Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Outdoor Kitchen

Celebrations and jubilation....the outdoor kitchen project is finished.

I think I have already exhausted my repertoire of the misgivings I had as the project was slowly moving along. Really, I need to give myself a good slap sometimes. 
In fairness to myself though, when making changes to something that is already lovely and well functioning, I have feelings of anxiety that we are at risk of spoiling what we already have. 
I have come to realise that this seems to carry through many areas of my life. It's a kind of "If it ain't broke why fix it?" mentality which I'm not all that concerned about to be honest.
We live in an era of excessive consumerism and I know, from the very core of my being, that I don't want to be a part of that. 
Anyhooo.... getting off topic, as I so often do, my dread of changing our already lovely outdoor space has caused me some sleepless nights.

But here we are, and it has turned out to be a beautiful space that still takes my breath away as I get first glimpse from the kitchen window each morning.  

I was concerned that my view of the garden from the kitchen window had been compromised, but there is still plenty of garden to see.  And when perched on the new cafe bar stools, that are yet to arrive, the remainder of the back garden will be visible. 
I have always enjoyed a garden that holds little surprises just around the corner, or over the hedge or wall, and this is the effect that the slightly higher cafe bar gives us now. 

This old restored stove is what started the whole process. How plans and thoughts can snowball..! Salvaged terracotta tiles that didn't quite fit the space. I'm totally in love with what Brian has done to create an interesting fit.

The beauty in the detail of this old piece of functional art. A tiny sliding door allows extra heat to escape from the oven if needed.

The oven door knob is shaped in a fist. All of these fittings were seized up or had been separated from the stove when Brian brought all the pieces home on the trailer a year ago.

The benches are built from the old decking boards.

 The old butler's sink had been used as a water container in the poultry shed. Scrubbed up and very heavy; too heavy to sit atop the bench so Brian made up a little table to safely support its weight and has plumbed in a water tap.

The deck is on the eastern side of the house, facing the morning sun and the windows either side of the stove are on the northern side, creating a sheltered sunny spot on wintry days.

An outdoor room, sheltered and dry. A transition between inside and outside that is a beautiful space to be in for this outdoor loving family.

A family pizza night to test the oven is planned for later this week.

And now that we've finished this project, there are so many other jobs to catch up on, so back outside I go.

Cheers for now and thanks for dropping in.

Sally XX



Monday, 24 June 2019

Kelpie Kids

Hello! I really need to catch up as this news is already becoming old news.
The annual Kelpie Muster in Casterton Victoria is held every Queen's Birthday weekend and we would not miss it for quids.
This time with two dogs, Meg and young Jack, our preparations stood us in good stead as all went smoothly with them both.
Meg is an old hand at the Triathlon, this year being her third time competing, and as usual she had a most wonderful time.
Jack's first time out in  crowds of people and dogs; he was overwhelmed at first, barking and jumping around, pulling on the lead, but in less than an hour he was settled and well behaved, trusting me to guide him quietly and remind him to correct his manners.

 With our hands full, we didn't get many photos of the competitions, but the Casterton News photographers were out and about.
I found this photo of me with Meg, lining up for the High Jump at 2.055metres. She cleared it to secure equal third placing for High Jump.
She enjoyed the 50metre Street Dash and made very good time.
The Hill Climb was the third event in the Triathlon for the day. Oh gosh, she loves all of this fun and becomes super excited, as you can see from her body and facial expression.
Jack, at eight months old, competed in the 50 metre Street Dash, and lolloped along towards Brian calling out to him at the other end. He felt so special and just like a proper grown up boy.

 Earlier in the day I asked the photographer to use my phone for a pic after she had finished clicking with her hi-tech camera.
Just look at this gorgeous boy! What a face!

Meg scales a seemingly impossible height, and then went on to leap the next level of one board higher. 
The wonderful thing is that the dogs really do love what they're doing. Those stewards wearing high vis vests are there to catch any dog that can't make it up to the top. Although many of the dogs are not able to jump as high as they want to, no dogs are harmed or allowed to fall back to the ground.
Strict veterinary checks are made in the morning before competing and throughout the day. 

