Thursday 23 September 2021

Wandering through August and September


In August, as we loomed closer towards lambing the second mob of merino ewes, and weaning the two six month old calves, it was becoming more apparent that we wouldn't get our week at the beach in the caravan. 

The previous three weeks had been wet, not complaining about that, but definitely was not conducive to a relaxing time at the beach wrangling two wet dogs in a teeny tiny Avan.  Then the weather cleared, we made plans to go, and the entire state of SA went into a week of lock-down. Thanks Covid.

When the lock-down was over our ewes had begun lambing and when Brian suggested I should go away for a few days on my own, (was my cabin fever showing?) I jumped at the opportunity.

A pet friendly Air-BnB cottage at the beach on the Yorke Peninsula was hastily booked, a few supplies loaded into the car, and the following day Meg and I hit the road.

Four days with my best four-legged mate. We walked and explored, I slept and read a lot, ate meals at odd times, and generally had a complete shut off from the busyness of farm life. 

 Mid August, calves weaned and a return to milking Honeysuckle and Poppy twice daily.  I didn't realise how much milk those big calves were consuming each day. 

On the evening of weaning day I milked seventeen litres from Honeysuckle. The following morning I milked eighteen litres. So her foster calf was drinking more than thirty litres of milk each day!  Aha, that would be why he was growing so big and fat.

Poppy also milked more than I realised, with fifteen litres per day over two milkings.  

What could I do with more than forty litres of milk every day?

Welcome to Lucy, the Angus cross calf purchased at three days old from our dairying friends.

She is the fourth foster calf for Honeysuckle during this lactation since her own calf was born in June last year (2020). Her milk just keeps coming. 

She isn't due to have another calf until mid next year (2022) if her latest attempt at AI (artificial insemination) is successful.   Her body condition is good, she enjoys babies, so it's the logical solution to grow another calf. 

Using the electric separator to take the cream from the milk.

Making this much butter every day.
A year's supply of butter. This is only one of the freezers.

But still there's too much milk so..........

We ordered another calf, and came home with these two.
Quarantined from Lucy and the other cows until their poos are a solid consistency and any signs of bacterial infections are ruled out.
And separated from each other at feeding time because Bambi (foreground) is a guts, gulping his milk quickly and then butting Blackie away from his. 
September and bee season is upon us again.  The weather has been cool, with just one day last week warm enough to begin harvesting honey. 

Lambs are dropping. There are lots of twins and this blurry photo is of Meri, one of  the rescued lambs from last year.  I didn't want to get close and upset her.

The hens are laying more than we can deal with so the incubator is full. 
There will be chicken meat for the freezer and replacement laying hens.

The days are flying by too fast.  When the sun goes down and all the chores are done, this is where I'll be. 
The granny square rug is almost finished and there's a lovely silver grey sheep fleece ready for spinning.
Thanks for dropping in, I hope you're finding some joy in your days despite what's going on out there in the world.  I'll be staying safe in my bubble for awhile to come. 

Cheers for now, Sally XX



Tuesday 20 July 2021

Let's Do This


It's been awhile since I wrote. The format on Blogger has changed, so I'm negotiating my way around this with my very limited computer knowledge. But challenges are good for us, so they say.

Hello again, after a whole year of no writing it's time to get back here. Well... actually the prompting from well meaning friends is giving me the impetus to push through this pain barrier.

Laptop on the kitchen table, the wood stove is cooking a leg of lamb from the sheep processing we did last week, and our state is going into lock-down again this evening.

There's no excuse that I don't have time to write.

Let's do this.

In briefly re-capping our year, I'll do a story with photos.

On Christmas Eve,  our neighbor started a fire with his angle grinder which quickly enveloped a large portion of our grazing paddocks. 

I ran up that hill from our house to move cattle out while Brian joined the throng of CFS trucks, water bomber planes and volunteer farm fire fighters who appeared out of nowhere.

The flames were right behind me as I moved the cows and a four hours old calf to safety.

After the flames were out we stayed awake all night, on watch, comforted by the flashing lights of CFS trucks full of volunteers working through the night. 

They gave up their Christmas Eve to help us and the many other landowners who were affected.

The following day, Christmas Day, we had a very ill cow that required all of our attention and prayers. 

A wonderful friend who is a vet came to our aid, and neighboring dairy friends supplied us with the medications required to treat her.  

She was up and moving about, feeding her calf again by nightfall.

We had lost half of our grazing land, most of our fences, but there was much to be grateful about. 

We didn't get a Christmas but we had a fridge full of Christmas food that sustained us in the following days of recovery, along with the many offers of help and condolences from community and friends far and wide.

