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.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Casterton Kelpie Muster 2017

We feel like we're regulars at the Casterton Kelpie Muster now, after being spectators last year, we entered Meg in the Triathlon this year.
To learn more about the event and catch up on our escapades last year read here.
Brian has been training Meg for endurance for the past few months, with many kilometres around the paddocks while checking sheep every day.
She's used to jumping up and over the sheep yards and high cattle loading ramp as part of her working days but Brian built a high jump similar to what she might experience at Casterton, and we let her have a jump once or twice every day. She loved it, and we aimed at maintaining her enjoyment so she would continue her eagerness for jumping.
Funnily enough, although she knows she can jump more than 1.5metres, she never jumps over the fences and gates.
During the past year we sold our trusty old caravan, so this year we booked a little cottage in a small country town thirty minutes away from Casterton through Airbnb.

was perfect for our needs, dog friendly of course, and only 30 minutes drive from Casterton.
We loved it so much we booked it for next year too.

It was much easier and faster to travel from here in one day without towing the van, and we stopped along the way for car boot picnics.
Ha! Some might have thought it funny to see us boiling our billy next to the car on the outskirts of Penola, but it was the best cup of tea and (chicken sandwiches packed the night before), and Meg got to wander and stretch her legs.

All of the comforts of home at cosy Tuppence Cottage.

Taking part in the opening event is always a real buzz. 
The street parade.

And then it was down to business and time for competing.
50 metre Street Dash
Ready for the High Jump!! Busting to go!

 She surprised us both, and herself too, by jumping much higher than we had expected.
 1.8metres, her personal best. 
So she finished in sixth place for the street dash and sixth place for the high jump.
Wow, we were just overjoyed that she was focused enough to concentrate and complete the tasks in front of the huge noisy crowd.
Next up, and the final event of the triathlon......the Hill Climb. 

Brian was at the top, hollering her name over and over. It's so steep. The person who is catching the dog (Brian) is driven in one of the official vehicles around the road and up to the top of the hill.
The dog release person (me) is standing at the bottom of the hill, waiting until the dog hears the call and focuses on running to that call of it's master/boss.  If the dog runs through those two white squares near the lower part of the hill, a five second bonus is taken off the time.
The starter gives the OK, and as soon as Meg could hear Brian calling, she was off..!!  She ran towards the centre of the bonus markers and then veered around the edge of them...!
One dog at a time. There are many blind spots on the way up, so the caller needs to keep on hollering so the dog doesn't turn and go back down.
I knew I could not maintain that level of hollering, screeching  without ruining my throat forever, and as Brian is her official "Boss" she will run through anything to get to him.
She did it...!!! A little slow, but she kept on going until she reached him at the top.

More wonderful memories of another great fun weekend, and the fabulous people we met. 
The results sent to us the following day, not that were there to be competitive, astounded us!
Out of fifty dogs entered, twenty seven dogs finished.
Meg finished in sixteenth place..!!

Refreshed and rested after our four days away from home, we're back into life on the farm again with new vigour.  Brian has another week of annual leave, so lots of jobs are getting done around here and he's getting time to just be. To stand in the chook yard and look at the hens instead of rushing from one job to another, but not one to sit around, he's constantly busy and doing stuff. There's no chance of him getting under my feet, that's for sure. :) XX

Cheers and thanks for popping in, I have so much more to tell you, but that will have to wait.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Soap Making- Learn from the Best

I've just finished cutting up the soap that I made yesterday and as you can see, it's not necessary to go out and buy a lot of fancy and expensive equipment to make your own supply of the best soap you will ever use.
We use it for washing our hands, which get very grubby and stained, and for showering and washing our hair too.
We can make natural soaps from pure ingredients that we have at home or are cheap and easy to buy from the supermarket OR we can make elaborate pieces of artwork soaps. The choices are there for us, but I tend to stick to simple and frugal.
We kill our own meat here on our farm, so I generally base my soaps around beef tallow or lard that I've rendered down from the fat from the carcasses. I love to use a percentage of oils too because I like to experiment and try different mixtures.
Liz from  Eight Acres blog recently sent me her new soap making eBook which I can heartily  recommend to anyone wanting to have a go at making soap.