Our quiet camp spot far from the crowds. This is a well guarded secret spot where the dogs can run free under supervision. 
We humans appreciate the solitude after long and hectic days of volunteering and competing. Although we always have plans of trying out the pubs and restaurant each evening for dinner, the attraction of take-away or snags on the barbie "at home" with a glass of red wine around the camp fire usually wins out.  
We had a very good meal at the Albion Hotel one night though. Generous sized meals for we hungry workers at reasonable pub prices. 
Brian's reaction to the prices of meals is a funny sight, and the eye raising expression at the cost of a drink would have one think that it's a long time between our eating out experiences. And you'd be right.  

 On our way home, and just inside the South Australia border (phew) we came upon a farmgate table selling pumpkins. This was all that remained after I bought up most of their beautiful Queensland Blues and Butternuts.

We filled up every empty space with pumpkins. I can't tell you how excited I am about getting these pumpkins. After we had such a dismal pumpkin growing season I bought a whole pumpkin at the super market and almost choked on the price. Now we have a good supply of home grown pumpkin to see us through winter.

We have been back home for a couple of weeks and working like mad to catch up. 
Brian finished off the outdoor kitchen...!!! Oh yeah, after some trepidation (on my part) and quietly wishing we had never begun the huge task, tired of the mess, and doubtful of the design....
I LOVE IT..!!!
I'll show it to you next time.
I hope you're able to be warm if you're somewhere near our winter; perhaps you love it just as much as I do. Energy to burn and copious gardening jobs being ticked off daily.

Cheers for now, see you next time.
Sally XX

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Kelpies and Friends

Are you a fan of Emma's blog A Simple Living Journey ?
As well as her interesting articles about raising a family and living off-grid in a Yurt, her "Weekend Reads" post at the end of each week is a gentle nudge towards further reading and discovering new bloggers.
So, late one night, along the breadcrumb trail I went, to discover Artist As Family; teaching neopeasant lifeways
I had seen this family featured recently on Gardening Australia (ABC TV) so I was excited to find their blog written by Megg Ullman and Patrick Jones.
They live and teach Permaculture in Daylesford, Victoria, and their attitude to life makes my heart sing.
Go over and check them out for some seriously good inspiration and a feel good boost.

Spirits are high, as green is the colour that surrounds us now that winter has set in.

Grass Roots magazine has gone coloured!! Not just the cover, but the photos inside are in colour too.
So I'm a little bit  very excited to be a part of this history making issue with TWO articles this time. Well, that's what happens when you get ahead of yourself, and think that sending two articles will take the pressure off meeting the next deadline, and they publish both in the same issue.
So I'm back to my laptop again to come up with articles for next issue.
Emma A Simple Living Journey also has an excellent article in this one.  Congratulations Emma!
What a pleasure and a great honour it is to work with editors Megg and Jessamy. I am truly grateful.

Jack is determined not to be left behind as we prepare for the Casterton Kelpie Muster this Queen's Birthday long weekend. The sheep hurdles on the back of the ute with the recycled green garbage bins; a kennel each for both Kelpies.

Photo by Casterton Kelpie Muster
 Meg is entered in the Triathlon which entails; the fifty metre street dash, the high jump, and the hill climb.
Jack is just six months old, his first time competing among the huge crowds, so is entered in the fifty metre street dash only.
 It's a full day of fun for the dogs and their humans on the Saturday.
The working dog demonstrations are held on the Sunday, followed by the auction of those dogs in the afternoon. Last year the top prices for the dogs went as high as $16,000 and $22,000.
We have made some lifelong friends there in Casterton since we began volunteering to help set up the venues on the Friday before the two day event, and we look forward to catching up with them again.

The Avan has had a wash and will be packed and ready to go first thing in the morning.

