Saturday, January 28, 2012

Coming Home

We have had a whirlwind excursion to the city with the purpose of enrolling Tom at university and also to find him some accommodation. I am happy to say that as things stand at this moment that both tasks have been completed and without too much stress. The trip home was very wet in places and I was glad that I wasn't the driver. Coming home whether it be in the physical sense or just a state of mind, is for me, the best part of any journey.

This home coming was not without its upsets though. The brazen fox which we have now seen on the front lawn destroyed three more chickens in our absence. It naturally picked off the older birds which were real characters amongst our flock.The three of them probably hadn't laid an egg for years and didn't deserve to go out in such a grisly fashion. The birds have all been rotated to a different pen which will hopefully be more secure against attack.
The garden is behaving well. The dahlias are a real delight. These ones are growing side-by-side with my cotton in the old bathtub.

Dahlias truly make excellent cut flowers. Spectacular and long lasting in the vase.

The cotton has moved on to its next stage, flower production. It is a very sweet creamy coloured flower with no scent. I'm hoping that there will be enough summer weather left in this coolish season to allow the plants to produce at least one little cotton bolus.

Some flowers have already closed up and putting their efforts in to making their seeds and cotton fibre. I know that on a large scale the cotton industry is a very big consumer of resources. In the home garden the plant requires very little attention really just a water as necessary. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in seeing how it grows and even as just a plant in a mixed flower bed. It is sweet enough to have a place just for its pretty flowers and interesting leaves.

I have had so much trouble with my internet connection the past two days. I started writing yesterday and haven't been able to reconnect until this afternoon. Hoping it publishes now.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

The unthinkable

This mornings trip to the hen house was not pleasant. I had a feeling something was amiss as there just seemed to be a bit of out of the ordinary clucking. Tom said he heard the turkey and ducks in the night but neither Tim nor I did. He shone the torch out there but being half asleep and about 30metres away couldn't discern any trouble.

The unthinkable had happened though. A fox or quoll or something else entirely different had killed one of the Pekins. I found it's body up against the fence with it's head missing (the killer did leave the head behind too). Not a nice way to leave this world. Thankfully the pen is secure (hopefully secure enough) and the beast didn't actually get inside to do more damage. No doubt it will be back tonight and I will be waiting. Foxes and rabbits are amongst the worst animals ever to be released in Australia and I would be hard pressed to find a farmer who is keen on either. I'm glad that the lambs are big enough to not be too troubled by hungry preditors.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

More orchard

Living on a farm with plenty of land to play with allows me to grow so much more than I could and in fact did on an urban block. When we lived in Sydney we had grapes, passionfruit, a couple of citrus trees and an apple tree. The orchard we have on the farm is in two sections, one established and as shown below, the new orchard. There has been disappointment along the way. In 2009 I planted a lot of heritage apple trees only to have drought and grasshoppers destroy them. Like most optomistic gardeners I replanted another ten new heritage apples in the summer of 2011 as feathered maidens.

So in a year, the feathered maiden apple trees(baby trees) are definitely not productive but they are growing and showing promise. I think it is that promise that keeps many a gardener interested and passionate about what they do. This season I had a few fruits on some of these tiny trees and it was difficult to do but remove the fruit I did in the best interest of the trees.

If I lived on a small block again and my choices were limited by space I would choose only what we would gain the most from. I wouldn't be growing a medlar that's for sure. I haven't tasted the fruit before and I don't even know where the fruit would be available to purchase. It is certainly a strange looking fruit and to be truthful the idea of bletting the fruit prior to eating them is a little off putting.

The turkeys, dad, 'teens' and chicks (mum is still incubating duck eggs) are enjoying the work I have done topping up the mulch.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Home Orchard Care

I'm not sure how commercial orchards operate as far as maintenance goes but the home orchard really is fairly simple. What I do think is a good idea though is that if you buy a property or even if you rent and plan to stay long term, and want to grow your own fruit then planning and planting the fruit trees is one of the first things to do. Simply because they do take time to establish and bare significantly. Of course added expenses such as fruit trees isn't welcome when moving into a new house but a new tree every month or so or for a birthday gift can usually be worked into the budget. That's how we did it anyway. Now we have over 60 fruiting trees and berry bushes. The beauty of the home orchard too is that you really can grow a large variety of trees. As our orchard is in close proximity to the house, I like to keep the grass relatively short. This is more for snake spotting rather than a need for neatness. I do like a meadowy look but just not in the house yard.

Mulch is another orchard helper. We have managed without it when mulch was not available but it certainly meant more watering. Now when I see spoilt hay for sale at the right price I snap it up because I know I will use it.

I have cages around all of my trees. I don't like them because they are quite ugly but we have rabbits and I have seen the damage they can do. Even in one night they can ringbark trees and then all the effort and money is for nought. The rabbits here seem to have a preference for apple trees with cherry coming in a close second.

Water is vital to the home orchard just like it is to any garden. After the trees have been established though, it isn't often needed, the rain is enough. That has been the case for us this season and we haven't had to give the fruit trees any additional water.

