Friday, 14 July 2017

Procrastibaking


I should be filling out these Taxation forms but suddenly, baking biscuits for the Farmgate shop and darning socks is far more urgent.... and entertaining!

Procrasti-darning

I'm retired now, so I don't need to go to the accountant this year to have my tax return done. I have not earned enough money to pay any tax, and we no longer own an investment property that we rent out. The sale of them occurred a couple of years ago, so there is nothing complicated about my financial affairs this year.
 At my last visit to my accountant (last year),  he advised that all I need to do this year is to claim my Franking Credits from my small share portfolio. He kindly showed me how it can be done without seeing him and paying (a small fortune) for his time.
Just lately I've spoken to a couple of friends who did not know this.  They were unaware that we can claim back the credits that were subtracted from our dividend payments though the previous year, so I thought I'd share it with you today.
There may be lots of folk who have money sitting there at the ATO that they didn't know about.
It's simple, if I can do it, so can you.
I spent a few minutes .... OK an hour.!!  sorting through my different dividend statements, and wrote on a sheet of paper for each Share holding so I can add them up and write it easily on the forms provided.

eg.  ** Example only**   Argo      franked amount $123.45
                                                       franking credit    $12.34
 
                                         Telstra   franked amount  $123.45
                                                       franking credit    $12.34

             and so on until all of the shares were listed.

Then I downloaded the forms using this site;

Refund of Franking Credits Instructions and Application for Individuals 2017
 
This site has all the information we need about Franking Credits and how to claim. There's a FAQ section there as well that is very helpful. eg,

"Can I claim franking credits from previous years?

It is not too late to claim a refund of franking credits you received in the 2001 to 2016 income years. If you have not already claimed these credits, go to ato.gov.au/onlineordering and order a Refund of franking credits application and instructions (NAT 4105) for the relevant years. You can only lodge these refund applications for previous years by post."

 I printed all the forms on my printer because I prefer to write it on paper, make a copy for my records, and post the completed application away to the Australian Taxation Office, rather than spend an hour (or more) doing it on-line, only to discover, right at the end that I've done something wrong and I either lose the entire thing, or it takes up so much time getting it right.
The last time I tried to complete an application for something on line, I lost it all at the end. I was so frustrated! Two hours of my life that I'm never getting back! I threw a knife at the door! The little mark is still there to remind me.  :-/
 If you prefer, it can be lodged by phone, the phone number is listed on the front page, and I'm pretty sure it could be done on-line, but I'm not going there. Just saying!
My forms and instructions are still sitting there on the table because I'm procrasti-baking and procrasti-darning!
Oh... and when I've finished baking and darning, there are those spider webs that need vacuuming off the ceilings, but I'll get my Tax stuff done soon, I promise!

What about you? What are your procrastinating decoys?










Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Sugar Free Raspberry Jam

 Sugar free Raspberry Jam

Lately I've noticed there's much more attention in the media about diet and ways of eating.
Low Carb High Fat (LCHF), Banting, Paleo, Juice Fasting, 5 & 2, and the list goes on.
I like to keep up with new findings about foods and the way different food groups affect us as individuals. The right food or diet for one person is not necessarily going to agree with the next person, but there is so much information there for us so that we can make our own decisions.
What we were brought up to believe back in the day, is often the opposite of what we know now. New research into food and diet has revolutionized our health and self care,  the food industry and our personal beliefs.
For the past few weeks I haven't been eating wheat or any type of sugar, and I've cut back on my carbohydrate intake.
I definitely feel some benefits; clearer in my thinking, and I don't get tired after lunch like I used to when I ate cereal or breads for breakfast or lunch.
"Intermittent fasting" is also a thing. Who knew? Hooray! I don't need to feel the guilt of skipping breakfast any more.
I'm not going into all these 'diets' because others are doing that much better than I can, and anyone with access to Google can study them if interested.
It is my personal goal to continue through this life, into my old age, without the need for pharmaceutical drugs by using diet as my medicine. We see people who make the effort to nourish their body and soul with good food and positive thoughts and actions, but unfortunately, those folks are not the norm any more.  Obesity, ill health and addiction to popping a pill is becoming more visible in our modern western society and is drawing heavily on the health care systems.