 The cows have grown their winter coats. Isn't nature incredible?

Autumn leaves are hanging on.

Alan is giving me that look. Yes it's very unfair of me to block his access to the fire and I felt suitably reprimanded.

 Only just enough space for all three.

We went for a drive to the Adelaide Hills on Monday to purchase this little cream coloured fitting for the top of the old stove. It was also Brian's sixtieth birthday and the first day of his two weeks of annual leave, so we had lunch at a cafe in the Hills to celebrate.  
He worked hard yesterday at installing the flu and roof capping so the old stove was given its inaugural first lighting up with a bottle of red wine. 
Happy Birthday Brian!!

We also had a look in a salvage yard for some reclaimed timber to build the benches and shelves on both sides of the fireplace. The prices were exorbitant, so it was decided (thankfully) to use the old decking boards that were taken up at the beginning of this seemingly endless project. Phew... that's what I had wanted to use in the first place, but if there's one thing I've learned in my long life, is never to get in the way of a bloke on a mission. Just hold back and eventually the right way will prevail. 
 I am much relieved. My idea of keeping a rustic/industrial feel to the outdoor kitchen is falling into place.  

The gate to the Pekin bantam shelter is left open during the day so they can free range in the house garden, controlling the earwigs and generally looking gorgeous as they wander about the place.  The three dogs also have free range of the house yard and although they all co-exist peacefully, a certain dog likes to wander into the bantam house to steal eggs and other tasty morsels. Poultry pellets are especially delicious.
The answer to this little conundrum was to put up some strands of electric fence wire outside the gate. The dogs remember this wire from when they got too close to the cow paddock dividers so the dummy wires do a great job of preventing dogs from going where they're not welcome. 

I'm late night blogging again and there are still a few more things to write on the list of items to pack in the morning. 
The thermos and lunch bag are on the kitchen table ready to be filled in the morning before we set off on our six hour drive to Casterton. 
See you on the other side.

Sally XX

Monday, 3 June 2019

Hooray for Winter

 Winter in our home means wood fires, cups of tea and comfort food. 

Autumn brought rain and we are thankful for every drop. Our tanks are filling, the crops are pushing upwards and the pasture paddocks are green.

 As lovely as it would be to hibernate in front of the wood fires, drinking endless cups of tea, our work goes on. 

 Chicken processing over two weekends has filled our freezers to capacity.

Nothing was wasted. These giblets and hearts will be added to chicken bone broth and vegetable soup.

The outdoor kitchen is still a work in progress, but there has been significant headway made. The light-fittings and power points were wired in yesterday and we couldn't wait to try the lights last night.  I snapped this photo from inside while standing at the kitchen sink. 

The old stove is finally bricked in place. The plaster board is all up and undercoated. Fitting the fireplace flu and roof capping is Brian's project tomorrow while I prepare the recycled timber floorboards for the bench tops. We have tried to use as many materials as we could recycle  and have found some discarded tiles that will be perfect for the splash back. 
Brian has taken two weeks of annual leave so we hope to complete this project before he returns to work.  It seems to have dragged on and on, but in all fairness, there have been so many other things going on that have required Brian's immediate attention. And not forgetting that he works full time, allowing only weekends to work on farm and animal maintenance and other projects.

Low food miles -  Spicy Indian Chicken made entirely from our small patch, except the rice of course. 

I've been busy in the garden, tidying up, cutting back and planting new water-wise plants that will  have a better chance of survival during our next hot and dry summer. I believe that we need to face up to these dryer and hotter conditions and adapt our gardens to cope with less water use.  
All of my plans to write every day have gone by the wayside as I try to catch up on maintenance around the farm and house that were the least of priorities during the demanding summer months. Now the inside kitchen needs a fresh coat of paint and some cracks plastered as soon as we can finish the outdoor kitchen. 
It never ends.
I've also been reading, (when it's too dark to be outside), Liane Moriarty "What Alice Forgot" is on my bedside table at present. I think she has become one of my new favourite Australian fiction writers.
And when working in the kitchen I'm listening to podcasts. 
Today's listening was one of my favourites - "Long Distance Call".
Geraldine Doogue - ABC broadcaster- and her daughter Eliza Harvey, who lives in Beirut, Lebanon, with her husband  Adam Harvey- ABC reporter- podcast their weekly skype conversations.
Do you listen to podcasts? What are your favourites? 