The property where the fire began had been sold, the old owners were about to move out.                   The new owners came to our aid, allowing us to lease a section of their land adjoining our property.     A life saver. Somewhere to put the cows. Another blessing.

I was feeding out hay to them in the wheelbarrow, six barrows a day and a distance of roughly five hundred metres across to the leased paddock. 
We had talked about getting a small side by side with a tray on the back, for those times I need to get up the hill in a hurry and to cart hay and firewood, do paddock work etc. 
Brian saw this for sale on Gumtree and we snapped it up.

All the summer things; 
Beekeeper teaching and consulting.

Harvesting fruit and preserving.


Crushing grain for chickens and livestock in the grain crusher that he found in a friend's paddock. 
It's older than me and took many hours of restoration, but it works beautifully.

Eight days post knee-replacement surgery in April.
I stayed in a hotel in the City while he was in hospital. I'd been looking forward to a break away from the farm but was itching to get back after three nights.
His recovery has been good with very little pain, and was back at work after ten weeks.

It was an excellent breeding season from September until April, with almost eighty chicks hatched to these Pekin hens. I sold most of the new hens when they were big enough to leave their mums. 
In late April this hen disappeared and returned three weeks later with a dozen chicks.

In late April, one week after Brian's return from hospital, I leaned into the bottom of the cow's feed bin and broke a rib.  Rest for six to eight weeks they all said!

I was the one caring for Brian and running the farm during his absence from heavy work, so it was inconvenient but together we got through it, in our tag team kind of way, and a bit of occasional help from family.  

I was forced to adjust the way I work here, learning to take things at a slower pace, and moving my chores around to suit me. 

I learned to crochet, thanks to dear patient Inge, and Utube.... and discovered a new meditative calm in my days.

Wherever you are I hope you're finding your way to calm in these strange times. 

Thanks for visiting here, and now that I seem to have almost got this sorted out, I promise to see you again soon. 

Leaving you with a drawing from my current favourite illustrator Charlie Mackesy.

Wednesday 10 June 2020


The hay shed catches the first rays of sun in the mornings when I fork out enough hay to fill the cow's hay rack. Just a short walk to the rack on the other side of the fence, but it takes quite a few trips, so I often think I've done the equivalent of a morning walk after the exertion that warms me to the bone.

The past few mornings have been frosty with temps of -2C degrees at sunrise; two pairs of gloves are required to keep the fingers from seizing up.

Some rain last week accompanied by this rainbow in the late afternoon.

Pekin bantam shenanigans in the house garden. 

I could not imagine life without this. 
Day and night, a fire burns or coals glow; always at the ready to warm, revive, boil a kettle, bake bread, cook all of our meals, incubate cheese and yoghurt cultures. All round most useful and appreciated appliance and much loved soul of our kitchen is this Irish made Stanley wood combustion stove.

 One, two and often three per day.  Thankful that orders from buyers enables my obsessive sourdough making. 

 Working from the kitchen today as a pot of dried apricot jam bubbles on the wood stove. I cannot be trusted to leave the room when cooking, such is my propensity for becoming easily sidetracked. 

Dried apricot jam will guarantee to stick to the bottom of the pan as soon as my back is turned.

Thank you to those folks who have sent emails and messages following the publication of my article in the latest Grass Roots magazine. (No.259 June/July 2020 issue.) 
A couple of emails from people who wanted more information on skin moisturisers and deodorant that I mentioned in the article.
Maximum word limits sometimes make it difficult to elaborate in the magazine, and I tend to be a bit too wordy. My thanks always to the editors, Megg and Jessamy for their unwavering patience and encouragement.

My deodorant for everyday use is simply organic coconut oil mixed in a small jar with a few drops of essential oil. I prefer a very slight hint of fragrance and find that lavender oil does not change its scent on my skin as some fragrances do.
I once made deodorant using lemongrass essential oil which, after a few hours on my body, started to smell like urine!  However it wasn't wasted, we used it as bee pheromone to attract a swarm to a bee box, but that's another story for another time.

To avoid leaving oily residue on our clothes, a small amount is all that is required.  I especially like it on these freezing winter mornings, when deodorant roll-on or from a spray bottle feels cold to the touch and takes a minute or so to dry.
Coconut oil is also used as body moisturiser. Unscented, rubbed on arms and legs especially during summer is cheap and chemical free. Add a dash of lavender oil to repel flies and mosquitoes. 
Did you know that Parabens in many cosmetics and body moisturisers, are the cause of hormonal issues? Parabens and many other chemicals are scientifically proven hormone disrupters.
Our skin is the body's largest organ, is very absorbent so we really need to be careful what we put on it.

