bucket daily. The yoghurt solids are scooped out and fed as a supplement for the poultry. We never feed fresh milk to poultry, but if left to sour or clabber, it can be digested easily and is a high protein food, perfect for laying hens.

Alan washes the dipper for me each day.

An abundance of milk again.

Cream so thick it looks like ice-cream.

Feta curds

Not from an op-shop! A brand new eleven litre stockpot for cheese making, purchased from K-mart.

More Quark, more cheesecakes.

Cultured Butter and Buttermilk

My friend Meg recently attended a David Asher cheese making workshop in Daylesford, Victoria and has been raving about his methods. Serendipitously, my friend Marieka, loaned me her new copy of his recently published book!
It's revolutionary and wonderful, and I've ordered a copy for myself.
Although I'm pleased to have learned what I know about cheese making, the basics, and then started  experimenting and using my creativity, I'm over the moon ecstatic to now have this book.
He uses Kefir for his starter cultures, and has simplified the processes of many varieties of cheese.
The book is easy to read...I read it in one night, couldn't put it down, but I'm a self confessed cheese nerd.
The steps are easy to follow with lots of beautiful photos to illustrate the tutorials.
Anyone can make great cheeses by following the instructions and information within the 298 pages.
In a nutshell, David Asher has thrown out the daunting mysticism of cheese making and has made it simple and do-able.
I've always been a fan of making do with what we have in our homes, re-purposing and adapting items to make molds, presses, baskets etc, so I was thrilled to see his adaptations of kitchen wares in similar ways to my own.


Last year's abundant crop of garlic was beginning to sprout, so upon the advice of our friend Merv, the garlic grower, I peeled them all from their outer shells, leaving the skin on, put them into zip lock bags and into the freezer.
NOT in the fridge, that will only make them sprout faster, they must go into the freezer.
We had such a huge crop of beautiful large garlic cloves, but I was going to lose half a year's worth, so I was pleased to heed Merv's good advice. Now I know I'll have garlic for the next six months until we pick our next crop.
Brian planted out three hundred of the largest sprouted cloves last weekend, as well as  cauliflowers, cabbages, broccoli, bokchoi, (spell correct tells me it's Chiorboy), tatsoi, Asian winter greens and beetroot.
I planted coriander and lettuce among my self seeding patch of kale, mustard greens and parsley.

In my Kitchen

Anzac Biscuits for Anzac day, sold like hot cakes in the Jembella Farm-gate shop at our front gate, and seem to be a favorite all year round.

Feta and spinach triangles baked in the wood oven that's burning around the clock now.

 The Mother's Day gift that keeps on giving. My step boys know the perfect way to win my heart.

 My chrysanthemums are dismal this year so Mum got purple sage on her grave. She loved purple, and loved any kind of flower, she even saw the beauty in weeds.
My other Mother's Day gifts will arrive by plane on Monday morning. A week of mothering and grand-mothering will be mine.

I hope YOU have a rich and rewarding week ahead too. 

Friday, 5 May 2017

I thought there would be more free time! Retirement furphy no.1

When I retired from my paid job almost a month ago some of the folks at work asked me what I would do. Those few folks didn't know me very well obviously!
I told them I'd have plenty to do around the farm and would probably have a little more free time to do a bit more writing and reading, but so far that hasn't been the case at all.
Fruit season has kept me busy preserving, making jams and sauces, and selling excess through the farm-gate shop near our front drive way.
The Barossa Vintage Festival, a bi-annual event, followed straight after Easter, which is always lots of fun with plenty of free events to attend. There are lots of pricey events too, dinners, cooking schools, master classes etc.
Having worked in Events and Catering  for a few years I was lucky to experience being behind the scenes at lots of these gala occasions, so I can say, "been there done that", and spend my hard earned $$$ elsewhere. Or not at all.

An art exhibition honoring the historical Barossa Cookery Book at the Tanunda Regional Gallery was well worth seeing.

 These installations could have almost been my kitchen. They spoke to my heart and soul.

 And this gorgeous piece by Janelle Amos won first prize. 

 Getting out and about with friends during the Barossa Valley Vintage Festival.

We left the farm in the capable hands of Brian's sons while we took the ferry across to Kangaroo Island for a few days.

Our Air BnB accomodation was completely adorable and surpassed our expectations. Tiny but a bit like the Tardis inside, with all comforts and everything we could possibly need. 

Catching up with other honey farmers was high priority. No surprises there!
Cliffords Honey Farm is the original honey outlet in KI and the honey icecream is to die for. We loved this place so much, we went twice. Two lots of icecream.
I tried to manipulate a few hints on the much guarded recipe, with not much luck. Can't blame them keeping it secret though.

Lots of sight seeing. 
Lots of seals, sea lions, and kangaroos.
It was the first time for me in Kangaroo Island and I absolutely loved the pristine landscape, the people, and the food.

We ate out every night, had lunches in cafes or bakeries, but always had a thermos in the back for those out of the way places when a nice hot cuppa is called for.
Eating out is not something we do very often, and why would we want to with all the lovely foods we grow?  So it's a real treat to have a few days away, staying in accommodation that's perfect but not going to break the bank, and eating out at various relaxed places.
All boxes ticked.

After four days of no cooking you can guess what I did first.

So much cheese and so little space..both in our tums and in the fridge, so what to do?

