Monday, 19 March 2018

Cows - Mulga-Bill is Home

I couldn't figure out why Lavender has patches of light over each eye in this photo. My shadow perhaps?
The girls were confined to this small yard while Mulga Bill was loaded from the trailer and pushed along the lane-way to  the safety of his (Alcatraz) paddock.  Electric fences, with a paddock buffer zone on all sides of his paddock.
Poppy was due to come on-heat in the next couple of days and we don't want Mulga getting access to her at this young age of nine months.
The following day he caught wind of her though and lifted his gate from its hinges and was standing in the 'buffer zone' paddock when I got out there first thing in the morning.
Roused from my wake up cup of tea when I heard the timbre of his voice sounding a bit different than usual. I was out there in a flash in my PJ's and rubber boots, no time for putting on socks.
Quick work and luck on my side, the two girls were up near the yards waiting for their breakfast, so I was able to confine them out of sniffing distance while I called Brian  to come home from work.
"Emergency please Brian!"  I wish I had my camera with me,  to show you the circus unfolding, but as soon as Brian picked up a small twig and waved it about in front of Mulga, he turned and walked back into his paddock.
A second hot wire was put place, and although Mulga sang romantic songs to Poppy, and every other heifer in our valley, peace reigned and safety was restored.
He's having a short stay here at home before going off to his next job in early April. There's no need for him here as Lavender's calf is due to arrive in April or May.
It's not what we planned, her due date of calving  in December came and went. No calf!
We saw her being mated on February 6th and again three weeks later on Feb 27th. Surely one of those matings was successful?
I dragged out my 2017 diary and found that Mulga had returned home for a ten week period in July/August and during the time that he was here, and running with Lavender, I noted in my diary on June 29th "Lavender looks like she's on-heat. What the?? Isn't she already pregnant?"
OK..!! So we counted forward 283 days (looking at our Cattle Gestation Table) for a due date of April 7th 2018. 
So her February matings were either unsuccessful OR she may have slipped her calf early on in her pregnancy. Whatever happened, we will never know, but looking at her now, she's definitely in calf this time.
I dried her off (ceased milking) in late October, expecting her to have two dry months before calving in December. It's been all that time that I haven't had a cow to milk and fresh milk to play cheese, kefir, butter, yogurt, etc
If you think I might be counting the days until I get those milking cups onto her again, turn the handle of the cream separator, get a batch of cheese on the go... you'd be absolutely correct.!
Five months is a monumental time of waiting.. deprived of raw fresh frothy milk, but the time is drawing near.
Little Murray Grey steer is Mulga Bill's companion whilst he's in his Alcatraz paddock and away from any heifers. They have access to two paddocks, approximately three acres in total.
One large round bale of hay in the cow feeder is being consumed each week as it's the end of our dry summer and barely any feed in the paddocks. Every morning they have a treat of a few slices of bread, to maintain the friendly contact between us.

Yesterday I followed the trail back from one of the comments on my previous post, as I frequently do, and found a delightful new blog that will be getting a regular visit from me.  Laura from  Grow Gather Enjoy sounds like the person I'd happily invite around for a morning cuppa and a chat about anything and everything.
I'm presently trying to insert her blog onto my side-bar under "blogs I read" but for some reason it's not cooperating, so you will need to use the link above to go over for a peek. A glitch (on my part) that will iron itself out hopefully.

Cheers for now,
Sally XX

Friday, 16 March 2018

Growing and Changing

Hello and welcome. Pull up a chair and lets catch up, it's been too long. I'll put the kettle on and warm some scones.

Life has been ticking along here since I posted about zucchinis in my last blog post. The zucchinis are still growing and landing on the kitchen bench almost daily, and I'm happily keeping up with them. 
It's really quite incredible how many ways they can be included into our diet and we still haven't tired of them. In fact I'll be sorry to see the last of them, but I've preserved a number of jars of ratatouille with added onions, tomatoes and garlic for quick easy additions to meals during the winter.

