Monday, 23 January 2017

January Bee-keeping Workshop

Our final Bee-keeping workshop for this season. Morning tea on the verandah.

A class of eleven.  Lots of great questions and good discussions. The morning part of the day is spent in the shearing shed learning about the equipment and how to use it.

Lunch and morning tea breaks are great for networking and discussions among the participants. A wander of the gardens, and meeting the pigs, chooks and the rest of the menagerie is a must too.

After lunch we got hands-on with bees; checking the hives, finding the Queens, and uniting hives together.
Brian from Gawler.
People traveled from far and wide to attend. 

Sara drove from Watervale, near Clare.
Sue and her partner Pete traveled two hours from Jabuk, in the Mallee region of South Australia.
Both of these delightful ladies are blog readers, so it was both overwhelming and humbling to meet them. Of course we clicked immediately, as we felt like we already knew each other.

Sue and Pete, from Jabuk.

Alan loves people so he was all smiles.

The bloke who makes it all possible. How he manages to talk and impart his wisdom all day, amazes me. We work as a team, but he does most of the talking. I'm not so good at that because I get all talked out after a few hours, and then can't string two words together..!!
Each of us have our strong and weak points, so I guess we compliment each other. I do the behind the scenes stuff; marketing, bookings and financials, the food (morning tea and lunch), and general assistant facilitator.
Brian is the bee keeping Guru. He sets up the classroom areas, prepares the projects, and speaks all day.
Yesterday's session ran well overtime, but no one seemed to mind staying until 5.30pm.
Roberta and John from Marananga are in the background, and oh my goodness, what beautiful people they are. In fact, we had another wonderful group yesterday and made even MORE new friends.
So it's a wrap! The next workshops will start up again in October, when the next bee season gets under way.
Cheers, and thanks for popping in to this little blog.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Lizard Friends and Pineapples

I've made reference, a few times, to the pineapple plants that have been taking up space in the glass house for the past...oh... two years.
Brian planted the cut off ends that were in the buckets of food scraps that we collect from a restaurant to feed the poultry. They did nothing for all this time, just sat there asking for water!
Well this is what's happening now.

I know that the Queensland folks will be rolling their eyes at this sight that they will be very familiar with, but for we South Aussies this is all new to us. Such excitement!
The pineapple is a most intriguing fruit, as we are discovering as it develops. Does anyone know how long it might take before it grows big enough and ready to eat?

We, and all of South Australia, were prepared for Thursday night's "One in ten year storm" but thankfully it didn't eventuate. Some lovely rain fell though, and there was a break from the garden watering routine.
I don't know about you, but the severe heat saps the energy from me.  I'm feeling for those in Queensland who are living with temperatures in the high 30's and into the 40's day after day. I'm also feeling grateful that we down south are having an easy time of it so far, this summer.
Today was a deliciously mild 24 degrees here in the Barossa, and perfect for catching up on some gardening.

This little fellow is one of a family who live in the enclosed vegetable garden up near the house where I keep their water bowl filled. We see them all around the gardens, and today this one was my constant companion. Well, I saw him under the daisy bushes, under the fruit trees, near the finger lime, on the lawn, and then up this stake. Was it just one lizard, or all of its siblings as well?
At one point he/she came rushing toward me, I wondered what was happening, then he caught and gulped the fly he was chasing.

He's the handsome silent type, but I chatted to him constantly as he kept me company. ;)

Thanks for dropping in,

Monday, 9 January 2017

As Days Go

Well, I'm just so glad I didn't let on to anybody what my New Year goals were. One of them has gone belly up already.
I'd had this foolish thought that I would write a blog post every day!!
However, I'm getting over my sense of failure as, nine days later, I haven't written a single word.
Anyway, who am I to think that anyone would want to hear from me every day?  ;)
My other goal for this year is to take some short breaks, or even just have a day away from the farm, visit  friends, go somewhere new within my own state.  So I'm pleased to report that a few day outings have been written into my diary for this month, and a three night short holiday has been booked for further along the track, but more about that one later.
I love being at home as you, dear reader, would well know by now, but I think that seeing new places is enriching, and educating. I never want to stop educating myself.

Meanwhile, here at Jembella, every day is packed full. I now prefer to say that my life is full, NOT busy. There was a time when I thought that being busy validated my worth as a human, and I don't want to think that way any more.
I want to be occupied, I want to achieve things every day, I want to sit and read for a little while every day too, but I no longer want to feel overwhelmed by all that needs to be done here on the property every day.
I'm learning more every day about living in the moment. It takes a conscious effort to stop my mind from its busy-ness and to think about what I'm doing when hanging out the washing, feeding the pigs, milking the cow, and all of those other mundane tasks. By slowing down just a tiny bit, and thinking about how lucky I am to have all this, making the time to do it all properly with intention, the mundane tasks take on a new light.
Oh yes it's all very well to say this, and I know it wouldn't work if I was still working at my paid job for more days than I do now.  The sense of calm that I feel since cutting back my working days by just one day, has gifted me the most amazing balance to life.
I feel like I'm now living the dream.. and I am.

