Friday, May 31, 2013

'New' Chickens

The white chooks
 We have four 'new' chickens. They cam home in a box with Tim on Wednesday night and I was informed that they were a motley crew of two Isa brown hens and two big white chooks of unknown breed with one possibly being a rooster. A couple of weeks ago we had the five unwanted bantam roosters to deal with (only 4 were roosters and the hen is now happy with my other bantams) and now these  birds have come to stay. All of these ones will stay unless of course the white one with the questionable gender starts crowing. Apparently the previous owner took ill and couldn't care for them properly and consequently they are a bit straggly looking but hopefully with some good food and getting out to range on the grass in a few days time they will be looking good and more importantly feeling good again soon.

Isa brown
 Despite the fact that this Isa is probably half the weight of the white chickens, she is definitely boss. She might even be a bit of a bully because the other four seem a bit scared of her.

Black Indian Runner drake
 While I was over near the poultry pens, I snapped a picture of my Black Indian Runner drake. I can not do his plumage justice with my camera. He has such a lovely beetle-green sheen to his feathers. This is a good thing. With age he has developed a little bit of a purple sheen to the feathers on his lower half and although this isn't a good trait for show birds, I like it.

Sorghum ready for the header
And where was I yesterday? Well I was hanging out on a big farm at a friends home enjoying not only good company, some uninterrupted stitching time but both morning tea and a delicious lunch. I really can't even remember the last time someone cooked lunch for me. It was such a treat and I had a wonderful time.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Tightening our purse strings

We have been happily plodding along without giving too much thought to the comings and goings of our money lately. When I say lately, I mean for about 12 months. But that just has to stop. We are for all intents and purposes, a single income family as the farm really only just pays for itself. I have been busy adding and subtracting and making things balance out nicely on paper. They balance but right now we aren't adding much if anything to our savings. That I don't like. I know lots of people aren't ever in a position to add to their savings and I feel for them.

Growing up Tim and I didn't have very good role models as far as savings and finances were concerned and I basically have the philosophy of doing the opposite of what we had seen. We always put money away for our children and bills are paid on time. What I would really like to do is be able to cut some of our bills out of the equation altogether (and who wouldn't) but I have trimmed it down to what must be paid and just a few extras such as music lessons for Grace, Internet connection and even some pocket money for Tim and myself. Things we could live without but I'm keeping them because the music lessons at least enrich ours/ Grace's life somewhat.

I would love to be as tight and canny with my money as Froogs and if needs must, I probably could be but at this stage, I don't want.

So for now, I have mapped out a budget with all of our expense and our income too using Excel and also a month by month look at what has to be paid. March 2012 we added a mortgage of $197K to our expenditure column and that coupled with the costs of running a second household has naturally had quite an impact on our bank account. I really don't like no, hate having debt.

So, we are tightening our purse strings in order to not only cover our costs but hopefully to pay that mortgage as quickly as we can. I'm thankful that we lead a simply lifestyle and enjoy it because we can't afford extravagances (unless they can be paid for with my $10/ week pocket money).

There are so many blogs and websites and books with great advice to those wanting to budget and live frugally. I'm a member of Simple Savings and it is a good place to start. The DTE forum is a good resource as well. They both have plenty of hints and tips to reduce expenses and offer a sense of community as well. The other option is to increase our income and quite frankly I don't know if I could get a job. I haven't worked in the field I am qualified in for almost 19 years and I don't really know what I could offer or where to start looking. I do work here but as I said above, there isn't really any financial gain from it. Anyway, that is a quandary for another time.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Eisteddfods and Soup Night

No, Eisteddfods and soup really don't have anything in common well nothing  I know of at least. But we did spend the better part of Saturday enjoying the voices at a 'local' eisteddfod (local being 125km from home) and we did have our Sunday soup night last night. The girls were part of their school choirs so it was a bit of a must to attend. And although I really do like listening to music, I will admit here and now that I am prone to getting fidgety when the program starts at 2pm and doesn't finish until almost 6pm.

Post Eisteddfod.

 We had a nice time anyway and got to spend a bit of time visiting a different town before the event. I also called into the organic market which I could see a few gaps in which might provide an opportunity next season. I just have to learn to become more confident and proactive in promoting the goods I have for sale. That will certainly be a test because I am not that type of personality at all.

 Our soup night was a real simple affair. Pumpkin soup made with a gifted Queensland Blue pumpkin. Hope had to have her own batch of French Onion Soup because my pumpkin soup doesn't appeal to her. In her own words, "it is too pumpkin-y". There are plenty of pumpkin soup recipes out there with all sorts of variations and adaptations so I won't bother sharing how I make it here.

The accompanying bread however was another matter. I think it is one of the nicest breads I have made.

I can't claim the recipe but I can share a link so you can make these delicious baguettes. And as is often the case, it is the simple and humble that is so impressive. A combination of water, flour, yeast and salt and voila... yum.