Prune d'agen

Today I worked solo in the orchard therefore the rewards all my own. Sweet fruit and satisfaction from doing something that is worthwhile to me.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012


My new weather vane is in place and thanks to our gps device it is facing the right way. The regular old compass didn't work too accurately atop our metal roof. It is positioned right above my bedroom so I do hope that it isn't too noisy because we really do get some windy weather in our valley. I'm ever so grateful to have a husband who doesn't mind heights because if it was up to me to put it up, the weather vane would probably be not be up much higher than my 5 feet 2 inches.

At the moment it is the only rooster on the farm with our Wyandotte, Hugh, dieing a while back and Tom's Sebright rooster going to a home that will appreciate his crazy ways more than we did. I find the early morning a little lonely with the lack of crowing so I think I will be on the lookout for just the right chap soon.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Happy Birthday Tim

This time last year in Wellington, NSW

Happy birthday to my wonderful husband, Tim.
We have had a great day today, just being at home together with the girls (Tom worked for 5 hours but was home by afternoon tea ie cake time). This man is very hard to buy a gift for, he always says he just wants to spend time with us even if it does sound corny. I do think he likes a gift or two as well though.

A chocolatey chocolate cake with strawberries and cream. This recipe has almond meal as well as self raising flour which I think gives it a little more moisture.

The dahlias were for the birthday table. I'm not sure why but there seems to be an abundance of pinks and reds in the dahlias at Sunny Corner this year. I'm not complaining, the cooler summer temperatures and rainy days have given us extra blooms.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Processing beeswax

In our little apiary the role of beeswax processing falls to me. It wasn't something that was premeditated it just has worked out that way. This of course is the honey which is the best part of beekeeping but in my opinion, dealing with the wax is the worst. It really isn't that bad but it is still my least favourable task associated with keeping bees. We had a few older frames in the batch we extracted this week. They are darker than the light and pretty newer frames.

The by product of extracting honey is the cappings. It is the wax and other bee products that you remove to release the honey. It isn't pretty and to get the wax to a usable state, they have to be processed. I do this firstly by rinsing in a bucket with lukewarm water. It doesn't purify the wax too much but it does get rid of some of the honey and gritty bits and pieces.

The washed cappings are then placed in the top of a double boiler (water in the bottom) and melted. It is wise to keep an eye on the pot because wax can be a little volatile around a heat source. The melted wax t can look a bit revolting depending on how clean it is to start with. Once it has melted it is poured through a strainer (I use cheescloth) into a flexible container (an ice cream container or clean milk carton is ideal) and allowed to cool.

When it is set it can be removed and any water that was left in with the cappings will come off now as the water sinks below the set wax. The wax might be clean enough at this stage but todays wax was not. It required another straining.

On the small scale that we work it isn't too time consuming but it is messy hence the lack of pictures of the process along the way.Next time I will do it when there is a photographer in the house to help out. Everything the wax touches becomes well... waxy and it isn't fun to wash up.

We are however truly self-sufficient and beyond in wax.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Out the back

I just had to share a picture from the back verandah I took today. The weather today is just glorious with the valley looking lush, not a cloud in the sky and the mountains a haze of green. I'm very glad to be here today and everyday really. It might not be everyone's cup of tea but it is just right for me and mine.

I am currently overhauling our budget to accommodate Tom's upkeep in Sydney. Trying to tweek the numbers only to find that there are not many areas in the expenditure column that can be tweeked.He will contribute too, hopefully transferring his part-time position to a store in Sydney. His main focus of course has to be his studies and I am very much looking forward to having a vet in the family. It will all work out though. I do like saving a dollar or two and the next few years will be a challenge that I think I will enjoy. When we moved here 13 years ago, we paid cash for our property which left us with a grand sum of $50 in our bank until pay day. it might not have been the wisest move but thankfully no emergency came up then and we have enjoyed being debt free since. Now we are ready to head back into the real estate market and have a mortgage again( which we will try to pay off as quickly as possible). I truly like the idea of having another property as an investment for the future but I'm not too keen on the househunting itself.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Turkey Dad

I haven't updated the progress of our turkey dad who was incubating eggs only to say that they had indeed hatched. He hatched them out on Christmas eve and into Christmas day. Out of the nine eggs, he hatched eight and of those eight, six have survived. He is an excellent 'mother' albeit a little too over protective. In further crazy turkey developments here on the farm, the turkey hen is now sitting happily on a clutch of duck eggs. These should be ready to hatch in about two weeks.

Tomorrow I am making a poultry drop in town. I have three Indian Runner drakes and some sebright bantams that I am exchanging. They are penned up and ready to go. Believe me, there is no glamour in poultry wrangling but I will spare you the details.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Change afoot

Changes are afoot here on the farm. Our son has had word that he has been accepted into the Sydney University veterinary science course and he will be heading to the city in the not too distant future. It will be a big adjustment for him and for us too. It hasn't been possible to make plans for his move until we knew for sure. Now it is full steam ahead. Our financial situation will certainly change and I'm more glad than ever that we are debt-free (for the time being).