Wheat and sugar free one pot dinner (and lunch next day)
 
I don't intend to live without wheat for ever. After a couple of months of giving my body a rest from it I'll start using Spelt flour and organic wheat that I grind in my flour grinder. Learning about the way conventional wheat is grown with all the chemicals and sprays, has completely put me off the ordinary flour available in the supermarket.
Natural sugars in very small amounts will also appear in my diet after another few weeks.               eg, Rapadura sugar, coconut sugar, rice malt syrup, maple syrup and honey, but I really don't think I'll go back to consuming refined sugar again.
Sugar creeps it's way into our foods, a little bit here and there, although we might think that we don't use much sugar at all.
In this house we don't drink sugary drinks or fruit juices, and don't buy ready made foods, but now that I've completely cut out sugar I can see that we were eating more than we realised.
I can't believe that at my ripe old age, and as a moderately reasonable cook, I didn't know that apples can be stewed or poached without ANY sugar at all and still taste sweet. Ha! That was a light bulb moment!
These restrictions have not been at all difficult to deal with, adapting simple 'made from scratch' recipes  and good old Google with vast information and recipes available at our fingertips.
On the first day of the new "deprivations" I thought I would need a treat with my afternoon tea so I made a coconut flour muffin. It cooked in ten minutes and if I closed my eyes and stood on one leg I could almost imagine that it was a scone or a bread roll. But it was missing jam, so I made some.

Sugar free Raspberry Jam (use any berries)
1 large or 2 small apples, peeled and sliced. Cook in a small saucepan with 1/3 cup water until mushy.
Add 1 cup of raspberries (I've still got lots in the freezer from our last harvest)
Gently simmer, stirring frequently until is reduces and slightly darkens in colour. This could take approximately 20 - 30mins.
*Optional- add Stevia sweetener (Natvia) to taste.. I didn't feel the need to sweeten it though.
Spoon into a jar and store in the fridge.

The weird thing about this way of eating is that I don't get hungry at all so that was my first and last Coconut flour muffin. I simply can not fit all that food into my day, but the jam is lovely as a sweet treat desert on a 'Banana and egg flourless pancake'  or with baked apples, or a baked egg custard, if a treat is really what I think I need.

How about you? Have you made discoveries about your diet and how it affects the way you feel?









Thursday, 6 July 2017

Lambing Season


Lambing season is upon us, with these twins the first to be born last Thursday.

Those readers who follow my Facebook or Instagram pages daily will be aware of our battle to outwit the foxes who's numbers have become out of control in recent years. 
Without these two beautiful creatures, I think we would not have many live lambs. I love to watch them carefully checking on the new lambs, playing a large part in nurturing the flock, young and old.
While I was out checking the flock one morning, the alpacas were watching me curiously when suddenly, their attention turned to the top of the hill, towards the boundary fence where a ewe had recently birthed a new lamb. They called loudly in their donkey like fashion of communicating danger, and ran towards the fence. Well, one ran while the other stood guard with the flock, as is their habit of teamwork.
There on the hill, a fox glided with stealth towards the new lamb and mother, and stopped to sit in a clump of grass just out of my sight.
As luck happened it was one of those rare occasions that I carried my phone, so I called Brian who was down at the house. He grabbed his gun from the securely locked gun safe, and bullets from a securely locked ammunition safe in a different location to the gun safe (author raises eyes and sighs whilst writing this) and high tailed it up to the hill towards me.
I indicated to him where I last saw the fox, and as he walked along the fence line, looking in the grass, the fox moved. Brian took aim, but as I was positioned on the other side of the fox he didn't get a shot until the fox had ran a small distance through the fence. We then realised that he had grabbed the single bullet gun instead of the 12 gauge which sends out pellets over a small radius, so the fox got away.  This time!!
The cheek of the thing. To blatantly attempt to attack a lamb in broad daylight, and in the presence of a very visible, orange clothed human!

We purchased two fox lights three years ago, and decided to buy another one last week after the fox episode. When Brian went to our local farming supplies outlet there was only one light left in stock. Another farmer had just purchased ten of them an hour before!

