Tuesday, 12 December 2017

An Update of Kitchen Happenings

After last month's farm update I put a mark in my dairy as a reminder to write another update a month later, and whoosh... here we are again. It would be a very long post to include most things, indoors and outside, so today is focusing on what's been happening in that room we call 'the heart of the home'.
Summer is with us, but we have had a couple of heavy rainfall events and no days above 35C degrees, so it's most agreeable living weather. Unfortunately the rain was not so good for the farmers who grow cereal crops that were almost ready for harvesting. Most of that grain will be downgraded.
The days have been good for being outside in the garden, catching up with some of the weeding, and spreading compost and mulch.
 
 
 The rhubarb patch got a serious thinning and cleaning up. I tried to give it away, but at the end of the weekend a few stalks remained.

 
 I tried really hard to put it into the compost heap, but old frugal was looking over my shoulder again, so..... it got chopped up and added to some raspberries that have been in the freezer since last season's glut.



Raspberry and rhubarb jam. Who knew that the two flavours would go together so well?
I made it the conventional way, with sugar, but cut the amount right back so the flavours of the fruit are dominant without the cloying sweetness.
Just as I finished labeling the jars, there was a knock on the door. A woman from Victoria requesting some rhubarb jam! I was able to invite her in to taste the new jam, of which she bought three jars to take back with her.

My old gas cooker finally had to be replaced when the oven door would no longer stay closed without wedging a chair up against it!
We are on bottled gas here, so there were not a lot of LPG stoves to choose from. In fact, this was the only one we found. I first looked in our local electrical and gas store but they had none, so a forty minute trip to our nearest Harvey Norman store and two weeks later this basic stove was installed.
It got me thinking that the lack of choice could be frustrating for many folks, but I'm not particularly fussy about the stove. It does the job and I'm grateful to have a stove at all, to use during the hot summer months when it's too hot for the wood stove.
However, and hindsight is a wonderful thing, if we were doing our renovations now, instead of twelve years ago, I would know that we probably should have put in an electric point at the stove.
I have discovered that most gas cookers come with an electric oven.
Lesson learned!

I'm having a go at making mead with some of our second grade honey that we use for cooking. Starting off with just a bit of honey and water in a jar, the ants found it sitting on the kitchen bench, so placing the jar into a large flat container of water soon foiled their attempts at sabotaging my newest trial.
After searching Google for Mead recipes and becoming daunted with all the complicated instructions and equipment required, I finally found this simple method. Honey and water!

When it started to taste less sweet, and the fermenting slowed down I bottled it and kept it on the kitchen bench so I would remember to burp it each day to release some of the gas.  I learned an important lesson that it must be bottled in thick bottles if using glass.
Yes, you guessed it.!
The small square shaped bottle on the right, was made for sauce, not volatile fizzy stuff!
After hearing a noise during the night, the kitchen wore a layer of sticky mead, from the floor to almost the ceiling, and thin shards of glass were everywhere.
Another lesson learned.!

The bubbles are about right, and the honey flavour is delicious, but still a bit too sweet for my palate. The remaining bottle will continue to ferment until more of the sugars have converted to alcohol. A larger quantity in a bucket is fermenting nicely and will soon be ready for bottling.
When I finally have a finished product that I'm 100% happy with I'll post a blog with instructions of how I did it.

I won the wager on the demise of the hail affected cherries. They ripened beautifully, and I picked them at this lighter colour as they were surprisingly sweet. Heavy rain was forecast (and arrived) so there was a chance of splitting if they were left on the tree. It appears this variety of cherry is known as the 'white cherry' and is ripe when it reaches this light colour.

 I thought I might have to preserve some of them, but we have been enjoying eating them just as they are.

Remember those two rows of cabbages growing in the vegetable garden? There are only three left!
I've filled every one of my large glass jars with sauerkraut and am also experimenting by adding other flavouring ingredients. The above picture is sauerkraut containing cabbage as the main ingredient, with carrot, apple and ginger added. Some of the jars have cumin or caraway seeds added to plain cabbage, and salt of course.
We're also eating cabbage every day, fried in butter, in coleslaw, in casseroles and stews. I will never tire of eating the versatile cabbage even though I hated it as a youngster. It was boiled cabbage in those days...boiled and boiled until the whole family finally all came in for the evening meal. No wonder I found it hard to stomach!