 (Lightly fry sliced zucchini, onion and chopped garlic, add some sliced apple too if you want to, then add chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper. A small amount of kasoundi, marsala paste or chilli flakes added give a bit of depth to the flavour but is optional. Cook until it looks tender and ready to eat..then.. fill the mixture into your clean jars. Screw the lids on tightly. They must be metal lids. Stand in a large pot on a cake stand or similar so the jars are not touching the bottom of the pan. Pour in water until it reaches half way up the largest jar. It doesn't matter if the water covers the smallest jars and it's OK for the jars to touch each other. If the contents of the jars is still hot be sure not to pour in cold water or your jars will crack. Put the lid on the large pot, bring to the boil then turn down the temperature but it must remain lightly boiling for approx twenty to thirty minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the jars in the pot without removing the lid until next day. Check the lids are slightly concave, they have sealed. Store in a cupboard where they will keep for months or even years. Any that don't seal can be place in the fridge and eat within a week.)

It's terribly dry here. The vegetable gardens have water priority over the house gardens so the plants are looking quite sad with just enough water to keep them alive.

 The stone fruits have finished, (peaches, apricots and nectarines) but we're still picking tomatoes, capsicums, basil, lettuce, kale greens and beetroot, plus herbs... and zucchinis of course. The apples are ripening nicely, with these Jonathons the first to be bagged up and sold in the farmgate stall.
Brian has planted the first crop of brassicas; a few each of cabbages, cauliflower, and broccoli. He'll keep planting a few plants every month or so, and we will have a steady flow of these delicious winter veges right through until next summer.

 The plants are only just hanging in there.

By creating an illusion with green plants and trees at all entrances to the house I can cope with the dry season.

The courtyard/outdoor room.

 I find it difficult to believe that I've been retired (from paid outside work) for almost a year. I'm fascinated though at the way this past year has unfolded.
When I was employed three days a week I loved my days at home, busily doing all the things I wanted to do, and not wanting to go out anywhere on those 'home' days.
For the first six months of retirement, I had so many things I wanted to do here at home that I felt, pretty much, the same way about going out as I did when I was employed. Content to be at home in my own company.
So moving forward six months, I've caught up on lots of those tasks I wanted to get done, life is allowed to move a little slower, stress levels are as low as they could ever be (what's stress?) and now I actually enjoy going out, meeting friends, exploring new places and ticking off activities that were always there in my mind but never had the time or energy to do it.
The first year of retirement is a biggie for most people, where we learn how to manage our time, learn how to wind down, and discover new things about the way we think and the way we see things.
I still have a little work to do on myself about managing my time, or more specifically, being more disciplined with my time, but overall this life is not too bad. I can thoroughly recommend it in fact.
Everyone is different, and has different ways of looking at things. I'm gradually figuring out ways to balance my need for peaceful solitude with my social and people interactive needs.  Looking back now I can see how very tired I was, and my needs for solitude were much stronger then, than they are now.
It seems to me that our best years of life are spent in a constant struggle to achieve, and our tiredness levels are beyond measure. Believe me, looking back from where I now sit, it's as clear as day, but little do we realise this at the time, when we're in it, so to speak.

 Out and about with friends at Adelaide Writer's Week. I've always wanted to go, and at last I have the time and energy.

 Out and about with my bloke! At the Garden of Unearthly Delights; Adelaide Fringe Festival.

I've been a bit quiet on social media for the past couple of months, feeling the need to concentrate my energy on the here and now and to engage fully in my days and the people around us. Of course I still enjoy switching on my laptop a couple times a week to read about what my blogging friends are up to, but apologies for my lack of comments.

I did my best with entries in the local Angaston Show at the end of February and won a few prizes with jams, sauce and cordial.   However, without a lactating cow at present, my only entry in the dairy section was this matured cheese that I made early last year, but it won first prize and enough overall points to gain the trophy for "Most Successful" in the dairy produce section.  The entries were so few, sadly! 
A lovely $50 voucher donated by our local "Barossa Valley Cheese Co" which I can spend on their delicious prize winning gourmet cheeses. I think this kind of Trophy is much better than a thing to sit on the shelf and look at. 

