Monday, February 25, 2013

Smelling Roses

I have a busy week nay fortnight ahead. There is the usual work and the housework as well but on top of it all, I am Grace's roadie/ driver for rehearsals and performances for a musical she is in. Our schedule is usually quite simple but for the next two weeks, I have written where I have to be and when because I'm a little afraid I just might forget. I'm not one of those people who enjoys driving or even being a passenger much, it's just a means to an end. That's not to say that I don't make the best of the driving time with a bit of thinking and music listening but I'd still rather just not. Tim on the other hand, loves driving. A perfect match maybe. I hope so.

Because I am going to be busy I thought I should take a few moments this morning to literally and figuratively smell the roses. They have been poor performers this season because of the heat and dry but now that we are cooling down for autumn and have had some rain, they are having a flush of blooms. Not too many yet, but enough to allow for some whiling away of minutes if not hours conferring with them.

 Unfortunately all of the roses which are offering up precious blooms, are of the low scent variety. Never mind stopping to smell the roses still felt good.

And I'm always on the lookout for bees when I'm out and about. The buddleia seems to be full of nectar if the buzzing is anything to go by. When we first thought about getting bees, I wasn't that interested. I wanted them but it was really Tim's baby. Now I'm just about as keen as him maybe moreso sometimes. He is more responsible for the heavy side of things like lifting supers and the like whereas I tend to the indoor activities like the wax processing. I think my biggest interest though is in their behaviour. Observing which flowers are favourites and which they don't bother with, the differences between the hives. I can easily see why some scientists dedicate their working lives to a creature which although tiny, has an important role in the wellbeing of the planet.

Sunday, February 24, 2013



The asparagus flowers are the place to be right now if you are a bee that is. The flowers are nondescript individually but on mass they are quite nice. The humble little bee though appreciates every tiny flower. I heard them amongst the flowers before I saw them. The plants are bushy and as the bee flies between each flower it visits, you can hear it buzz and buzzing they were. They appear to be taking in some nectar but it's those pollen bags that are impressive. Bright orange and full.

 It looks like a pumpkin but in fact it is a Ronde de nice zucchini which I left for seeds. It is huge but weighs hardly anything at all given its size. It is just all hollow and seedy. I didn't leave it on purpose but by the time I found it, it was too late for anything else. There are still a few zucchini coming on but it won't be long and they will have to be pulled up. There are definitely touches of autumn in the air. You can feel it best when it is early morning. I love those chilly starts to the day.

At long last ( I thought it would never happen) the bhut jolokia chilli is bearing fruit. I was drawn in by the claim that it is the hottest chilli in the world right now. I'm sure there will be another to take its place but for the moment, this one will do me. Now it is a waiting game for the fruits to ripen in to the orange/red that they become. Tonight however, I will be picking one or two for the curry I am making for dinner.
Over the years, I have developed less of a tolerance for chillies but I'll still give it a go. I have habaneros too to compare it to so we shall see if it is indeed hotter. Tim and Tom are rather fond of chillies so I will let them be the judges in the end. If looks are anything to go by, it should be super hot because it really is one of the ugliest chilli fruits I have seen.
And just for good measure with the weather which has been all over the place this week, we are having a sunshower. Perfect opportunity to spend the rest of a relaxing Sunday indoors making and baking.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Back to the routine

I'm so happy that Tim is well again. He returned to work today after twelve days at home and already I miss having him about. It has meant that my day is settling back into its normal routine. I have a bit of a plan of what's to be done each day and I'm back on track. Of course there are always things that crop up to create a diversion but today so far has been smooth sailing.
I even had a few spare minutes after I put the kitchen to rights to make these lotion bars. Fiona suggested them and the tutorial is here.

They are a perfect  for someone like me with beeswax on hand . They are emolient,easy to make and the few drops of lavender oil I added to the mix made them smell simply lovely. Now I hope they work wonders on my goat-like gardener's knees but that might be just too much to expect.