This one is solar powered and more expensive at $139, but saving on the cost of replacement batteries each year, brings it in line with the other battery powered lights.
When factoring in the cost of just one lamb sold at market, currently an average price of $150,  this is a reasonable price to pay for a devise that we believe helps reduce the number of fox attacks on our lambs.
(We have no affiliate connection to the makers or suppliers of this product.)
With three of these strategically placed  lights blinking randomly around the paddock I'm reminded of my disco days back in the 70's. ;)

Lamby, the bottle fed lamb brought to us in early June, is growing like a mushroom. At six weeks old he is drinking just three bottles a day, no night feeds. However, he doesn't know he's a sheep and will NOT stay with the mob in the paddock when I take him in with me to do my rounds.
He still spends his nights safely locked in the poultry shed with the hens, out of harms way from marauding foxes. His days are spent in a grassy paddock near to the house, close enough that I can pop out to feed him his three bottles each day, but far enough away that he doesn't hear my voice and  call out to me every five minutes.
In an effort to find him a lamb companion I put out a request on our local Barossa Online Classifieds Facebook Page
 "It's LAMBING season, so to all sheep owners out there, who find yourself with any ORPHAN lambs and you don't want the job of bottle raising them (time consuming & expensive) I will collect them from you and raise them. I will take all breeds of WOOL sheep only. Sorry, I can't take any of the wool shedding breeds as their wool will contaminate our Merino wool at shearing time. Message me at any time & I'll pick up your orphans ASAP. 🐑🐑🍼🍼 Pls share or pass onto anyone who has lambs. Some folks don't see Facebook so they can text me on 0473493413 "

 The advertisement was successful..! And these two little cuties were delivered to me yesterday all dressed up in their little waterproof jackets.
They came from a large farm of more than 1000 Merino ewes. The kind farmer and his daughter pick up the lambs on their property that have lost contact with their mothers. and feed them all with an automated feeder. These two would not drink from the feeder unaided, so they were being fed with a bottle. As there is little time for bottle feeding lambs, five times a day, on these big farms I was thrilled to receive them.  :)
So now my days revolve around feeding babies at all different times of the day and night. 


After three days of confinement in the safety of the enclosed calf yard, Poppy was allowed into the paddock with Lavender.
The first day was spent getting to know  each other in a small paddock separated from Mulga Bill. 
He (Mulga Bill) is such a big boy, and looks so mean, that I was hesitant to let him near the calf too soon, but on the following day the calf went in with them both, and Mulga shows such tenderness towards tiny Poppy.

OK it's time to heat milk and fill bottles... again..!!
Cheers, and thanks for dropping in.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Poppy

 Introducing Poppy.

It's time to start thinking about training up another house cow to replace Lavender when the time comes. We're very happy with Lavender's breed - Jersey (dairy breed) crossed with Murray Grey (beef breed) - so I ordered a calf from the same breeder just as soon as we knew she (Lavender) was well again. 
As you know, she had been Love sick and we held off on our plans until we knew she was well enough to supply milk for the next four months, for the calf.
When the dairy owner phoned us with the news that a heifer had been born, we arranged to collect her when she was five days old. I'm not sure, but I think she was with her mother for two or three days, before being taken away and tied up in a small enclosure where she wasn't able to walk around much. So I'm hoping she had her mother's colostrum for those first days.
There were two heifers to choose from and when we checked their little teats, the other heifer had six little teats. That would be a problem, so I'm really glad we checked that important detail.
I discreetly slipped the tiny  homeopathic Arnica pillule (against shock) into her mouth as she was suckling my fingers, and before we lifted her into the calf carrying cage on the back of the ute.
(Some conventional farmers think I'm a little bit strange with my ideas of bio-dynamics, homeopathics and organics. Each person has their own ideas and I would never push our way of life and our beliefs onto anyone else unless they asked me about it, or wanted advice.)
It was early afternoon when we got her home and settled her into the small calf shelter in our calf yard. She had been fed in the morning, but she looked very thin and dehydrated so I mixed up a litre of my home made electrolyte drink to hydrate and settle her.
1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon honey or sugar, dissolved in 1 litre of warm water.
In some of my previous posts I have detailed how important it is not to over feed new calves, so the electrolyte drink is a perfect way to settle a new 'brought in' calf without overloading its developing belly.
In the evening she had 3/4 litre of fresh milk watered down to make it up to 2 litres.
That's my general DAY 1 treatment for brought in calves unless they have other issues like visible diarrhea. In which case I would put 2 teaspoons of garlic water into the electrolyte mix, and dilute the next feed of  half milk and half water to make 2 litres.
For the first couple of nights I like to confine a new calf to the small shed, with some dry straw to lay on. One of the reasons, apart from keeping her warm and dry,  is so that I can easily find and inspect her new fresh droppings. For this first few weeks I'll be constantly on the lookout for changes to her poo; colour, smell and texture. I'll be obsessed with poo!!