I came very close to stepping on a Brown snake two days in a row. I think they were two separate snakes (one was much bigger than the other) which doesn't thrill me knowing there are TWO snakes hanging around the house! My main concern is for the dogs who both have a tendency towards attacking lizards and anything that crawls or slithers. The hay bale net wrap is placed strategically to trap any snakes who might slither through and I check it frequently in case a trapped lizard may need rescuing.  None so far, thankfully.
My tea cup is empty and the wind has whipped up bringing with it the smell of rain, or is it merely an illusion? A mirage perhaps, so desperate are we for a bit of rain.
I'll tell you about the cows next time.
Cheers, :-)


Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Zucchini (Courgette) Time Again

Beautiful fresh zucchinis (courgette) are starting to pile up on the bench and in the fridge so it was time to make relish.
First, I must say that we try very hard to eat our garden produce in its most natural and nutritious state of rawness (first choice) or lightly cooked.  We're enjoying zucchini sliced in  tossed salads, chopped in coleslaw, lightly cooked in garlic butter, in our fresh juice with carrot and apple, in quiches, frittata, lasagne, zucchini and walnut cake.... but still they keep building up.
I did a search through my old posts to find Zucchini Relish and within just over one hour there are no zucchinis left in the fridge and a dozen jars of relish cooling on the table.
I've made a couple of changes to the recipe though, adding some coriander seeds and some salt, which I have amended on the original post.
So if life gives you lemons, make lemonade; but if life gives you zucchinis...well you know what you can do.
Wishing you a long and fruitful zucchini season..Ha! That's all very well to say now, but it's just the beginning of what looks like a bumper year for the humble zucchini. Ask me again in another month and my words may likely be uttered through my teeth.
Cheers X

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Summer 2018

After a mild start to summer, our part of Australia is really heating up now.  The split system air-con that we had installed during renovations fifteen years ago, but have rarely used, had a couple of runs last week.  This 106 year old house is solid stone and surrounded on three sides with wide verandas covered in Glory Vine (Ornamental Grape) so it retains its cool for a few days if we keep it closed up during the heat of the day and open it up when the outside air is cooler than inside.
The ceiling fans get a good workout, as do a couple of free standing fans to focus on the parts that the ceiling fans don't reach, and they cost only a pittance to run.  But when the temps are soaring between 36deg and 42deg for more than four days in a row the walls start to warm up. I'm so very thankful that the air-conditioning is there, when we really need to use it.

There's very little outside work happening, apart from my morning garden and animal care, which needs to be done very early on hot days. The evening garden and animal jobs are done after the worst heat of the day has passed.

 Brian keeps plodding along as he doesn't mind the heat, and his jobs list is always long. I draw the line at cutting chaff, mowing lawns, mending fences and digging the garden on hot days, but I admit I'm getting a bit lazy these last couple of years and have learned to prioritize tasks. However, when there are livestock involved, there are times when fence mending and animal maintenance has to be done in all weather.
  We hired a commercial size shredder over the New Year long weekend and removed a row of nine Flinders Range Wattles that were past their best. Planted in 2004 as a wind break for our main vegetable patch, the roots were beginning to invade the vegetable plots and we had plans for planting a double row of bee loving trees in their place.
A nice pile of firewood and lots of lovely mulch that I've spread along the paths throughout the gardens. In winter time the garden paths in the house yard become dangerously muddy and slippery, so wood mulch is the best material at hand for this.

Halfway there, just the stumps to go.

A double row of Leptospermum Scoparium (Manuka) for the bees to produce some Australian (Manuka) honey. This is a fenced lane that joins part of the poultry yards, so it has been temporarily fenced off until the little trees are tall enough to withstand chooks scratching around them.

Between naps on the front seat, (drivers side door is open) Meg is on the lookout for any geese or chickens that might cross the line and enter the work zone.

It was just too hot for the foreman.

The following weekend it was cool enough to process sixteen of the chickens from our last incubation hatching a few months ago. 
There are roughly twenty left to process, when time permits and the weather cools off a bit. 
Just in case you're thinking I'm some kind of marvelous farming woman, I might add that I'm not involved in this activity in any way except for packaging for the freezer, and later on, the cooking of said chicken after retrieving in a civilized fashion from the freezer.
Childhood memories of gagging at the smell of hot wet feathers while my father plucked a chicken for a special Sunday roast lunch, is still too off-putting, even after all these years. Well...that's my excuse anyway. ;-)

We attended three local livestock markets before surrendering to high market prices to buy this Murray Grey steer.  Cattle prices are staying high, which is great news for breeders.
We sold off our weaners at good prices last year, so that we could rest our home block for awhile. Now we need a few youngsters to grow on and ouch!!'s a bit different being on the other side of the trade . Aiming to double our investment when we sell him again after eight months or so, is better than money in the bank.

