Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Spring Rush and Dear Friends

Dear friends,
Thank you for your  kindhearted  comments in regards to the loss of our Soda. I know you will understand why I did not answer each comment personally, and I hope you will accept my gratitude to each and every one of you for taking the time to write, in each case, the perfect words that were balm to my soul. You knew exactly the right thing to say. Wow, from people I have never met came comments, emails and phone calls with wishes that were perfectly soothing and powerful.
What a beautiful community we have here, and I'm so grateful to you all.


 The days are warming up and the Spring rush is on.  There is much to achieve each day, and now the watering routine has begun. I do wonder why I create so much work for myself, but I enjoy pots of colour and greenery around the place.



You know how concerned we were about getting a hay crop this year? The contractor arrived last week and agreed it was time to cut.

This smaller crop was lush, but the other paddock was not so, but he cut it anyway.  Oh what a great feeling of relief, but we must not count our good fortune just yet; not until it's bailed and put away in storage.
The number of bales will be well below our usual, but combined with our stored hay from last year, there will be enough to feed our cows and sheep through summer and get us through until October 2019.

Brian has taken two weeks annual leave to do our shearing, among countless other things that need doing at this time of year. Most of these were the ewes that we did not mate up in view of the dry season ahead. So no lambs for them this year, but they put more energy into growing an extra long fleece. Brian was doing some fancy footwork to handle the huge girls and shear their wool off.

At morning smoko on the first day.  I didn't recognize Coco with her wool off, but she was happy to see me and came over for a chin scratch after I snapped this photo. She was one of my bottle fed lambs from last year, now grown into a lovely strong ewe.

Jack of all trades, this bloke.

We butchered the steer. 
I helped bring him into the crush because I was familiar to him and he was relaxed around me. We didn't want him stressed.  I then swiftly moved the other cows into a far paddock before beating  a fast retreat while the men completed the job in a competent and professional way. 
I'm so very grateful to have people around me who are capable and can be trusted to do such an enormous task. As a meat eater, preferring to eat chemical free and ethically raised and dispatched meat, I can't stress enough the importance of taking control of the entire process from birth to plate.

 Hung for two weeks in our refrigerated cool room.

Our butcher friend helped us cut the carcass into all manner of cuts and portions. I chose to forfeit a couple of rolled roasts and gained these ribs instead. 
We enjoyed some of them slow cooked in a sticky Asian type sauce in the wood oven for dinner that night. Delicious.!

This is the advantage of helping our butcher, standing alongside him, and choosing the cuts as we go.
Brian helped me to make approximately 10kgs of mince with the off cuts and then I spent the remainder of the weekend packing the meat into meal size portions. It's a huge job that needs to be done with care to avoid any waste.
Most of the meat was packed into vacuum sealed bags and will store very well in the freezer for twelve months or more. The meat that we intend to eat first, within five or six months, was packed into ordinary plastic bags.

  Rendering the beef fat in the wood oven. 


For baking and soap making.

 
The weather has been cool enough to have the wood oven burning everyday, so there has been quite a bit of baking going on.


It has been a bumper couple of months for the Farmgate stall since our local Cottage Industries shop in the town closed its doors. People obviously love to access old fashioned home made foods.

There's bee work of some type going on every day now that we're into Spring.

Marking young Queen bees ready for sale. Red is the colour for this season.

Bee rescue call-outs are a daily occurrence at this time of year.

 Heavy work.

My goodness we've come a long way since our early days of hand winding the honey extractor under some bee proof netting strung over the Hills Hoist (wash line). We laugh about that now, and never take for granted our much easier set up that we've built up over the years. 
However, for all the modern equipment that we have now, our honey is still the same in quality. It is still spun from the frames without the use of heat, to maintain it's raw and pure goodness. 

 Lavender's calf Bertie is six months old now and it's time she was weaned.  

As we have only three cows on the property now, and I wanted to keep Lavender and Poppy together in the same paddock, I needed to buy a paddock companion for newly weaned Bertie. 
Also, now that Lavender is not feeding a calf, she needs to be milked twice daily. 
ALL that MILK!!!  What a great way to use up some of it by feeding a bobby calf?
A call to one of our local dairy farms on Sunday, and by evening we had this little bloke in our possession.  A Friesan bull calf, three days old, had been bottle fed on colostrum...perfect.  
Such long legs, we named him Stretch. 
Before we lifted him onto the back of our ute I slipped an homeopathic Arnica pillule into his mouth to reduce the shock that he would suffer from the short trip to his new home. 
I previously wrote about our use of Arnica here.