Late night blogging and I'm about to turn into a pumpkin.

Thanks for dropping in, thanks for making it through to the end.  I appreciate that you did more than I can say, and I'd be tickled pink if you left a tiny comment.

XXX Sally

Sunday, 19 May 2019


 Last Sunday I was listening to snippets of the talk-back gardening program on our local ABC Radio with Sophie Thompson.  A listener called in to ask about pickling his home grown  olives, but neither Sophie or the other presenter had ever pickled olives and didn't know of any recipes.
I sent a text to suggest their listeners could look at my blog post about olive pickling that I wrote a couple of years ago. I wasn't really expecting them to read out my text on the radio, but they did..!

When I heard it, I jumped, and immediately sat at my laptop to write a short introduction, with links to the recipes, for anyone who might actually go to my blog.

So just in case you were wondering, no I wasn't on the radio.

 I'm feeling refreshed after a week's holiday in Victoria. The first couple of days spent with friends at their large cattle property where I had the pleasure of being absolutely in the thick of all things Angus beef cows.
How blissful it was to wake up surrounded by bird song and the gentle lowing of fat cows waiting for their morning feed.

There was a tinge of green in the paddocks which was a pleasant change from our dry and dusty conditions that I had left behind me at home. Their gardens were a magnificent oasis of green, with their access to good quality bore water.

Just two hours further south from Casterton, Victoria, is the beautiful coastal village of Port Fairy, near Warnambool.

I had booked this airbnb accomodation for myself. Three nights in a delightful, cheap and cheerful granny flat at the rear of a family home just a few minutes walk from the town and marina.

I did lots of walking. I didn't know that Muffin Birds are also known as Shearwaters.
Sadly, there is a severe fox problem there and I counted more than a dozen dead birds on the track as I walked the three kilometres around the island.  Fox bait 1080 signs were displayed clearly and dogs are prohibited on the island.

After years of communicating to each other, I finally met up with Heather, who lives in Warnambool. We had lunch and spent  the afternoon chatting like old friends.
Long time reader of this blog and Instagram inspirational gardener, Heather Ryan can be found on @heathers_potager   on Instagram.
I found another interesting piece written about Heather here when I googled her to add these links.
She is a mine of information and a delightful person, so it was little wonder that four hours would pass so quickly at our first ever meeting.

The last thermos cuppa and lunch stop before returning home.

I always carry my own food and thermos when I'm on the road.  Peaceful country stops with a walk to stretch the legs are far more pleasant to me than perching indoors on a cafe stool drinking a lukewarm beverage and eating overpriced and over rated food.  But I'm a bit of an odd fish I know.

The break was just what I needed to refresh and reinvigorate after our long hot summer, and although we have had a little bit of rain, we need some now to germinate the crops. 
The paddocks are turning green, the cows and sheep are eating less hay and more grass, my broad beans and kale are up, so all seems as right as can be within my world.

Thanks for dropping in,
Sally XX

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Pickling Olives


Hello to the ABC listeners who have come over here from Sophie and Peter's gardening program this morning.
Here is the link to Pickling Olives

I hope you will enjoy the process, and the taste, as much as we do.
Don't forget to keep them for six months before testing for taste and readiness.

And please leave a comment if you want to.

** Edit post - Last year I tried making a couple of jars of dry salted olives that I found on Laura's wonderful blog They are ready to eat much sooner and kept us going with olives until the other jars were ready to eat. Six months is a long time to wait and I usually make enough jars to keep us going all year until the next batch are ready, but I gave too many away which left us olive-less!!.
The dry salted method produces wrinkly and rather salty olives, but they were perfect for our home made pizzas and I made some tapenade from them too.