When I was out and about, living the life of a part time working person, as well as trying to do all of the things that I really wanted to do here in our home and farm, I saw people walking and felt envious of them. Just walking for fun, fitness or relaxation. They had time in their days to do such a thing.
I wanted that.
And now I have it.
Life is good.!
I hope yours is too.
Thanks for reading.
Namaste!
:-) XX








Thursday, 23 November 2017

Natural Mildew Spray Treatment


During the lunch break at last Sunday's Bee keeping workshop the folks enjoyed a walk around the main vegetable garden here at Jembella.  When Brian was asked about controlling mildew he told of the Casuarina  (Equisetum) Tea that he brews from needles of Casuarina or commonly referred to as Sheoak and sprays out to treat mildew on our vegetables. It is also very good for grape vines.


 When asked the mixing rate, Brian admitted that he now goes by sight, and he promised to consult our Biodynamic Manual and let them know. Our original copy of this resource manual became so well used it almost fell apart, so I purchased another copy from Bio-dynamics Agriculture Australia to keep in the house for my use.

 So here is the recipe for Fresh Equisetum or Casuarina Tea as described in the manual.
Cover fresh leaves (needles) from the Casuarina, Equisetum) Tree with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for twenty to thirty minutes and allow to stand until cool.
Strain off the liquid (tea) and use to the ratio of 10 litres of tea to 400 litres of water @ 34 litres per hectare.
It should be poured into a bucket or drum and stirred for twenty minutes before pouring into your spray unit or container. Those already familiar with bio-dynamics will understand the necessity of stirring, to potentize or energise, the preparations before spraying out in the early morning or late afternoon. 
The tea will keep for up to three weeks in a capped container in a cool dark place. When it starts to get black and a bit smelly, throw it away and brew up a new batch.

Depending on the area you need to spray, it can be put out using anything from a small spray bottle to a large mechanised spray unit behind a tractor.
It's amazing stuff, cheap to make, and harmless to our plants, the beneficial insects in the garden and ultimately, ourselves!
Cheers!





Monday, 20 November 2017

Another Successful Bee Workshop

A group of eleven beginner bee keepers joined us yesterday for a full day of bee keeping fun. We were so lucky to have a perfect sunny day in the high 20's, after almost a week of rain and drizzly overcast days.
One of the projects was removing a wild swarm of bees from a wine barrel and placing them into a brood bee box. It began with very noisy electric sawing of the barrel into halves, and cranky bees flying everywhere within twenty metres.
I had loaned out my bee suit, so I wasn't going too close to the action, and thank goodness for zoom on the iPhone.
Every year we get calls from folks asking us to remove bees which have made their home inside a wine barrel. Once again I'll issue advice to any who have an empty wine barrel as a decoration or functional object near your home. Unless you want bees to move into it, resulting in either (a) the destruction of your wine barrel to remove the bees, or (b) the destruction of the bees to save your wine barrel, please bung up the hole so the bees can't get in.
During spring swarming season bees will be looking for any little hole to make their new home, and a lovely roomy and dark wine barrel is perfect.
With this workshop coming up, we collected the barrel containing the bees and brought it home so we could perform the task while showing the attendees how it's done and to utilize the help of a willing few. Brian was able to make a clean cut around the barrel, to create two planter pots which we will return to the owner this week.

Frame making and learning the merits of different types of foundation is an important aspect of bee-keeping. We moved the table and equipment outside so we could all enjoy the cool of the shady willow tree, rather than swelter inside the "Honey Shed".

 Plenty of networking and making new friends during the lunch and morning tea breaks.
The food was well received, and as usual, I over catered. No surprises there!
I finished up making pasties, sausage rolls, a big quiche, and sandwiches for lunch.
Morning tea was macaroon jam slice, pumpkin fruit cake and Anzac biscuits.
Home made lemon cordial was on offer as well as water, teas and plungers of coffee, and a big bowl of fruit.
A short garden tour where the folks were interested to hear Brian speak about our organic and bio-dynamic methods of managing the farm and gardens.
I think perhaps another workshop  about gardening and bio-dynamics will be next on our list of things we can share with other interested people. There is certainly lots of interest there.
There was much interest in Brian's non toxic mildew spray that he makes from She-oak needles, so I'll get the correct recipe from him and post it in my next blog.

During the few hours that people were suited in protective gear and actively involved with bees flying about, I noticed they gradually moved from the outer edges and closer towards the action. It's a strange feeling for a new bee-keeper to be surrounded by bees, and it's at that point that we discover if we want to continue with the craft or not.

The weather was perfect for taking some honey from a few full frames that were found during the inspection of the seven hives here at our home block.
Here Danielle discovers that Brian's job of cutting off the cappings with the hot knife is not quite as easy as he makes it look.
Thank you to each and every one of you who attended and made it the successful day that it was.
Hosting a workshop requires a lot of planning and many hours of preparation, but we both enjoy the day spent with a new bunch of people.
Don't ask us how tired we feel at the end of that day though. A beer for Brian and a glass or two of bubbles for me was enjoyed with dinner of leftover lunch food, and early to bed.