Music lessons, drama club and grocery shopping are on the list for this afternoon so I am off.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

I've been prone to a little reminiscing lately thanks to Tammy and also to this book. Thinking about how we started out here on our little farm and where we were before that in Sydney's suburbia.
Little did I know when I first met Tim that we would be such kindred spirits and both have a zeal for gardening in particular herbs and vegetables. But we did and when we first set up our home after we married, we couldn't afford to do much to the house itself but we could definitely dig the soil and sow seeds. And we did. 

Although I had never done a lot of cooking whilst living with my parents, I knew my way around a kitchen pretty well and whether by necessity or maybe even to impress my new husband, I cooked pretty much everything from scratch from the very beginning. I loved cooking and I still do.

Vegetable gardening with children and chooks

Our block of land wasn't huge, about 700sq metres but we did grow quite a lot of our own vegetables. Given that the house was built in the late 1950s and a very typical Aussie yard, there was a well established lemon tree to give us some fruit but that was it. Also true to the era, there was an incinerator which we converted to a compost bin. Along the way we added more fruit trees, a couple of bantam chickens and a worm farm to the mix and things were good. Homesteading a little in the city.M sister even made a video of us for a university assignment which thankfully I have never seen. But we really did talk about and dream of making a move to a more rural setting.  When a work transfer opportunity came up in a country town, we jumped at it and in a nutshell that is how we managed to make the move from the city.

Georgina and the girls
To this day I don't think my lifestyle has really changed much living in the country. I still garden, I still cook our produce and I still have livestock but for the past 14 years that we have lived here, it has been on a much larger scale. And not once have I seriously thought about moving back to the suburbs or even into town. I am truly at home here.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

No glamour here today and truth be told, there rarely is and that is just how I like it. I've been cleaning out the chicken house, gathering cow manure and spreading it around where needed and turning compost too. I also made a quick dash into town this morning because someone ran out of petrol on their way to work but that's another story best left untold.

And because I don't think the goodness that comes from cleaning out chicken houses and turning compost heaps makes for pictures that anyone wants to see, I thought I would share a couple of the cattle.

Their winter coats are starting to come on in earnest now. They really are such a nice addition to our property with the sweetest temperaments and despite the horns, not one bit scary.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sweet Overload

Morning teas are yum but I don't have a sweet tooth (thankfully). In fact, I didn't partake of a single sweet morsel from our Biggest Morning Tea table on Friday. I am a sucker for those little sandwich triangles though. It was so nice to catch up with friends and to even have a volunteer waiter , Tim, pouring our coffee and tea. He did a great job and thanks to all for the donations to the Cancer Council.

 I have mastered macarons so I am not making them anymore. They are too sweet for me and I really can't understand the buzz about them. Lunch boxes are going to be very swish this week though. Grace loves them and wants more so I might not give up just yet.

 And at the moment I can't get enough of the pansies. Sweetness without a tooth or tummy ache in sight. Zero calories too. Perfect!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pre-tea tidy up

 I have been having a tidy up outside today, making sure the grass is trimmed and nothing is left laying about. My Biggest Morning Tea is on Friday and even though it is only a small event and just a few friends who I don't get to see very often, it was a good excuse to do those chores which get put aside.

Yesterday I showed my herb garden and Lisa commented about how it gave an indication of our landscape. Well, here is a picture looking towards the house from my rose garden which shows where we are in relation to the surrounds. The colours aren't coming up true to life because the trims on the house are actually a blue colour (Colorbond Blue Ridge) rather than the grey that they appear. And yes, there are two trampolines in the foreground. One is new and the other is defunct and waiting for me to decide what to do with it. If I had somewhere else that was flat enough for a trampoline, believe me  it would not be in the front yard. But it is.

And a pretty little hover fly on a new chrysanthemum. Only a day after Mother's Day and they were reduced to $2.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The day started quite promising with a gentle drizzle but it really hasn't amounted to much more than that. I was hoping for a day of heavy rain so I could do some craft and letter writing but mostly so it would fill our tanks.

In fact, there has been enough dry patches for me to spend an hour or so weeding and tidying up. The herb garden (above) is divided into four distinct beds and I first broke ground there ten years ago. Some of the plants are still going strong, the rosemary in particular, but two of the beds needed a complete overhaul. I've cleared what needs to go and now the best part, replanting. I'll use a few free plants volunteered from other parts of the garden and also buy some new ones too. So the herb garden isn't looking its best but it is neat... for now.

I will probably leave most of the planting until the weather warms up in spring so the new plants don't have to get their bearings in the garden when it is cold or frosty. That will also give me a bit more time to plan things rather than just pop things in where there is a space though that has worked well enough up 'til now. And a bit more time to revitlalise the soil with compost and maybe some green manure.

My favourite herbs are lavender, thyme, basil and coriander. I can't pick just one. Do you have a favourite herb?