And hand moisturiser?.... is right there on the kitchen bench in a squirty bottle.
Olive oil rubbed in well, as often as required, is also cheap and chemical free.

We have some excellent local producers here and our trade economy is always welcomed. This is one of our favourite extra virgin oils, from John and Vicki at Cornucopia Farming.

 Glenafton Goats milk products are chemical free and extremely well priced.
I love this facial  moisturiser for my weathered and dry old skin. 

What I reckon is... if you wouldn't put it in your mouth, then why would you rub it onto your skin?
For $12 a pot, and free postage, I usually order three pots at a time to cut down the postage costs for the small family manufacturer.  I get almost a year from three pots, using it every morning and night.

When I think of the dollars that I wasted on 'products' during my lifetime, I squirm.  But when I think of the chemicals that I used to slather onto my skin and hair that were washed down in the waste water, the plastic bottles and containers I unwittingly encouraged, I cringe with shame.
There's no point stressing over the past, but once we have the knowledge we can be empowered to do better for our health and well-being, and for the sake of the planet.
Choose wisely folks.

Sally XX

Friday 29 May 2020

The End of May - Pruning and Cows

Hello Friends,

It's the end of May and the last of the Glory Vine surrounding the house verandah has been pruned and mulched.
Brian did the pruning in less than an hour. Before I could offer to assist it was all on the ground.!  That man! He certainly gets on with things without a minute's hesitation. He is truly motivation on steroids.
"Leave the cuttings on the ground." I said.  "I want to go through them and make a wreath." 
The least I could do was pick up the mess on the ground, and I needed to find a valid excuse so that he didn't rush to do it all, and leave me feeling guilty for not helping.

Later in the day, when I'd finished what I was doing, I made a wreath.
The remainder of the vine sticks went onto the mulching pile for Brian to run over with the tractor and mulcher.  After rotting down over winter I'll shovel it onto the garden.

 Honeysuckle is almost unrecognizable from that timid and thin cow that we brought home from the livestock market roughly two years ago.  You can catch up on bringing home our new Honeysuckle cow here
After numerous AI (artificial insemination) attempts we took her to visit a bull last October, and is due to calve at the end of June. Next month!
Unlike our other two house cows, Lavender and Poppy, who were hand raised here and learned to trust us from an early age, Honeysuckle was raised on a large commercial dairy.  Understandably, she was shy and had very little trust in humans. It has been a long process to gain her trust, I can gently stroke her head now, but only when she's in the right mood. She will follow me into the dairy but will not comply if any other person is within sight.
It is more than a year since I stopped milking her, allowing her to dry off and put all of her energy into gaining weight, conceiving,  and carrying a calf.
She has been enjoying life, as she rightly deserves, and now it's time to resume her training to walk into the dairy each day.
After her calf is born I will be milking her every day, sharing the milk with her calf which will stay with her. Cows love their babies, as much as we humans love ours, and it aggrieves me to see calves taken from their mothers.
After the calf is born, I don't want to put Honeysuckle through the stress of re-training, re-learning to walk into the dairy. So, for the past month I have been putting in the effort every day, to remind her how great it is to walk into the dairy for her special treats. I'm also able to check her thoroughly each day and when her calf is awake I can feel it moving about in there when I rest my hands on her belly.
Last weekend I found a lump under her jaw that worried me, so I called a vet to come and check it out.
Honeysuckle would be easily stressed if we tried to move her away from the other cows so we brought all three of them into the cattle yards attached to the cattle crush.  She has never been into our crush, there has never been a need, and I absolutely didn't want the vet to treat her in the dairy. The dairy is to be associated with pleasant things, not traumatic events.

After drafting off the other two cows, Honeysuckle moved calmly into the crush, poked her head through far enough for the mechanism to close, holding her head to prevent any movement.
We really struck it lucky with this new (to us) vet. Georgia from Barossa Vet Services is wise and experienced beyond her years. A young woman, slight of stature, really knows her way around a cow. I admit to being a bit stressed, but she certainly put me at ease with her gentle and respectful treatment of both animal and humans.
She told me that most farmers wouldn't notice a lump of that size, and she would usually be called when it was much bigger and required more intensive treatment.
Thanks to the close daily contact between cow and owner, we are able to get on top of this infected cyst, requiring a course of anti-biotics, before her calf is born.
Had I left it longer, and she had required anti-biotics whilst lactating, neither calf nor other creatures could consume the milk for seven days or more. In such a case, taking her calf away from her would be required.  A stress neither cow or this owner would want to endure.