Cheers!

Friday, 17 November 2017

Workshop Preparations

 We're having another Bee-keeping for Beginners workshop on Sunday. The weather has turned cool and wet over the past few days, which is perfect for cooking up a storm in the wood oven.
I prefer to bake and prepare as much of the food as possible prior to the day of the event, so that I'm there to participate and interact with the people who are attending.
I've made sausage rolls and pasties, which freeze very well, so all I need to do on the day is heat them up. I'll put together a few sandwiches and rolls on Sunday morning.
Tomorrow (Saturday) I'll prepare the fillings for those, so it's all straight sailing in the early hours on Sunday.
I've got lists and more lists, to remind me of all the little details that can so easily be forgotten. This time I have a big sign on the table to remind me to put out the home made TOMATO SAUCE when the sausage rolls and pasties go out onto the food table.
I forgot to put it out last time!!! Grrr..!
For morning tea I've made Jam Macaroon Slice, and a Pumpkin Fruit Cake is about to go into the oven.
There's coffee, a range of teas, home made lemon cordial, and water to drink.
Oh and a big bowl of apples and bananas.

We'll be opening up boxes, learning about all the ins and outs of keeping a hive, having lots of fun, and networking among the folks.
I've got to mow the grass tomorrow and if there's time, I'll tidy up the garden a bit, but if it doesn't get done it's not the end of the world.  I'm pretty sure that people don't mind looking at a weed here and there.

I needed to send a photo of the gloves I prefer to wear when handling the hives, to some of our visitors who are flying down from Canberra to attend this workshop. 
(Do you reckon it might have something to do with the fact that we live in one of Australia's most popular tourist destinations? )
So, I'll tell you next week about all the fun we had, and I hope you have the weekend that you hope for.
Cheers!


Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Garden Update - Part Two

Brian and I are having a wager on the outcome of these cherries. The tree has been in the ground for two years and is loaded with fruit this year. 
BUT, three weeks ago our state experienced a serious hail storm, causing widespread damage to fruit trees across parts of South Australia. The big growers are counting their losses, and the availability of cherries, apples and stone fruits looks like being low for the coming season.
While I was away on holidays, and taking to Brian on the phone, he explained the storm and prepared me for the damage [to our trees] that I'd find when returning home. Listening to the news on the car radio, I felt so sorry for the orchardists who rely on the fruit harvest for their income. Our small crops here have value only for us, so if we suffer a hit every few years, that's not the end of the world, and we need to accept it and move on towards the next season, but the large growers will be suffering. They still have costs and wages to pay, but will receive little income this year.

Brian sent me this photo of  hail lying on the ground while he was at the Post Office in our local town of Angaston.

The shade cloth covering the vegetable gardens was weighed down heavily with hail stones, but our fruit trees weren't protected.


I can see some spots on the apricots, but overall they don't look too bad and this tree is still heavy with fruit.

A few pictures of the wider garden areas. I made two new garden beds over winter. Edged them with logs from the wood heap, and filled the space with straw. This photo is taken standing with my back to an established Golden Delicious apple tree. We keep planting more fruit trees, and the little peach tree shown was a new addition this winter, so instead of having random fruit trees scattered about, I have enclosed a couple of trees into each garden. The spaces in between can be utilized to grow companion plants and vegetables.
I'm waiting for my pumpkins to germinate in these black plastic rounds that we use to deter the earwigs from nibbling the new growth.

Plenty of unscathed fruit on the old Jonathon apple tree.

It's been almost ten years since we grew strawberries here. Our big patch was becoming over run by millipedes and nothing I did could eradicate them. We're don't use chemicals or any poisons, so the only answer was to pull them out and grow a different type of berry. We're aware of the difficulty in growing strawberries without using toxic chemicals, so neither of us has eaten a commercially grown strawberry for many years. It doesn't matter how cheap those punnets of strawberries become in the stores, there is no way we would eat them.
A lovely friend occasionally treats us with her home grown strawberries that she grows in containers, so when I spotted these old water feeders in a rubbish pile, I thought of strawberries.
Now we have larger predators of the two legged, feathered variety, so the cages are to keep out the chickens who get to run in this part of the garden as part of their yard rotation.

Oregano grows like a weed with the drips of water from the tap. Self sustaining and useful, so it's allowed to stay.

The lemon tree is heavily mulched with large rocks around its base, to prevent the escapee chickens from scratching and disturbing the shallow roots. Containers of water are placed all over the gardens for the birds and lizards.