Cheers from Sally

Saturday, 27 April 2019

An Accidental Outdoor Kitchen

It all started when Brian brought home a crumpled pile of wreckage that used to be an old wood stove.  Whenever there were a few spare minutes in his already busy days, he tinkered away in his shed until it was restored to it's former glory. He rebuilt the oven, made a new fire grate, rebuilt the ash draw, fixed the oven door and lined the back and sides with cast iron sheeting.
All the while we were pondering the perfect spot to install it for use. There were many things to consider as it would be functional and very useful in summer when it is too hot to light the wood fire inside the kitchen, and perfect for winter outdoor evenings.
It needs to be;
- Close enough to the house for practicality.
- Under cover- from rain and to provide shade for the cook on hot days.

An outdoor pizza oven had been on our list of things we wanted to build and while ongoing research  of building methods were stretching on, we had never been able to settle on a suitable position.
As we age we need to think of the practical side of our madness projects, so the Pizza oven plans had been put on hold.
As well as running the farm there were plenty of other projects going on in the meantime though; building the perfect shearing sling, the new sheep yards, the instant gas hot water service in the shed, the bigger meat saw. Oh, and he goes out to work full-time too.

I'm not certain which one of us came up with the idea of adding a small section onto the deck outside the kitchen door, and installing the wood oven there, under cover.
Oh joy, this could be a part of the outdoor kitchen I had always wanted.  I could cook all the things I usually cook in my kitchen wood stove on the days when it's too warm to heat the house. And lo... it would be suitable for outdoor pizza cooking too.
I often wondered at the practicality of the pizza oven when, in fact, we cook pizzas about six times a year. Yep, not all that practical really, and don't forget, practical is my middle name.

So work started on adding a metre to the deck. The first rotten joist was discovered, and from there it snowballed into replacing all, except one, of the joists.  The existing decking boards would be better if they were placed closer together to prevent draughts in winter. And besides, we didn't want to have a small area of new decking boards next to the old ones did we? So up they all came and all new decking boards were laid.

Each evening at beer o'clock, or wine o'clock in my case, more ideas came to mind and were tossed about.  Perhaps we should have some windows at one end to block the draught and semi-enclose the space to make it cosy.  Oh, and the galv cladding would look better if we extend it along the other side too. We can make a cafe bar on that section and buy some of those trendy Tolix cafe stools.

Of course then we need to cover the entire deck in clear sheeting to make it all waterproof while letting the light in. It will be hot in summer so we'll need to have a shade cloth awning made to put over the top in summer, and buy a trendy industrial fan.

The old ceramic butlers sink on the bench down in the vege garden would look lovely up here on one the work benches. Yes, kitchen benches on both sides of the wood stove.
Do you see where this is going?

Electricals were next;  enter the electrician. Light fittings and power points to be installed.
Plumbing to and from the butler's sink. Brian can do that. Phew!
Shelves under the bench tops, and a couple of cupboard doors at one end.

How did that free wood stove turn into this?

Meanwhile the mess of building materials, old and new, must be endured, while thinking ahead towards the finished product.

Whilst Jack is chilled out about the mess am I the only one who has experienced anxiety during a building renovation project?
For the first two days I could not get used to the way it looked different to what I had envisaged.  It has changed my outlook from the kitchen sink; I can't see all the way down to the garden, and that bothered me more than I thought it would. I keep reminding myself how good it will be when finished. How much fun it will be to style the new 'room' and make into a more practical and homely space than it was previously.

There is still much work to be completed, but I'm going away on my planned break for a week of rest and visiting friends.
The control freak in me has instructed Brian to hold off work on any more of the aesthetic parts until my return, but there are plenty of unseen jobs to be completed so he won't be idle. Ha, we can't have that can we?

See you on the other side folks.


Sally XX

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