This pair of handsome roosters (along with three others) are in desperate need of a new home or they are going to get the 'chop'. I checked the local Gumtree page and it seems fairly flush for roosters so I don't think there would be any joy there. It's not a farm service that I want to offer but a friend had five bantam roosters in her backyard in town and nobody prepared to dispatch them for her. So they are here  now but not for long.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother's Day weekend

From "The Sydney Morning Herald" 5/5/2103
We spent a nice few days in Sydney over the Mother's Day weekend. It was a treat to have us all together under one roof even if it was only for a couple of days. I got to visit my vet in training and part-time Stormtrooper son (he's the middle trooper above), one of my sisters and her children and get very tired in the process. I'm not sure why a weekend of doing not very much (well not as much as usual) makes me so weary.

A homemade card with self-portraits. Grace and Hope did a fair job but Tim and Tom thankfully hardly resemble their efforts at all.
We squeezed in a session of roller skating too. If we lived near a rink, Grace would want to skate every week but at $60 for a two hour skate for four of us, I'm not sure I could afford it. Once in a while is quite enough for me. I must say though roller skating is still great even after quite a few years of being off my wheels and it really makes me smile.

I'm still waiting for rain here with increasing levels of impatience. In my area it is nowhere near as bad as other places but very much needed nonetheless. Clouds are building a little today but we shall see.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Finding Inspiration

I spent the morning feeling a distinct lack of inspiration. Lots of reasons, a lack of rain, a lack of funds and a lack of sleep (and that's the main reason I'm sure) to name a few. But I did my chores, went for a walk, read a little online and then went outside to plan a few things in my mind while I worked. And in the process, I found inspiration to do what I do.
Bees and bottlebrush

 I took this picture yesterday when I was having new tyres fitted on my car. Oh my, what an expensive exercise that is. I was at the fire station taking a picture of poor Tim for today's photo of the day. Which by the way, I am participating in on my personal Facebook page. Of course if you are a blogging friend then you are more than welcome to send me a friend request so you can see the pictures or just to be friends .

Last week I decided to use a rather underused ingredient. I know the humble quince when made into a paste is popular  on cheeseboards but I decided to use it in a savoury casserole type of dish. And because it is tart and sweet at the same time, I coupled it with lamb and spices in a Moroccan inspired combination.

Spiced Lamb with Quince
1kg lamb meat, fat removed(leg is good but chops are cheaper), chopped into chunks
olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamon
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
2 cups vegetable stock
1 quince, peeled and cored. No quince, use a cooking apple, it works.
500 grams of pumpkin/ sweet potato, peeled and chopped into chunks
juice of 1 lemon
5 dates, pitted and chopped
Preheat oven to 180degC.
Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan and brown the lamb. Transfer the meat to a casserole dish.
Add the onion to the pan and cook until softened.
Add the spices and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.
Add the stock, sugar,  and dates and bring to the boil.
Pour over the lamb and place covered in the oven for an hour.
Remove from the oven and add the juice, quince and pumpkin and bake for another hour. Remove the lid for the last half hour to reduce the liquid.

This time I served this with mashed potato and steamed vegetables but couscous and salad are nice too. A piece of crusty bread for mopping up the sauce is good too.

Tonight however dinner is looking a little less successful. I made a batch of baked beans using a recipe(from a popular television chef) which looked good but really hasn't turned out as expected. This is his last chance, I don't think I will be tempted by the pretty pictures again. They are still ok but not the wow that they promised.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Autumn hive checks

As we head into the cooler weather and less flowers for foraging, it is a good idea to check the hives to make sure things are as they should be. That was what we did this afternoon. It really was just a quick look and see to make sure there was enough honey for the bees.


 There were still plenty of comings and goings and quite a few bees with their heads down filling the honey chambers.

And bees with lots of pollen too to feed the baby bees. I haven't always had a bee bonnet so at first I wasn't as hands on with the beekeeping. I would still be on hand but not actually handle the frames just in case the bees decided to take offence. I was never stung by our bees even when I didn't have protective equipment and I have  no fear of bees. Though I do know what a sting feels like because I can remember all three stings I have had in my lifetime and the first one was when I was only in single digits. So I understand the fear that some people have.

Beekeeping is one of the few activities we have here that (even though I don't like cliches) keeps you 'in the moment' which I find hard to do at other times. You really concentrate on what you are doing, you have to be calm and not rush and multi-tasking is really out of the question. It's one of the things I like about it.

The result of our hive checks was that they are healthy but one is a little low in honey stores which we will have to keep an eye on. Our honey stores are dwindling too, we have actually sold out of honey. I'm happy that we have had people buy it and then come back and buy more. That's the best compliment.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Ovines in the autumn

Little Harry. He is one of the triplet cross breds from last years lambs and is still just so tiny. He should be heading to the freezer soon but I'm just not sure I can do it. He is rather ugly but cute too.