I offered to exchange cheese for a list of my preferred trading items on Jembella Farm Facebook page and next day I met a complete stranger at our front gate. She gave me a big bag of these leafy greens and chillies and I handed over a tub of cheese.!!
Still so much to tell you, but I think you'll be glazing over by now, so until next time,
go well.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Quince Jelly

A bit of a cheat today, as I promised this recipe to some of my readers, but as we're packing up to go away for a short break, time is limited.
And then after doing a search of my previous posts I found this recipe for Quince Jelly 
I'd forgotten about this older post... Honestly, it's wonderful getting older, but I can just about hide my own Easter Eggs now, such is my memory.!!

Also, while I'm here, a request for Vicki M to please make contact with me again by email.
Vicki, I'm having problems working out my gmail account, can't find your address and need to contact you to acknowledge your generosity towards the Nepal projects. The deposits are coming in regularly, thank you!
Niruta's school fees have just been paid for the previous year, and now she will move up to what they call Ten plus Two (10 + 2). The Australian equivalent is years 11 and 12.
Nirinjan is doing well with his Pharmacy studies in College, quite the young gentleman now with a part time job in a call centre, and indulging his passion for cricket.
Their dear mother would have been so very proud if only she could see them now.

We're off to Kangaroo Island for a few days, 
Cheers dear readers!


Saturday, 15 April 2017

Pig Processing- Bacon

The last of the pigs has been processed, and packed into the freezers with not a square inch of space to spare. 
I wrote about making nitrate free bacon at around this time last year and in that post you will find detailed directions of how to brine the bellies, and how we smoke it in our home built smoker.

This slicer was a very lucky find. Purchased cheaply from a catering business who were upgrading their equipment, it's perfect for slicing the bacon.
Trying to cut it with a knife was OK, but but now the slices are thinner, and there are no lumpy end bits.

And that's a wrap!
I think this calls for an Easter Sunday breakfast of eggs and bacon.
Happy Easter.

Friday, 14 April 2017

The Pig Processing Continues - Brawn and Lard

In last week's post I said I would let you know how the brawn making went so I'm proud to show you my successful finished product. The entire process took more than two days, but it wasn't terribly time consuming. It was just a matter of long simmering and a small bit of unsavory and delicate business, but the end product is definitely delicious and well worth the effort.

My inspiration and guidance came from Lucy at Dawson Valley Free Range where she has a good basic recipe for pork brawn.
It all made much more sense to me now that I've been making Bone Broth  for a few years and understand more about the jelling factor (and concentrated nutrition) of long simmered bones.
My driving determination was to use every part of the pig, not waste any of it, so even though I felt squeamish at the beginning, I pushed through.

Separating the usable meat from the bones and "other stuff."
This was the tricky part first time round, but the second and third batches were much easier. Remember we had three pigs!!

Part of the process is to chill the entire pot until the fat settles on the top and can be scooped off. This required some juggling between my fridges, to accommodate a big stew pot, but we home makers are wizards at squeezing just one more thing in our fridges aren't we? Is it a female thing?
Well, then there were those bowls full of fat that were scraped off the top...too good to be thrown away, and I had plans for making pastry with it.
Fortunately, the stew pot was ready to go back onto the heat at that stage so there was space in fridges for these bowls of pork dripping, and my dreams of pastry were still allowed to flourish.
The end result as shown in the top photo above, perfect for lunch with a salad or on sourdough with chutney.
The salt content is most important, as are the various spices and herbs, resulting in flavours that are rich and tasty.
There was more of the liquid broth than was needed for the brawn, so I filled a few jars of the delicious thick bone broth to add to my stores in the freezers.

A couple of beef and vegetable pies with the lightest pork dripping pastry. 

It was cool enough to light up the wood oven, so I rendered all of the pork fat to make lard. Many trays full, and enough lard to last for more than a year. I wrote a post about making lard here.
I've poured it all into glass jars and glass bowls with lids, and am storing in the freezer, keeping just one container in the fridge for use.
Lard kept in the fridge has excellent keeping qualities for months and we all know now that it is one of the healthy fats.

Happy Easter to you all..!

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Quinces and Figs

The cycle of the seasons around the calendar are constantly tossing extra work at we compulsive preservers . As soon as the summer stone fruits are finished, there are pears, the steady harvesting of tomatoes and raspberries, and then quinces make their entrance.
Although the ground in one of the cow paddocks is littered with windfall quinces, according to Lavender, there is nothing as delicious as the carefully picked ones in my wheelbarrow.

No other fruit speaks of Autumn quite the way of the humble, but oh so fragrant quince.

And they are available to purchase by the half case too, for even better value at $10, bring your own box. 
As well as the yearly standing orders the remainder were snapped up as soon as I announced their availability on our local Facebook buy and sell page, so there were quite a few trips down to the quince paddock with the wheelbarrow.

These Portuguese Tarts were a delightful surprise gift from Jo, who buys our quinces every year. Their catering business, Deliciously Devious, has a stall at our local Barossa Farmer's Market each Saturday morning, and I can highly recommend everything they make. These were absolutely sensational and very much appreciated and enjoyed. Such a treat, and so thoughtful of Jo to thoroughly make our day.
 I'm yet to start on cooking with the quinces I've retained, but all of the living areas in the house have bowls of them, just for the fragrance.

  We found more ripe figs on a tree next to one of the leased sheep paddocks when we were doing our daily rounds. I always thought a fig was a fig, but these are called green figs and are super sweet.

I made more fig jam.

Sold some in the farmgate shop, and I might have eaten a few too many, but they are irresistible.

Half of the kitchen table is covered in jars of fig jam waiting to be labelled. I hope the outlets that I supply will want it again this year! 
What's fruiting in your area and how are you making the most of it?

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