A still and cloudy evening is the best time for spraying out atmospheric fertilizers.
Nettle ferment tea is our favorite; helping the plant's sap to flow, and build stronger resistance to pests, mildew, diseases and hot weather.  This is a weekly event from the middle of spring until the end of summer, using our home made liquid manures and fertilisers.

When is a weed a weed?
A weed is simply any plant growing in the wrong place. For that matter, a beautiful rose could be a weed if it's growing in the wrong spot.
This humble Cape-weed (sometimes referred to as dandelion)  would be a weed if it was growing in the lucerne crop, or if it was taking over the asparagus patch, but here in one of the garden paths it's doing no harm. It's keeping the soil together as everything starts to dry out and the bees are finding pollen from the flowers. In turn, the bees that it attracts are pollinating the vegetable flowers.
Every plant has a use in the system of things, so think twice about removing "weeds"unless it really is a weed.
Caltrop or Bindii and nasty prickly weeds are another matter, but before you pick up the "Roundup" think about the damage that toxic chemical is doing around the world.
I'm off to the side paddock now, with my hand trowel and plastic bag, to dig up any tiny Caltrop plants before they set seeds and multiply.  Thankfully this is the only area on our property that Caltrop is growing, and over the years, through slow and steady digging and placing the weeds in a plastic bag in the sun to kill the seeds, we're getting on top of it.
Good and happy gardening to you my friends.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Jembella Garden Update... Part One

Outside the kitchen door is where we spend most of our down time when the weather permits. In summer most of our meals are cooked out here in either the gas Weber Q or on the barbeque.

Among the flowering plants and under the concrete steps lives a colony of small Skink lizards. We don't see them at all during the cold months, but they start moving about as soon as the Spring days warm up. In fact, we need to watch where we step as we go about our business as they move quite slowly some days, and one misplaced foot could be disastrous.
Just in case you're straining your eyes to find the elusive lizard, there isn't one in this photo, I'm showing the water container. I haven't been fast enough to capture a lizard drinking as yet.
"Flat out like a lizard drinking." Perhaps only the Australian readers will know this bit of Aussie lingo which we might say if we're describing how busy we are!  ;)

 This little one is growing a new tail. They are tiny, less than the size of an Ikea pencil,  and they love to eat flies which are half as big as the lizard's head. I swat flies and leave them laying on the step where the lizards gobble them up.

The pineapples are still taking up one side of the glasshouse, all grown from discarded tops, and now into their third or fourth year in this spot. Every few months one is ready to pick.

 They're deliciously sweet.
No, we don't live in the tropics where pineapples grow, but the conditions in our little glasshouse are perfect for them and as long as they continue to produce, we'll keep them there.
Zero food miles!

A few Mizuna lettuces in the glasshouse.

More lettuces are in this crazy overgrown area,  plus rocket, rhubarb, mustard, coriander, cabbages, potatoes and self sown calendulas and poppies. 
It's my self seeding garden, where plants are allowed freedom of expression, and Bearded Dragon lizards find sanctuary behind the dog proof fence.
I'm waiting for the seeds to dry, for saving, and am slowly clearing some of the greens for the chickens each day.

And now, a walk around Brian's vege patch.

Chard, young capsicum seedlings, turmeric, horse radish and parsnips in the planter pot.

He harvested the garlic yesterday.

Garlic tied in small bunches and hung up to dry before storing under cover in the shed.

Snow peas at this end of the trellis..

Broad beans at the other end of the same trellis.

Cabbages!!

We're eating cabbage in many ways; 
coleslaw; fried in home made butter; fermented as sauerkraut.

He has planted a row of Jostaberry plants.  Jostaberries are new to us, so I'll keep you posted on how they go. They are pronounced Yostaberry.

Three raspberry trellises, freshly mulched with straw.

 We were a bit late getting the tomato plants in, and have also cut back on the number of plants this year. Our cellar is still groaning with tomato produce from last couple of years.
Tomato chutneys,  Tomato sauces, Preserved tomatoes, Pasta Sauce and Tomato Paste. So instead of our usual fifty plants, we have been very restrained. However, I shall be taking cuttings from these when they are ready for their pruning, and will plant them in another location so we will have late tomatoes to extend our picking season.

The two Blueberry bushes are in pots because they like an acidic soil. Almost ripe!!
This garden is covered in 50% shade cloth during summer and is watered by drip irrigation pumped from our rainwater tanks.
That's enough of the garden for now, I'll show you the fruit trees and other food gardens next time.
How's your garden looking and what are you growing at this time of year in your location?
Cheers and thanks for dropping in.
Sally XX





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