 Brian's bumper garlic crop.

The stone fruit crops in South Australia have been affected by the crazy weather this spring and summer, and our apricot pick was hardly enough to do much with.
I froze a few fresh ones before packing into vacuum sealed bags to put in the freezer. 
Freeze halves on a tray, before packing so the vacuum sealer doesn't suck out the juice when sealing.

We had a couple of hot days last week so, needing an inside occupation to escape the heat, I pickled some of the cucumbers that keep landing on the kitchen bench from the garden.
I used this recipe from Rhonda's Down to Earth blog. I made them last year too and they remained crisp all year, developing better flavors the longer they were kept. I always make a triple batch, and add a piece of garlic and chilli to some of the jars.

 Our breakfast juice every morning helps to use up some of the bounty from the garden.  Today's was made with peaches, zucchini, mint, carrots and cucumber.  A natural vitamin shot and great way to start the day.
I hope your New Year plans haven't gone pear shaped. Or have they? Do tell. ;)

Sunday, 1 January 2017

New Years Day 2017

The older we get, the faster each year seems to go because time flies when we're active and doing what we love.
I hope all of you dear readers had a lovely Christmas, and are ready to embrace this coming year. Well, it's here, whether we're ready or not!
I'm blessed to be able to say that every year, as it happens, is a good year for me. Sure, there are challenges, but what doesn't beat us makes us stronger.
I feel for those who lost loved ones last year, or who suffered from illness, and I wish for you a year of healing, good health and happiness.

 Christmas Day in South Australia was very hot, but two days later we experienced cyclonic weather that knocked trees over, drenched us with 45mls of rain, and left much of the state without power, phone or internet coverage.
Mother Nature is certainly giving us some attention lately.
One of a pair of Golden Robinia trees at the front of our home fell over, leaving a big gap in the garden. The above photo shows how big it was with the remaining of the pair still standing.
How lucky we were though, with the tree crashing in the only direction that caused minimal damage. A metre either way and we would have had serious structural damage to either the fences or the house.
In true Brian spirit, the chain saw had a work out, and all fallen and damaged trees were dealt with before morning smoko. Fortunately, he was on annual leave for the days between Christmas and New Year, so was on hand to get into action immediately.

Lavender has been our number one concern ever since her fence jumping incident and with treatment every day, she is recovering well.
After a five day course of antibiotic injections, we waited for more than double the with-holding period, before drinking the the milk.
For those of you who regularly read this blog, you will know that we don't use antibiotics or conventional pharmaceutical preparations on ourselves or our animals, but in this case, and under the guidance of our trusted vet, we had no other option. For smaller injuries and ailments we always use Vitamin C injections for the animals, and this is the first time in twelve years of cow raising that any of our animals have received antibiotics.
Having had so much treatment and endured such pain and trauma, I am amazed that she still walks into the dairy every day and allows me to put the milking cups on the remaining three good teats.
In fact, in the last few days, she has been easier to bring in and we have confidence that she will return to the easy going cow that she was earlier in her previous lactation.

 The milking cups are on three teats while milk still runs from the injured teat. I put a container underneath so as not to waste it and give that milk to the pigs and dogs.

The cup that's not attached to a teat needs to be blocked so the milking machine doesn't lose compression.  Brian took the teat from the calf feeder and inserted a piece of plastic into it to block off the hole, the artificial teat is then inserted into the spare milking cup. We can remove it when washing out the machine and insert it each time we milk Lavender.  This has saved us from having to permanently adapt the machine and cups, for when we have another milking cow and need the standard four cups.

We decided to pull down the fences in the area near the dairy, and build post and rail cattle yards. Brian hired the Dingo for two days, pulled out posts and droppers, leveled the ground, and started digging new post holes.

We changed the layout, and finished up gaining some paddock space as there isn't the necessity for such a big area now that our cattle numbers are less.
Over these past few years we have learned from our experiences of what this land of ours can comfortably manage. We have learned about what we want from our land, how we prefer to manage it, and what our needs are. We observed how the cows and sheep prefer to move around this land, what feels more natural for them, and so we have adapted our new yards to suit.
We call this "evolving" with our needs and our gained knowledge.
Those new rails are covered in Creosote, so poor Brian suffered horrible burning skin on his arms from the fumes as it was he who did all the work there.
Those days were hot, and I was in the kitchen preserving cucumbers and during the heat of the day,  doing some of the other jobs that keep piling up,. I confess I have nowhere near the stamina that he has.
To soothe the skin on his arms he's rubbing on organic coconut oil that I use for cooking and for all of our skin care. He's also taking Milk Thistle capsules as a liver cleanser to help rid his body of the toxins absorbed through the skin. Our skin is our largest organ, and everything that goes onto it is absorbed into the blood stream. I'm also making him green vegetable juices and making sure he drinks lots of water.