At the same market this pen of twelve Merino ewe lambs looked so malnourished and poorly we just had to buy them (cheaply) and bring them home to be properly looked after. After worming, vaccinating and on good dry pasture with access to minerals they have improved beyond recognition in just three weeks. 
They will return our investment many times over with their lambs over the next few years. 

 Do you remember Trevor? The little lamb that was my biggest challenge last winter, is now just one of the flock and has caught up in size to the other Merinos. He wanders over to say hello to me, but he prefers the company of his friends. Brian remains under strict instructions that this little guy will never be loaded up for market or the butcher. Luckily his Merino wool is of value, so I have a fair and balanced reason to keep him. ;-)

These raspberries need picking, and then the dogs and I will be retiring to the cool of the house today as it's already 32c degrees at 9am.
There are zucchinis to be made into relish and then, as it's Sunday, perhaps I'll work at that pile of library books on my desk.
Have a wonderful day friends, wherever you may be.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

In the Poultry Nursery

We have two female geese and two males, so although the older female sat on her eggs and hatched out seven healthy goslings approximately thirty days later, the younger goose just kept laying eggs but not sitting. We waited and waited for her to sit. Spring went by and with it the green grass became scarce. It started to become evident that she was never going to sit so Brian intervened.

 As there were two broody hens sitting side by side in the hen shed, he put some of the goose eggs  underneath the two hens. They were able to comfortably cover six eggs between them.

The weeks went by and eventually there was some action. One little gosling hatched unaided, but we found next day it had been squashed in the nest by one of its foster mums. 
The following day we found this egg that was starting to hatch, but after waiting nearly all day for little one to break out of its shell, Brian decided to give it a helping hand.

The little one needed to be peeled out of its egg and placed under the brooder light in the shed until it became strong enough to go back to its foster mother.

Reunited again. They bonded immediately, but the gosling wasn't very smart about snuggling underneath the hen to keep warm, so close watching, gentle persuading and prodding was required on our part. The hen was fiercely protective, so it wasn't easy!  

Not a good quality photo because I had to enlarge it so the baby can be seen poking its head out from under the hen's wing.

A week later and they are still in the nursery yard, separated from the other hens until the gosling is large enough to withstand the goings on and shenanigans of the grown-ups in the foul shed and surrounding paddocks.
Poultry are endlessly fascinating and entertaining aren't they?

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

An Update of Kitchen Happenings

After last month's farm update I put a mark in my dairy as a reminder to write another update a month later, and whoosh... here we are again. It would be a very long post to include most things, indoors and outside, so today is focusing on what's been happening in that room we call 'the heart of the home'.
Summer is with us, but we have had a couple of heavy rainfall events and no days above 35C degrees, so it's most agreeable living weather. Unfortunately the rain was not so good for the farmers who grow cereal crops that were almost ready for harvesting. Most of that grain will be downgraded.
The days have been good for being outside in the garden, catching up with some of the weeding, and spreading compost and mulch.
 The rhubarb patch got a serious thinning and cleaning up. I tried to give it away, but at the end of the weekend a few stalks remained.

 I tried really hard to put it into the compost heap, but old frugal was looking over my shoulder again, so..... it got chopped up and added to some raspberries that have been in the freezer since last season's glut.

Raspberry and rhubarb jam. Who knew that the two flavours would go together so well?
I made it the conventional way, with sugar, but cut the amount right back so the flavours of the fruit are dominant without the cloying sweetness.
Just as I finished labeling the jars, there was a knock on the door. A woman from Victoria requesting some rhubarb jam! I was able to invite her in to taste the new jam, of which she bought three jars to take back with her.

My old gas cooker finally had to be replaced when the oven door would no longer stay closed without wedging a chair up against it!
We are on bottled gas here, so there were not a lot of LPG stoves to choose from. In fact, this was the only one we found. I first looked in our local electrical and gas store but they had none, so a forty minute trip to our nearest Harvey Norman store and two weeks later this basic stove was installed.
It got me thinking that the lack of choice could be frustrating for many folks, but I'm not particularly fussy about the stove. It does the job and I'm grateful to have a stove at all, to use during the hot summer months when it's too hot for the wood stove.
However, and hindsight is a wonderful thing, if we were doing our renovations now, instead of twelve years ago, I would know that we probably should have put in an electric point at the stove.
I have discovered that most gas cookers come with an electric oven.
Lesson learned!