The following morning, after checking her poo, she drank her first proper feed of 2 litres of fresh milk from the calf feeder.  Then I opened the gate and let her follow me out and into the calf yard.

She discovered she had legs.... and they could move..... fast!   They could kick up in the air too. It was such fun to run from her adopted Mum (me) to the end of the yard and back again.


"This running caper is so much fun and I feel so clever. Look out Mum, here I come!"

In the next few days I'll start training her with a halter to lead, tie up, and put her head into the (small training) milking bales. If I do this now while she is small, she will respond easily, with no stress, and will be a valuable and well mannered house cow in the future.
No doubt you will see many posts about Poppy's progress in the coming months.

*The methods I use are what I have researched and learned, though trial and error in some cases, during my years of cow ownership and calf raising. I am in no way advocating that this is the only correct way, but it's what has worked for me. A lot of my actions are ruled by my gut feeling; that and constant searching for alternative and natural ways of animal health and maintenance.
By sharing what I have learned, I may be of help to other owners and animals to minimise ill health and suffering.



Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Sunny Winter Days and Poppies

Just 5mls of rain has fallen this June and as the average for this district is 80mls we're feeling the dryness. Clear skies and no rain, we've had some serious frosts down here in our valley too. 

My little Curry tree, a retirement gift from a work colleague, has felt the brunt of the frosty mornings. I wonder if it will rally back to life again in Spring.

New shoots on the lemon tree, shriveled..!

These sunny winter days are perfect for getting stuck into some serious garden maintenance, so I started giving this section a little trim.
I didn't take a 'before' photo of this garden, but this is how it looked three years ago during summer, with the Glory vine in full leaf.  All of the shrubs and plants were planted more than ten years ago and were getting leggy, high and wide, making it difficult to back the car out of the drive without running over plants. It had become ugly and messy.

 Then Brian came along with his motorised hedge trimmers and within five minutes it looked like this.!!

With a few wheelbarrow loads of compost from one of my compost heaps, and some waste hay from under the cow's hay rack, the beds were ready for planting up with some new plants that I'd  propagated months ago, and some cuttings from other parts of the garden.
The little red brick border that Brian made years ago, is visible once again.

 The two wood fires are burning around the clock. The kitchen stove for cooking and the slow combustion in the living room keep the old house warm and toasty. It's a drafty old place though, lots of windows and external doors with little gaps.  Wonderfully cool in summer, but a little bit cool in winter. 
Brian has had two weeks of annual leave, so the wood heap is looking healthily stacked  with chopped and split wood.

 Comfort food cooked slow in the wood oven is often on the menu during winter. 
A beef and vegetable baked concoction (stew) for dinner one night, became soup the following day. 
I always cook a bit too much. You never know when an extra mouth to feed might turn up unannounced, otherwise there are leftovers for lunch the next day.
But sometimes there's not enough leftovers for two, or however many I might need to feed, so a bit of bone broth from the freezer, tipped in and heated again makes a nourishing soup.  Cooked rice, noodles or leftover vegetables lurking in the fridge are good added too. Every soup tastes different and it's impossible to make it again exactly the same. 

A distorted view of Mulga Bill who is being very well behaved and comes to the fence for a chat at "haying up" time.

 Lavender is putting on weight and still loving her food now that she has company with whom to share it.