 The finished stock fence with new double water trough for each side of the fence. The wire mesh will prevent sheep from escaping too, and from small calves getting through.
A twisted willow tree was planted in the corner to provide shade when it grows tall. The leaves are medicinal and contain natural Aspirin. Stock will eat them when they feel the need.

They have to pass through this yard on the way to the dairy and this is where we feed out the hay.
It's wise to have an area like this where stock can be enclosed if needed, for treatment, for moving, or just quietening them down and getting them used to being handled.
I'm stunned at the number of people who buy farm animals, but have no infrastructure in which to enclose them if needed.
What happens when the cow gets a grass seed in it's eye? How can it be treated?

The damaged teat is healing well, but now when she lets down her milk for the calf, or when being milked in the dairy, the milk from that teat runs freely.
Only time will tell how this will be managed in the long term, but for now she appears to be happy and no longer in pain.
And all this was only a part of our Christmas, New Year activities.
We ate some lovely food, enjoyed some time with family, checked bee hives, moved sheep to different paddocks on the other side of town, and all of the other daily farm tasks as well.
Is it any wonder that my year flies past so quickly?
Happy New Year and lets get the most out of each day, give thanks for every new day, and appreciate all that we have at the end of the day.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Honey Biscuits

There was no way out, I just had to make a batch of Honey biscuits!
It's not Christmas without Honey Biscuits, and because a few people have asked me for my recipe and how to bake them, I thought it easiest to show, rather than just give out a recipe.

 As with most old recipe books, the instructions leave a lot to the imagination, as you can see here. So for the novice Honey Biscuit baker here is the way I've found works best for me.
I always make half a batch. A full batch takes all day, so I'm going to give you the ingredients already cut down to a half batch.


1 tablespoon of butter
500g honey
1 and 1/4 cups of sugar
2 eggs
1 and 1/2 teaspoons of bi-carb soda
1/4 - 1/2  teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 small teaspoon cinnamon
1 small teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
Plain flour - approx 4 - 5 cups


Melt butter, honey and sugar in a saucepan together.
In a large mixing bowl beat together the eggs and all of the spices.
Mix into the egg mixture, 1 cup of flour and beat until well mixed.
Pour in a small amount of the melted honey mixture and mix well, then add more flour, mix well.
(The aim is not to cook the egg by pouring in the hot  honey mixture)
Add the remaining honey melted mixture and mix well.
Keep adding flour and mixing until it becomes impossible to mix any more without breaking your hand or your spoon.
At this point, more flour is still required to achieve the right consistency, but there's a way to do it that is much easier.
Cover and leave for an hour or overnight, before rolling out and cutting into shapes.
Bake in a moderate oven for approx 10 minutes or until slightly colored.

 Alternate adding of the flour, and the melted honey mixture to the eggs and spices.

Keep adding flour until you can't mix it any more without breaking your spoon.

The dough will look like this.

Cover the bowl and leave for a least an hour, or overnight if you want to. 

When you're ready to bake the biscuits, cut a lump off using a knife.

Flour your bench well and knead more flour into the dough until it reaches the correct consistency, which is just past the sticky stage. It should not be sticky.

Form into a flat ball and gradually press it out flat.

Then roll it out with a rolling pin. Be sure to have enough flour under the dough so it doesn't stick to the bench, and move it around a bit to make sure it's not stuck.

This is the thickness I prefer.

Cut into shapes.

Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. (Frugal tip; you can re-use the same piece of paper over and over.)
Bake in a moderate oven for approximately 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.
When slightly cooled, lift off the baking tray with a flat knife and cool on cake cooling racks.

Save all the scrappy cut out bits and roll into a new ball.

The scrappy bits will roll out again until all the dough is used up.

This is the thickness of the finished product. Some people make them thicker, but we prefer them this way.
Wait until cool before icing with a thin mix of icing sugar and water. (Food coloring can be added) Mix well, spoon into a zip lock bag with a tiny hole cut into one corner, and squeeze onto each biscuit.
I find it's easiest to place all of the biscuits out on the kitchen table in rows, then it's a quick squirt and swirl over each biscuit.
I'll ice these tomorrow morning. I don't want to look at another honey biscuit until then!! but you can see last year's Iced honey biscuits here.
Honey biscuits are really quite simple to make when you know how and with a few little tricks up your sleeve.
I hope you will give them a go, but stand back, everyone loves them so you might need to hide some for later. Oh, and they keep well too, in an airtight container or glass jars.
I'd love to know how yours turn out when you bake them.
:) X Cheers!

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