 Bertie, meet Stretch.
Bertie was reluctant to accept Stretch as a replacement for his mum; weaning time is stressful for all and there were a noisy couple of days.

But this morning peace reigns as the two paddock mates have become acquainted. 

So I think I've almost caught up on our news for now. I'll show you the vegetable gardens next time. 
Cheers until then.
Sally XX



 

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Hello



Hello, it's been awhile since I wrote but we're still here.

 I've been trying to form the words, and although three weeks have passed, words still won't connect or make any sense of our loss.
As this blog is a real account of our life here on our little patch, I can't choose to omit an event that has knocked us over, to the point that we still can't discuss it with each other. 
Time will help us to process this part of our journey, but the loss leaves a big empty gap in our lives.

 Soda
January 2018 - September 12th 2018

She gave us some challenging moments, but the joy we received from her funny antics will be treasured always.
Ever keen to please, always loyal and loving to her humans, and clever beyond words. 

What happened?
She was the master of escape, and although we had made every effort to prevent her from jumping over or digging under fences, she made her way onto the road and was hit by a passing car.
It all happened so fast and the end was quick.

Soda, you were a special girl, a darling companion to us all. May you run and play and chase bunnies forever. 


The pain passes but the memory remains. Each dog leaves a paw print on our heart.


Thanks for reading and visiting my blog today; it was a difficult one to write. 
Give your loved ones, especially your dogs, an extra cuddle today in memory of all those dogs who are taken before their time is up. 
R.I.P. Soda 

 





Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Spring

Lots has been happening around here lately, and this morning I'm sitting at the kitchen table with my cuppa as the sun peeps over the horizon, laptop at the ready, determined to catch up with you.
Maintaining a large garden, caring for animals, baking, bee-keeping, and the never ending house domestics, there is always plenty to do around here, but I admit I do like to be busy, so there it is.
With the arrival of spring and days that are no longer chilly, the grass (loosely referred to as lawn) around the house is growing at an alarming rate and needs mowing every ten days or so. I wish the same could be said for the hay paddock which seems to have stopped growing altogether. At this rate there will be no hay making, but we continue to hope it will keep pushing upwards as we have all of this month to wait for some last minute growth. Perhaps some sunshine on it will push it along, provided we get a few showers of rain too.
With the warmer days we're drinking more kombucha instead of an afternoon cuppa. I've given away a couple of SCOBY's to beginner kombucha makers lately and have referred them to my old blog post for instructions on how to make it.
I hadn't  looked at that post for some time, and I found it needed updating, so if you're just getting into making your own kombucha you might find it helpful.

Our freezers are re-stocked with lamb after a processing morning just over a week ago.

A friend brought one of his lambs to learn from Brian the skill of butchering. There is nothing like the satisfaction of raising our meat from birth to plate on our own piece of land. With this new skill, our friend Craig has achieved one step closer to his own food security and self sustainable farming to feed his family.

It was warm enough to open a couple of our bee hives to clean up the frames for the flowering season that is upon us now.

The bees in one of the hives had made a frame of honey under the lid which had to be removed, before adding a super (box) to allow them more space to breed and store honey. Very carefully we sliced off the honeycomb into strips and made up some jars of honey with honeycomb. A rare opportunity to let our buyers sample this product as we are often asked if we sell honeycomb; our answer is always no. We choose not to destroy their wax  foundation frames  when we are extracting honey from the hives. It takes a lot of energy, pollen and nectar, to build replacement wax foundations, and we would rather they use that energy to make honey.

These few jars of Honey with Honeycomb disappeared very quickly from the Farmgate stall.
This week the weather has turned to winter again, with some welcome rain and cooler temperatures so there was no bee work, but we have many more hives to open and perform maintenance checks  as soon as we get some warmer days.

 The beekeeping workshops will begin again next month on  Sunday October 28th, and this one is already booked out.
If you're keen to attend any of our workshops for this coming bee season let us know so we can book you in.
The next workshop will be on Sunday November 25th. The cost of $100 includes morning tea, lunch and beverages and is a full day course from 9:00am - 5:00pm. Numbers of participants are limited to 10 people to allow hands on participation and interaction.
Gosh, this season has come around so fast, and I'm caught slightly on the hop so we shall be working some nights to catch up. Orders are already coming in for equipment purchases and soon there will be swarms to collect as well as extracting honey from all of the hives.
Our Pure Raw Honey sales continue strongly as more controversy rages over imported honey coming into the country and containing fake honey substitutes. I'm glad it has come to the notice of the general public now, as it's something we've suspected for a long time but could not say anything about it until there was firm evidence.
Buy local, support your local farmers and apiarists. Nothing tastes as good as locally produced anyway.
There's mandarine marmalade to make, sourdough loaves to mix, a patch of grass to mow, and Kelpies to walk/run..... before lunch!
And now I'm behind again!!
Thanks for dropping by.
Cheers,
Sally XX




Thursday, 30 August 2018

Finding Gratitude in the Everyday



It's been trying to rain all morning, and cripes, don't we need it! So I hung the washing out on the line and before I could finish pegging the last pairs of knickers, down it came.
Good..!
The wet washing can hang there for days if that's what it takes.