Here's another valid reason for all cow owners to have a working and reliable crush. I can't believe how many folks buy cows but don't think to build the infrastructure to properly care for them.
I can't tell you how many times we have needed to bring in a cow to remove a grass seed from an eye. Often this simple procedure can be done in the milking bales, which is fine for those cows that are used to being restrained for milking.
But what happens when a beef cow gets a grass seed in its eye? If it isn't removed within a day or two the eye will become ulcerated and blindness will rapidly follow. A devastating result caused by a neglectful owner. 
Hobby farmers - Please ensure you build the proper infrastructure before taking ownership of cows. You will need secure yards with solid fences high enough for cows not to jump over, a loading ramp and a crush of some type.

In the latest Grass Roots magazine I've written about what's been happening here, while the front gate is shut to all visitors while we are in isolation. Actually not much has changed but I have enjoyed the more relaxed lifestyle, with no calls to host guests or to be sociable. Perhaps I'll keep the gate closed for awhile longer.
How about you? Are your bursting to get out or are you secretly enjoying the peace and solitude as I am?

Wednesday 6 May 2020

Sourdough Discard - Muffins

I haven't been baking many sourdough loaves lately, but I need to feed my "Mother" occasionally to keep her alive and healthy.  As you know, I never like to waste a thing, so there's a jar of discard (flour and water sourdough)  in the fridge that needs to be used.

When I'm baking sourdough loaves regularly I don't accumulate any discard at all.
Here  is the blog post that explains how to NOT waste flour.

Last time I made Crackers using some of the discard and this morning I felt like making small cakes (or muffins) to put into the Farmgate stall.

As usual, I have adapted the recipe from various ideas and previous bakes, using basic supplies from the fridge and pantry.

Apple and Spice Muffins

1 cup sourdough discard (straight from the fridge or the bench, it doesn't matter)
1.5 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bi-carb
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of salt
2 dessertspoons butter melted in 1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar (we don't like them too sweet)
1 egg
1 peeled and chopped apple

 Put sourdough discard in a mixing bowl.  Mix flour, baking powder, and bi-carb together before  adding to the bowl. Add sugar, spices, butter and milk, and stir with a wooden spoon before adding the egg.  Add chopped apple and stir until well combined.
Mixture should be the consistency of cake batter.  Your sourdough discard may be wetter than mine so you may need less milk. 
Spoon into paper muffin cases and bake at 180C for 15 - 18 minutes - turn the tray after the first 10 minutes.
Makes 10 muffins.

These basic muffins can be adapted in lots of ways and variations.
Leave out the apple and use a mashed banana.
Leave out the spices and add berries or cocoa, or choc chips. 
Add dried fruit, dates, dried apricots... the possibilities are endless.

How long will they keep?
If you want to keep some for later, you will need to wrap them well (after cooling) and put into the freezer before anyone sees or smells them.
Unfrozen they will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container and are good for lunch boxes or smoko (morning tea) for the workers.

There's absolutely no reason to throw away flour and water from our sourdough excesses and what good fun it is to discover new ways to use it.

Sally XX

Wednesday 15 April 2020

Soudough Discard Crackers

I hear a lot of sourdough bakers mention the waste of flour during the sourdough mother feeding process, but there's absolutely no reason to waste any flour at all. 
When I'm baking loaves regularly (four days a week) there's never any waste to deal with because I'm feeding and using the sourdough mother with each bake.
You can read about my method of sourdough baking here and here 
At the moment though, I'm not baking loaves for selling in the Farm-gate stall, so I'm baking just a couple of loaves each week.
There is discard, but not waste.
Our supply of shop bought crackers has been eaten, and as I'm still not going into shops (sixth week of no shopping) I searched for a recipe.
I can't tell you how many times I have attempted to make crackers, only to end up with hard lumps of unchewable cooked dough that were good enough for dogs only.
So I searched and found lots of recipes for these Lavosh style crackers. I've seen them for sale in gourmet  shops, but crikey, I could buy enough food to feed us for three days for the cost of one pack of those fancy crackers.
As you will know me by now, I can never stick to a recipe. I almost never have exactly the correct  ingredients on hand, so I substitute, plus I like to find an easier way without all the palaver. Honestly, some recipes go on and on don't they?
So, for the purposes of recording this (fluke?) success for future reference and for anyone else who may want to whip up a few,  here is my new crackers recipe.
So save your excess sourdough mother in a separate bowl or jar in the fridge. There are lots of ways to use it up.