But those gardener's knees are worth it because I get to spend time amongst the flowers. The marigolds are simply stunning right now. I no longer have to sow seeds for marigolds, they pop up here and there when they are ready. The place they grow most readily here is the vegetable garden which is a boon because they are such good companions to many plants.

I picked up this lovely plant from BigW on Wednesday. I had to be in town for my regular blood donation (that didn't end up happening) and decided to treat myself to a plant or two. I actually only ended up with one because nothing else really caught my eye. I know what type of plant it is but I can not get the name to come to mind. I must be trying too hard to remember.

Today is gusty and cool, It's nice to have to rug up a little to go outside for a change.

Monday, February 18, 2013

My new additions

This is what I have been so excited about. My new additions to the farm ... Scottish Highlands. They are my all time favourite bovines.

It's the horns and hair I think. It also helps that they aren't as big and daunting as some other breeds. Though I will admit those horns could be daunting.

I now have a cow and calf and a heifer. The calf arrived as a bull calf but is now a steer and is destined for the plate in a year or so.

They are very quiet animals and are settling in well. The sheep aren't quite sure what to make of them and vice versa. I'm not sure three will be enough, they push all of my buttons and I would have a huge herd if I had the space.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Hello Possums

I really want to be showing off my newest (ad)venture because I am excited about it but photographic opportunties have been elusive. A few poor photos aren't worthy so I will wait until (hopefully) tomorrow.
In the mean time, flowers are blooming and the gladioli have been glorious. My green gladiolus hasn't come to the party yet but I'm sure it will soon.

These ones are all in the vegetable garden for a bit of colour. They are real troopers and take the heat and dry very well. They also multiply readily which is always welcome... free plants.

And this is a pretty which is in the front garden. It's quite delicate and could easily be lost amongst other plantings but I think up close like this it really looks great. It's only drawback, no perfume that I can tell anyway.

Another perfumeless flower, the zinnia. This one is from my Diggers originally. I fell in love with idea of green and white zinnias because they were different to the more common colours and Diggers used to sell them. I haven't seen them in their catalogues recently so I'm glad I saved seeds from the originals. They are another toughy that doesn't disappoint and seed collection is a cinch.

In very happy news, my Tim is feeling much better. He is almost at full strength with possible side-effects of arachniphobia.

thanks for stopping by,

Friday, February 15, 2013

Greening up

I am so glad to say that things are greening up in the area generally and here in particular. I must admit that a little more rain falling on the tin roof this afternoon was enough to lull me into a nap. I didn't realise I was so tired but I have been working extra hard this week.

The sheep really can't keep on top of the feed right now. BUt they will be having some help come tomorrow and I am very excited. I won't say anymore now but it is something I have daydreamed about many atime.

And just because I was in an extra generous mood today, the poultry got some watermelon. I have always had an aversion to watermelon but today something tempted me and I tried some. I was pleasantly surprised and i think I am a convert. My Mum always told me that my tastes would change when I grew up. I hope this isn't a sign that I might be growing up.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Town again today

We had another trip to the doctors today and although Tim's blood pressure is still higher than it should be and he is still feeling off colour, he is definitely looking better. He is sweating less and the aches and pains are becoming more localised. I'll admit, I was worried for a bit. He has been given this set of shifts (4 days) off work to rest and recuperate.
Not now though. With a mind put at ease, the town trip (I hope it is the last for a while) wasn't too bad and I made the most of it. A coffee in a cafe.

 A trip to the library to pick up some reserved books that had come in and also a few magazines to read in the evening. The library would have to be one of my favourite places to visit. So much for so little/nothing unless of course you return your books late. Lots of new recipe inspiration in this stack.

 I also bought a bundle of linens from the op shop. For the princely sum of $1, I brought home a set of six napkins and seven doileys.

I suspect they were all embroidered by the same lady. The work is so neat and they are in great condition. I bought them because I will use them and I will love them. And although I don't know the real story of where these came from, I can imagine that they were lovingly stitched by someone who is no longer with us and that her family didn't want them. Which is a sad thought. Of course the reality may be that the maker just got sick of them and decluttered them out of her life. Anyway, they are here now and I am eager to let them shine on my old furniture or on my teatime table.