A most wonderful surprise arrived in the post from one of my blog buddies. Poppy seeds so beautifully presented in a decorative envelope and little note to warm my heart. She prefers I don't mention her name, but she knows who she is, so once again, many thanks!
I have scattered them in gardens all over the house yard, hedging my bets in case one garden performs better than the others. Now waiting for the rain and anticipating mystery poppies in spring.
And talking of Poppy, I will have more news for you tomorrow on that subject. 





Thursday, 22 June 2017

Love Sick



When any of our animals is not well or is unhappy, a cloud hangs over my world, so it's been a worrying couple of months while Lavender hasn't been herself.
At around the same time as we started on feeding out our first hay bale from the most recent harvest, she went off her food. It coincided with a number of movements around the farm, but our first thought was that she didn't like the new hay.
We brought in a bale of expensive lucerne hay, a real treat to all grass eating stock, but she wouldn't eat that either!! Her condition deteriorated  and bones started poking out where we'd never seen before.  Ribs and hip bones are commonly visible on dairy cows, but she's a dairy crossed with a beef breed, so her build has always been round with well covered bones. All symptoms suggested a sore tooth or tongue, maybe an abscess. Many phone conversations with a couple of dairy farmers with many years in the game, confirmed my suspicions.
Through all this she was still producing between ten and twelve litres of milk each day, and nothing I could do would slow down her milk production. I dropped back to milking once a day, hoping that would decrease her milk supply, but if the milk is there it must be milked out. I didn't want to dry her off completely, because I felt confident we would get her through this.
 I called the vet who's initial visit confirmed our diagnosis, but he didn't have the required equipment with him to have a proper look inside her mouth, so he was due to return on Monday this week.

Mulga Bill had finished his working holiday at Mt Crawford, where he had been for the past three months, so we picked him up on Sunday and brought him home.
After walking off the trailer and bellowing his arrival to all in the valley surrounding us, he got down to the job of reacquainting with Lavender and then got stuck into the rack of hay.
What happened next left us both standing with our mouths open in disbelief... Lavender stood next to him and started gulping down the hay as fast as she could chew.
On Monday morning she was behaving like her old self again, and still eating the hay every time I filled the hay rack.
Only one conclusion could be made, she was love sick!
Poor Lavender had been trying to tell me all this time that she was lonely, she was missing her man about the place.
Some cows are quite happy to be on their own and are better for it, especially if they have been low down on the pecking order of the herd, and had been bossed around by the other cows. Lavender had always been the lowest in our herd, and she always kept away from the others lest they corner her and start shoving her around. Cows can be very mean and nasty to each other one minute, and grooming each other the next.
It seems that although Lavender had cows to talk to over the fence on the neighboring property, she was grieving for the company of her own herd.
I called the vet on Monday morning before he set off to call on us, and explained the situation, that she seemed in good health and probably no further treatment was necessary, but we would keep an eye on her over the next few days.
I can see her filling out and at this rate she will be back to her normal weight in a short time.
What a great cloud has lifted from my world. Happy days!

Saturday, 17 June 2017

A Lamb....and the Red Dress

Back in May we were asked to take this little lamb by friends who had found it on the roadside. They were miles from anywhere when they spotted the little fellow, so they drove to the two nearest farm houses to ask if he belonged to them. Neither farm people wanted him, so what to do? They called me.
He was only a day or two old and was strong and healthy, so he suckled well at our first attempt to bottle feed him some cow's milk.
Ideally, I'd rather raise a number of lambs than one single, so he would learn to be a sheep and not a human; or a hen in this case!
For security sake, against foxes, we lock him in with the hens at night, so he's perfectly happy with them and thinks he is one.
I've put the word out, on Facebook and Instagram, that I will take any orphan lambs in our district, but thus far no luck in finding him a playmate.
Our ewes are due to have their lambs at the beginning of next month, July, so until then he will need to stay with us here in the house yard and hen house.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, child, outdoor and nature
A few days later, the girls arrived to spend a week with us, so you can guess which little animal got the most attention.

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, mountain, grass, sky, outdoor and nature
The red dress was an op-shop find for a few dollars, and five year old Isla wore it everywhere. Not exactly appropriate farm wear, but oh well.!

Lambie got rather spoilt, but I think the girls will always remember their holiday with Granny and the lamb.
Everywhere that Isla went, the lamb was sure to go.


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