Sourdough Discard Crackers - Often called Lavosh or Bark (in the Barossa

200g sourdough mother - It need not be active but should not be smelly.
1 cup (120g) bread flour - I used white unbleached
2 desert spoons of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fine salt

Salt flakes, sesame seeds, chopped herbs, poppy seeds -  Choose one or more for topping.

In a bowl combine sourdough starter with flour, olive oil, and salt. Mix to combine until it comes together as a medium stiff dough. If it feels too dry add a dribble of water, 1 teaspoon at a time. It should be the consistency of pastry.  Work it into a ball, wrap up to be airtight and place in the fridge for at least 30mins and up to 24hrs.
The recipes all said to wrap it in cling wrap but I used a waxed food wrap because that's what I have.

The next bit is just like rolling out pasta. I use a hand-wind pasta machine, but if you think you can roll it thinly with a rolling pin do have a go. If you're OK with rolling pasta you'll be fine with this too.
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F)
Break off small lumps of dough, roll into an oblong shape on a floured bench with your fingers. Roll the flattened oblong dough shape through the thickest setting on your pasta machine. Don't forget to dust your pasta machine with flour first. Work your way through the settings until the dough is thin. I stopped rolling at number 7on the dial.
It takes a bit of dexterity but honestly, if I can do it, so can you. If you haven't rolled pasta before you will work it out, just persevere. Practice makes (almost) perfect.
Lay long thin sheets onto baking trays lined with parchment paper. Do not overlap. You may want to cut the shapes into smaller pieces to fit more easily on the trays.
Spritz with water using a spray bottle and, working quickly, sprinkle lightly with salt flakes, plain sea salt or Himalayan salt. Then sprinkle on your toppings of choice.
Put trays in oven. Cook for approximately 10 mins, rotating the trays mid way through. They will burn very quickly, so watch carefully.
When cooked, place on cooling racks until cool, before packing away in airtight jars.
Repeat with remaining dough. This amount made two large jars of crackers.
I have no idea how long they will maintain their crispness, but I estimate maybe a week. Ours will be eaten before the end of the week. 

Apart from all the obvious ways to enjoy crackers, they were a delicious accompaniment to our lunch of leftover Moroccan Beef stew, having eaten all of the couscous last night.

There are so many ways to use up sourdough discard. Crumpets and pancakes are delicious, and very high in carbs too, which is not such a good thing, so I'm super excited about these light and versatile crackers.

I'd love to know how you go with making these.

Sally XX

Saturday 4 April 2020


A reader (Kathy) asked for my ice-cream recipe.  I have a few that I use depending on various factors; 
- the type of cream on hand, 
(shop cream, cream from our own cows, very thick, or thin cream)
- the amount of eggs I have on hand.
(are the hens laying or are they having a spell?)
- do I want to use the ice-cream churn or not?

The ice-cream that I made this week is the original recipe from the instruction booklet supplied with my cheap ice-cream churn purchased approximately eight years ago.  
The freezer bowl of this churn lives in the freezer until I'm ready to use it.
This is a quick and lazy ice-cream but of course, as you will know me by now, I have adapted it slightly to improve the texture and flavour. The original recipe is below and my adaptions are in red. 

Vanilla Ice-cream 
 1 1/2 cups milk     
1 1/2 cups cream          2 cups cream
1 egg                            Separate egg. (Save egg white until later)
1/2 cup castor sugar    Icing sugar for a smoother texture. Icing mixture is OK too.
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence   or 2 dessertspoons runny honey

Method; Process all ingredients (except egg white) in a blender or food processor until well blended.
Place mixture into a pouring jug or bowl, cover and place in freezer for an 1 - 2 hrs until chilled and starting to slightly freeze at the edges.  
Stir mixture quickly and pour into rotating freezer bowl.
Just before pouring into ice-cream churn beat the saved egg white until fluffy and fold into chilled mixture.
Process until it begins to look like soft ice-cream.  

Scrape into a bowl, cover with lid and freeze.
Ready to eat after 4-5hrs.

With so much cream and no artificial fillers this ice-cream is rich. The ice-cream addict here takes just one scoop instead of his usual two.

However, if you don't have a churn this Mary Berry Ice-cream is very very good. 

We're ticking over to four weeks of isolation and no shopping.  The trade economy in our neighbourhood circle has kicked in; bringing with it a deeper sense of appreciation for things we may have taken for granted previously. 

I filled Meg's bottles with fresh milk and received these treats that we don't have growing in our own garden. 

Brian and Damon are doing some poultry trading......but I got the best end of the deal. 
This was a total surprise, and delivered to our gate too!
Never before have flour and yeast, eggplants, beans and capsicums, made my heart sing quite to this extent.

I hope there is the joy of a generous community where you are too.


Sally XX

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