Thanks for reading and for wishing Tim well.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Busy but not like a bee

A busy bee on my mint

Today has been one of those days actually the last two days have been those days. The kind when you are busy chasing your own tail. I have been to the hospital, to the doctor  and we will be back at the doctor tomorrow too . Tim was bitten by a red back spider on Sunday afternoon and although he didn't think too much of it at first, he is reeling a little now. All of the typical symptoms but it his blood pressure which is of greatest concern to the medical fraternity. He has only slept for about an hour since Sunday night and it is terrible seeing him so out of sorts. It is both amazing and alarming what harm such a small being can do. He will be all right and keeps assuring me he will be btter tomorrow but I think it might take a bit longer than that.

On to happier things. I just found Amber's great blog and she is having a giveaway . And although I would really like to win the book myself, I think it is nice to share the chance with my blogging friends. That's what friends do. Even if I'm not the lucky winner, I am glad I have found a new blog to read.

Take care,

Monday, February 11, 2013

Easy Tomato Sauce

Amish Paste, Grosse Lisse, Tommy Toes and Yellow Brandywine tomatoes.
 This tomato sauce is easy peasy and is like a tomato ketchup, not a pasta type of sauce. It's a great way of using small tomatoes that you don't want to skin for pickles etc and a few green/unripe tomatoes don't hurt the taste either.
Easy Tomato Sauce
1.5kg tomatoes, chopped
250 grams onions, chopped
190 grams sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
30 grams salt
1 teaspoon allspice
pinch of cayenne (optional)
Places all ingredients in a saucepan.
Bring to the boil.
Reduce heat to a simmer and allow to cook for about 3 hours. Stirring regularly.
After the 3 hours you can seive the mixture and return the strained sauce to the heat to come to the boil for a few minutes.
I usually just puree it with a stab blender and bring back to the boil.
Pour sauce into warm sterilised bottles and seal immediately.
It is good to use straight away or to store in the pantry.
This amount makes about 2 litres of sauce.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Duck Dealings

I have to say, I really like my ducks a whole lot. They lay a lot of eggs, are great mothers but mostly they are the most entertaining animals on the farm.If you want to see real joy, you only have to give them half a watermelon and stand back. But, when you grow ducks, you can't keep all of the offspring. There would be problems not only with in-breeding but also if there is more than one drake around, the fighting is ruthless. We have our drake, Charles, and he is here to stay and last years ducklings probably have a few drakes in the mix so they have to be sold or as we have done in the past dispatched in other ways. We have given them away before but to then see the receiver post them  on Freecycle because they were over the bother of looking after them, I am trying to be more selective in where they go.

Today I had a young buyer drop in and he chose two of my chocolate brown ducks and seems very keen. He didn't want drakes, just two ducks which meant we had to work out their genders. When the drakes are old enough, the telltale curl in the tail will give a drake away but not when they are so young.And not as it happens when they have just finished moulting. Charles the head drake, has lost his curly tale for the time being too. Anyway, the easiest way to tell the ducks from the drakes is when they have that tail curl but you can also with some experience check the vent area for a penis which is just about as unglamourous an activity as it sounds. Then there is the quack. The ducks have a definite quack and to me the drakes sound is hard to describe. Kind of like a ducky mumble. You can even hear some different quacks here which probably makes more sense.

Not an exacting science but hopefully we got it right this time. The rest of last years ducklings are heading out next Sunday.

I have had a few people ask me if ducks are really messy. The answer for me is no but... my ducks have an acre to roam in and they spread their mess far and wide so it isn't noticeable. In a backyard situation it might be a different story. They are messy with their water though. They will dirty any water they find. It isn't the drinking, it's the bill washing and the splashing/swimming.Every water dish ends up with a layer of mud at the bottom after a short while. And lastly, they eat quite a lot. Indian Runner ducks may look slim and sleek but they just shovel the food in. Don't let that put you off though, I wouldn't be without my ducks.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Around the yard

It seems the heat is back for a while. Not nearly as bad as it was back in January but the temperatures are on the up. The rain we had and the warm days are making everything grow, grow, grow. And the cool nights are making me not just think about but act on my plans to get the wintery vegetables in the ground. Best to do it now before it is too late to plant my own seeds and have to rely on seedlings from the nursery. Hopefully by the time the seeds/seedlings are ready to go out into the vegetable garden, there will be room for them somewhere. I'm not sure why I would even hope it would be different this year, there is never enough room, no matter the size of the garden.
 On my turn around the garden this morning in between planting carrot seeds, basil seedlings and some foxgloves, I noticed how pretty the sun shining through the rainbow chard looked.