I'm having a go at making mead with some of our second grade honey that we use for cooking. Starting off with just a bit of honey and water in a jar, the ants found it sitting on the kitchen bench, so placing the jar into a large flat container of water soon foiled their attempts at sabotaging my newest trial.
After searching Google for Mead recipes and becoming daunted with all the complicated instructions and equipment required, I finally found this simple method. Honey and water!

When it started to taste less sweet, and the fermenting slowed down I bottled it and kept it on the kitchen bench so I would remember to burp it each day to release some of the gas.  I learned an important lesson that it must be bottled in thick bottles if using glass.
Yes, you guessed it.!
The small square shaped bottle on the right, was made for sauce, not volatile fizzy stuff!
After hearing a noise during the night, the kitchen wore a layer of sticky mead, from the floor to almost the ceiling, and thin shards of glass were everywhere.
Another lesson learned.!

The bubbles are about right, and the honey flavour is delicious, but still a bit too sweet for my palate. The remaining bottle will continue to ferment until more of the sugars have converted to alcohol. A larger quantity in a bucket is fermenting nicely and will soon be ready for bottling.
When I finally have a finished product that I'm 100% happy with I'll post a blog with instructions of how I did it.

I won the wager on the demise of the hail affected cherries. They ripened beautifully, and I picked them at this lighter colour as they were surprisingly sweet. Heavy rain was forecast (and arrived) so there was a chance of splitting if they were left on the tree. It appears this variety of cherry is known as the 'white cherry' and is ripe when it reaches this light colour.

 I thought I might have to preserve some of them, but we have been enjoying eating them just as they are.

Remember those two rows of cabbages growing in the vegetable garden? There are only three left!
I've filled every one of my large glass jars with sauerkraut and am also experimenting by adding other flavouring ingredients. The above picture is sauerkraut containing cabbage as the main ingredient, with carrot, apple and ginger added. Some of the jars have cumin or caraway seeds added to plain cabbage, and salt of course.
We're also eating cabbage every day, fried in butter, in coleslaw, in casseroles and stews. I will never tire of eating the versatile cabbage even though I hated it as a youngster. It was boiled cabbage in those days...boiled and boiled until the whole family finally all came in for the evening meal. No wonder I found it hard to stomach!

When I was out and about, living the life of a part time working person, as well as trying to do all of the things that I really wanted to do here in our home and farm, I saw people walking and felt envious of them. Just walking for fun, fitness or relaxation. They had time in their days to do such a thing.
I wanted that.
And now I have it.
Life is good.!
I hope yours is too.
Thanks for reading.
:-) XX

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Natural Mildew Spray Treatment

During the lunch break at last Sunday's Bee keeping workshop the folks enjoyed a walk around the main vegetable garden here at Jembella.  When Brian was asked about controlling mildew he told of the Casuarina  (Equisetum) Tea that he brews from needles of Casuarina or commonly referred to as Sheoak and sprays out to treat mildew on our vegetables. It is also very good for grape vines.

 When asked the mixing rate, Brian admitted that he now goes by sight, and he promised to consult our Biodynamic Manual and let them know. Our original copy of this resource manual became so well used it almost fell apart, so I purchased another copy from Bio-dynamics Agriculture Australia to keep in the house for my use.

 So here is the recipe for Fresh Equisetum or Casuarina Tea as described in the manual.
Cover fresh leaves (needles) from the Casuarina, Equisetum) Tree with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for twenty to thirty minutes and allow to stand until cool.
Strain off the liquid (tea) and use to the ratio of 10 litres of tea to 400 litres of water @ 34 litres per hectare.
It should be poured into a bucket or drum and stirred for twenty minutes before pouring into your spray unit or container. Those already familiar with bio-dynamics will understand the necessity of stirring, to potentize or energise, the preparations before spraying out in the early morning or late afternoon. 
The tea will keep for up to three weeks in a capped container in a cool dark place. When it starts to get black and a bit smelly, throw it away and brew up a new batch.

Depending on the area you need to spray, it can be put out using anything from a small spray bottle to a large mechanised spray unit behind a tractor.
It's amazing stuff, cheap to make, and harmless to our plants, the beneficial insects in the garden and ultimately, ourselves!

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