It is still hard to imagine that life as we know it here is going to be different when as is the case, life goes on day by day with the usual activities. Today and yesterday have been honey days. With about 20 kilograms of honey now in drums and jars. Dealing with the wax is my task tomorrow. I also had a great seed sowing day too. The warm weather that we are finally having (in the days at least) has prompted me to put a few more things in the ground.


Monday, January 9, 2012

Any excuse for a cake

It seems in our household that any excuse for a cake is a good one. A quick morning tea with my parents and sister which just happened to coincide with a birthday. The birthday was for my parents's dog, Mia, so their really was no need for a celebration cake but the humans enjoyed it even if the birthday girl had not even a taste.

I don't often make sponge cakes but I was in the mood to have something a little light and it works a treat with a cup of tea.

Simple Sponge Cake


4 eggs

165 grams white sugar

100 grams cornflour (wheaten)

30 grams custard powder

1/2 tsp bicarb

jam of choice

whipped cream


Preheat oven to 180 degC.

Grease two 20cm round cake tins.

Beat eggs and sugar for about 10 minutes until thick and creamy and the sugar has dissolved.

Sift the dry ingredients twice and then sift over the eggy mixture. Fold gently until combined.

Divide mixture between the two cake tins and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes.Turn cakes out onto a clean tea towel and allow to cool.

Sandwich the cooled cakes together with jam and cream.

Dust with icing sugar and enjoy.

I'm sure it would be better to use caster sugar but I usually don't have it at hand and regular white sugar seems to work just fine for me.


Friday, January 6, 2012

My enemy

The 28 spotted or leaf eating lady beetles. I really do not like this critter one bit. They don't appear to have even one saving grace. Scarecrow and Organic Gardener magazine have both made mention of them of late so I know I am not alone in my battle. Even in the immature phase it is not sweet and cute like less destructive lady beetles. I think it looks a little alien with all of its hairy protrusions.

The adult isn't much better. Try as they might to stop me, I am determined to have a decent potato crop. They really do some damage though, skeletonising the leaves of the plants in what seems like record time especially for such tiny creatures with tiny mouths. I fight this enemy one squish at a time.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

The last of the Christmas feast

I don't buy a ham for us at Christmas time as we really would never eat it. Though I really do want to own a pig or two so perhaps ham and other porcine offerings are in my future somewhere. My parents do have a ham each year and each year when the time is right, I am given the bone to make soup. Tim and I love split pea and ham soup probably more so because it is a once a year meal. Last night we had our yearly fix. It was delicious (especially coupled with some grainy bread rolls) and the very last of the Christmas seasonal fare. It may not be a very summery meal or the most pleasing to the eye but it is worth it.

Split pea and ham soup


1 ham bone, trimmed

300grams green split peas

2 onions, diced

1 carrot, diced

25 grams butter

2 bay leaves

1.5 litres water


Gently sweat the onions and carrots in the butter over a low/medium heat in a large pot until softened. The pot needs to be large enought o accommodate the bone.

Add the bone, water, peas and bay leaves and simmer for about 1 hour. Times may vary but simmer until the peas are soft.

Remove the bone, puree the soup and serve.

Grainy bread rolls ( for the bread maker)


300mL water

300 grams wholemeal flour

200 grams plain white flour

1 tbs sunflower seeds

1 tbs pumpkin seeds

1 teaspoon salt

1.5 tsp yeast

1 tsp honey

1 tsp poppy seeds

1tsp nigella seeds

Place all of the ingredients besides the poppy seeds and nigella seeds in the bread maker. Follow the order given for your particular machine.

Set the machine to the dough setting.

When the cycle is complete, turn the dough out and knead gently by hand and then divide into 12 pieces.

Shape the pieces as desired and put onto a greased or lined baking tray.

Brush each roll with milk and press the poppy and nigella seeds on top.

Preheat oven to 200 deg C.

Allow the rolls to rise for about 30 minutes.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the rolls a golden on top and sound hollow if tapped.

As with most of our soupy meals, Tim and I enjoyed this alone while the kids had stir fry. My niece who stayed with us last night even had stir fry and rice on the rolls (yuck).


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Good intentions

I had intentions of blogging on January 1st but it was not to be. The satellite that provides our internet or maybe even the computer itself would not play along until this afternoon. No internet does make for keeping other good intentions though such as getting outside and doing. The vegetable garden which really should be called a kitchen garden to be a little more accurate is benefitting greatly from no computer activity. See why it should be a kitchen garden. The vegetable garden is home to an abundance of flowers, herbs and vegetables. This peachy gladioli is just so sweet right now. I do like gladioli but mine always seem to topple over which ruins the display.

I also intend this year to get more crafty things done rather than just think about them.

On New Years Day I started and finished this bag for my sister. I had a charm pack titled "happy" from a swap and some bright purple homespun which was just right. I printed the pattern out last year and have been meaning to make it someday. It was designed by Khris and was just the right thing to start off a year of getting things done.

The weather has taken a turn with the new year too. We are finally feeling summery. It has been hot. Hot enough even for a trip to the pool for a refreshing swim and hot enough for the garden to be watered two days in a row.