 The Marina di Chioggia pumpkin has some nice sized pumpkins coming along. They are an heirloom variety and  I got  the seeds from Diggers (I would be more than happy to give some seeds to interested gardeners in Australia when they are ready, just let me know). It looks pretty enough now but as it develops and ages, it does get quite a warty look which some might call ugly but I think it is interesting. The flavour makes up for any lack in the looks department. Sweet and it's a good keeper.

I also had quite a workout turning compost. All three bays needed moving along. The plus side to that is I have a load of compost ready to spread before autumn/winter planting. And an empty bay ready for the next load to be made up.

Now it's homemade pizza as a treat for dinner tonight.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

On my own today

Today was the first time in over two months that I have been truly on my own at home. I miss everyone of course but it was actually a real treat to be able to get in and get things done that I had been putting off. While ever someone else is home, it seems like we are in holiday mode. Anyway, today there was no sign of holiday mode. The Down to earth forums decluttering/ cleaning focus this week is the office/ other bedroom and as Tom has temporarily moved out of the other bedroom/ office then I am giving it a good old clean out. Not too much clutter to remove thankfully but I have been dusting and vacuuming, washing walls and windows and getting a good workout.
I spent a chunk of the morning in the garden revamping a strawberry bed. It suffered a bit in the heatwave so I have spruced it up by culling some plants and adding compost. The numerous snails I found in the bed couldn't have been helping it either and they are history now.
Farm work was slow today. Just feeding animals in the morning and afternoon which has given me a great opportunity to do some cooking.
Tomatoes aplenty. They are really producing now and it's tomatoes everyday.

 Enough to make sauce. We have been out of tomato sauce for a while and this one is deliciously sweet and tangy. I will post a recipe if anyone would like it. I'm sure it is better with the seeds removed ( a seive or food mill would do the trick) but I really don't mind them.

 Made zucchini slice for the freezer. There were four zucchini in the garden which were too far gone for anything but grating or stuffing so it was slice and cake to make the most of them. There was a fifth zucchini which Tim mistook for a pumpkin it was so big. That one is too big and bold for cooking.
 And the zucchini cake. This time the chocolate variety and enough for two loaf type cakes. I packaged up into slices for the freezer. Just defrost in the microwave or even toast it before serving.

For lunch box sweet snacks, I made a honey jumble slice. I'm a big fan of ginger in sweets and this is a nice soft slice much like honey jumble biscuits only even easier to make.

Honey Jumble Slice
125 grams butter
2tbs honey
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1.5 cups plain flour
2 tsp ground ginger
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 and 1/4 cups icing sugar
two drops pink food colouring
enough hot water to make a paste(approximately two tablespoons).
Preheat oven to 180 deg C.
Grease and line a square 20cm baking tin.
Combine butter and honey in a small saucepan and place on a low to medium heat until the butter is melted. Bring to the boil and remove from heat. Stir in the bicarb and allow to cool slightly.
Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Add cooled honey mixture and egg to the flour mixture and ix until well combined.
Spread mixture into prepared tin and bake for 20-25 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool in the tin.
To make icing combine the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.
Spread icing on cooled slice and allow to set. Cut into pieces and serve.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Bottling and biryani

Bottling up honey. I'm keeping the packaging and labelling simple because the honey is what it's all about. Besides that, my graphic design skills are non-existent.