 It's one of those kind of days when it's a bit warm for a jumper but a bit too cold to shed it completely. It was all very well until I was caught by a customer to the Farmgate stall while I was out there replenishing stock this morning. She looked at me askance whilst remaining polite, and it wasn't until she had made her purchases and driven away that I realised I may have looked slightly more weird than usual.

Even Trevor gave me a sideways glance! ;-)
The Texel rams, Bert and Ernie, have spent a week here in one of our small paddocks near the house, to eat the grass down. Trevor has the role of companion sheep, a gentleman's gentleman, if you will, so it was lovely to have chats and chin scratches with him each day.

Dear Trevor is unrecognizable from the tiny waif lamb that landed in my kitchen a year ago. Back then I promised myself, and the boss farmer, that  he would live a long and gentle life here but only if he would keep his side of the deal, and try his hardest to survive.
His merino wool is of high quality, so he more than pays his keep, which has made it easier to convince the boss farmer to keep him.

 
This is what he looked like then, and here is the story of Trevor 

My view from the kitchen door this morning shows the blossoms in full bloom. Soon our view of the horizon where we watch the sun poke it's way over the hills each morning will be covered by the greenery of the fruit trees and these ornamental pears.  The green leaves of the Glory vine will create more natural shade, so the harsh dry and heat of summer will be a little easier to bear.

Today's sourdough loaves were so enthusiastic they burst out of their crusts. That's the thing with natural wild yeast, you can never predict exactly how the finished product will end up.
I made apologies to one of the buyers, and charged her less than the usual rate. An hour later I received a message from her.
"I'll pay extra for split crust any time. Best loaf I've ever had, reminded me of home."  (USA)
Gosh, that made my day.
Aren't people wonderful?

Well, the wind is howling and my washing is probably across at the neighbour's paddock by now.

I hope you're also the recipient of a lovely word or two of encouragement today.  It certainly makes each day special doesn't it? Or if you're spending the day alone, I hope you can find joy in the simple things, and gratitude for the day.

Cheers and thanks for dropping in.
Sally XX


 


Thursday, 9 August 2018

Dogs

 
 Soda had her visit to the vet last month and came home feeling a bit groggy. We refused the Elizabethan Collar or 'the cone of shame' opting instead for doggy dress ups to prevent her access to her spey (desexed) wound.  One of my old tee-shirts redesigned for the purpose with a few stitches here and there, and some elastic. Thankfully it's winter time, and she was comfortable wearing it for a week.
 "Keep her quiet" said the vet!   The words Kelpie and quiet don't belong in the same conversation. She slept inside for the first two nights but then, as she was too disruptive well enough, she resumed her night time sleeps in her comfy kennel wearing her oilskin jacket over the top.
We have no desire to bring any more puppies into the world. I definitely could not part with any pups knowing they would be going to farms where, presumably,  their living conditions would not be as comfortable and cosseted as they are here.

 
 Kelpies have this habit of crossing their front feet when lying in this position. It's the cutest darn thing!
 
 Soda, Alan, Meg. My constant companions.
 
I'm not sure if this green grass was from good fortune or just good management on Brian's part. He took the punt and direct sowed some mixed pasture seed in some of our paddocks after the first bit of rain in April. It turned out to be the right decision, and although we have had little rain since, it's the dew and light showers that's making it grow.

 Here's that Kelpie trait again. Meg is so elegant and petite, we suspect she was a princess in a past life who performed such great acts of generosity and kindness, she reincarnated as our (slightly pampered) princess.

Early this week Soda got busy and re-potted some plants for me.
What could I say? It was already done when I found her sleeping peacefully on the grass after all that hard work. I think she may have realised that this wasn't quite how I wanted it to look as she watched me sweep up the dirt, re-pot the plants and repair the damage. So far, she hasn't attempted to help out in this part of the garden again.
What merriment is going on your garden? It's almost time to get the seed packets out and start planning the spring planting.
Cheers for now,
Mind how you go,
Sally XX





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