Sweet potato and red lentil soup

Our dinner last night , sweet potato and lentil soup. This one certainly ticks the budget meals box, costing about $2.00 to feed four of us and have left overs to stir though pasta for lunch today. Even if sweet potatoes weren't on special at the greengrocers, this would still be a cheap meal.

Tonight's dinner was still on the cheap side but no less tasty maybe even more so. My estimate of the cost is $6 to serve the four of us. Unfortunately this time though, there are no leftovers. It is an easy dish to make too which is always a bonus.

Chicken Biryani
1.5 cups basmati rice
2 and 1/4 cups water
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2cm ginger, grated
1 chicken breast fillet, cut in 2cm dice
1/2 tsp dried chilli
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
150mL plain yoghurt
3 tbs sultanas
Combine rice and water in saucepan and cook covered on medium heat for 10 minutes.Drain if needed.
Heat oil in a large saucepan and stir fry onion until softened.
Add garlic and spices and cook for a couple of minutes.
Stir in chicken and allow to cook for a few minutes.
Stir in yoghurt and sultanas and heat through.
Place rice on top of the chicken mix. Cover the pot with a tea towel and then the pot lid.
Allow to cook on a low heat for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
Remove lid(careful of the steam) and stir to combine the rice and sauce.
Serve with salad (I used tomatoes, cucumber, onions and mint tonight) and a raita.

Wow, that is harder to type than to make.

Monday, February 4, 2013

There and back

There and back again. We have driven down to Sydney and back this time with a ram in tow. As we were heading down that way we decided it would be ok to deliver one of our year old rams. He is now safely ensconced in a backyard in the suburban fringe of Sydney until he heads off to his new home on a small farmlet with some ewes to keep him company. And I learnt something, my sheep don't like horses.

I only drove half of the trip this time (thankfully) so I managed to make  a crocheted pincushion. I'm not sure what it is about crocheting but I find it quite addictive. It could be that only a little effort and knowledge and skill can have some rather nice results. This one is going to be a part of a Random Act of Kindness parcel from my yahoo quilting group. I have had a real turn around in my craft colour schemes. I have always been one for muted tones and favouring blues but right now, brights are my 'thing'.

Meals have been simple. Tonight we are having an easy soup of sweet potato and lentils with bread rolls. Cheap, healthy and simple. I love cooking and would gladly sit down to the meals they serve up at restaurants or on television cooking programs but I am trying to save a dollar or two and use up what we have on hand. The easy peas fried rice above was made with stir fried vegies from the garden(and frozen peas)- eggplant,tomatoes, spring onion, carrots, corn, garlic mixed with left over basmati rice and ketchup manis to taste. Cost next to nothing especially as the vegies were mostly homegrown.

The worst part of the weekend. We took three children to Sydney and had to leave one behind. Tom is on work placement for university and then it is full steam ahead for second year. I'll look on the bright side, I have my sewing room back (once I give it a good tidy)


Friday, February 1, 2013

Hotch Potch it is then

Well thank you to everyone who left me comments on the last post. I think the general concensus was that hotch-potch posting is the go. I won't argue with that. My life in general and each day in particular is made up of so many roles and different activities and I think that is refelcted here. Maybe I should call it eclectic, sounds much fancier.

 I offered these two boys for sale last week and I am happy to say they are SOLD. Rams that can't be used for their only real purpose, breeding, are quite useless on the farm but I don't sell them until I see what their conformation is like. These two are pretty quite good Suffolk rams but would not win any shows. One of them is heading off to Sydney tomorrow and the other will only be about 120km from here. Both properties are only small holders so rams which are used to human contact as these are will be ideal.

I am having a little more trouble selling ducks. I have had a bit of interest but no definite takers as yet. Having photo-bombing roosters in the very average pictures they let me take doesn't help either. I actually don't mind if they all stay (as long as there are no drakes in the mix). The only drawback is ducks eat like every meal is their last.

And as usual for this time of the year, I have been spending time looking at our finances. On paper things balance up ...just. So I am going to try to be more frugal in my ways and I will try to share that here. My first step, is writing down all of our spending. I think this helps because if you know you have to write it down then you be a little more accountable.
Have a great weekend,