Everything you need to know about soap is written clearly with lovely big photographs. I always need pictures to motivate me, and gosh, I was motivated after reading this gorgeous book.
I never knew I could use beeswax as one of the ingredients, so this is what prompted me to whip up a batch, using beeswax, beef tallow, lard, whey and coconut oil.
Included in the eBook is the link to   Brambleberry Lye calculator which is the one I use for calculating the amounts of fats and oils to water and caustic, and fragrance.
I also learned more about "Superfatting" which always confused me until I read Liz' clear description of how it works and what it means.  Duh..!! It's simple really, but why doesn't everyone explain it as clearly as Liz does?
I love Liz's previous eBooks on Chickens and Cows, and this one is also superb, at a mere $5 it's certainly good value.
I didn't used to be a fan of eBooks, but realistically, although I love the printed book, I also don't like spending lots of money on books that increase the clutter in our home. I'm starting to move ahead with the times and find it very simple to follow them on my iPhone where lots of my recipes are too.
So if you've been thinking about making your own soap, get Liz's eBook and get started. You will never go back to using store bought soaps again; I can promise you!
I'm off to whip up another batch using beef tallow with olive oil and eucalyptus oil for the fragrance. Simple, frugal.... and the extra bars of soap in my stash will make lovely small gifts for friends who are tired of getting jars of jam.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Hello There Stranger

It feels a bit strange, and I feel a little guilty.
I'm sitting at my laptop in the middle of the afternoon!
A couple of hours off in the middle of the day is what I thought might be normal for my newly retired status, but life just keeps getting in the way.
No complaints from this quarter though, I'm just so grateful for every day and what comes up to keep me happily occupied.
Today I'm having a catch up of some of the blogs I love to read, and I see a pattern there. Everyone is busy, life is full.
To my blogger friends, and you are all friends, not just on-line acquaintances, I apologize for my lack of comments to you of late.
The rain that was promised for today, has arrived and it's tipping down outside. I don't feel quite so bad about being in here now. :)
A few bits of rain over the past week, so I'd say our opening rains for the season have arrived. The paddocks were greening up well after the rain a month ago, but with no rain in the interim, the grass was about to die off again.
The big farmers are out there morning and night, plowing and seeding their paddocks, hoping for good follow up rains.
Here at our patch there's no plowing, no burning off stubble, no spraying of toxic pre-emergent weed poisons, or spreading of chemical fertilizers or super phosphates.
Instead, Brian has put out Bio-Dynamics Prep 500 and direct seeded with some mixed pasture seeds using the no-till method.
The biology of our soils has been improving ever since we moved to Bio-dynamic and organic methods and therefore, the weeds don't have a chance to get a hold because the ground is never allowed to become bare through over grazing.
Where there is bare ground, there will be weeds.
So what's been happening around the farm of late?

Animals- sheep

We took the remainder of our last year's lambs to market last month.

They were still classed as lambs, almost one year old, not quite hogget.
We were pretty happy just to see that they had been placed in the first row of pens where the high priced lambs are always penned.
However, the best was yet to come, to hear the auctioneer running the price up..and up...and up?
Neither of us had ever expected to top the sales. Ever! We must be doing something right.


 At present, Mulga Bill (bull) is "working" at Mt Crawford on a Hereford cattle property, and is due to return home in June.
Lavender's calf, Freddie, had to be weaned three weeks ago, when he was just over four months old. I had planned to leave him with her for another month, to allow us the freedom to milk Lavender whenever we wanted to. However, he was getting big and boisterous, making a mess of her teats with his teeth.
 I call it "gentle weaning". We separated them, with a fence between them so they could talk to each other and hang out together when they wanted to.
This year we have cut down on our stock numbers here on our home block, in order to allow the paddocks to recover from a long stretch of grazing, so the decision was made to sell Freddie now rather than wait until he grows out further. More growth, better sale price, but we didn't want to compromise our plan of de-stocking.
We took him to market last week, and once again walked away with huge grins. The price we achieved by selling him at five months old was higher than our one year old steers sold in the recent past!  Such is the present market for sheep and cattle.
Lavender is here alone now, but she has company over the fence on two neighbor's boundaries, and seems to be quite happy. Her next calf is due in December and now that we don't have her calf to share the milk, I'm milking twice a day, morning and evenings, and bringing in fourteen litres of creamy milk every day.


 We had too many meat bird hens (Cornish Game) and not enough layer hens, so we had to part with some of them and bring in a new Australorp rooster.
We were out of balance.. an over abundance of meat, but not enough eggs, so the next generation of hens will be egg layers, to bring us back into balance.
Here are some of the girls eating their morning yoghurt.

Excess skimmed milk is poured into the outside yoghurt bucket daily. The yoghurt solids are scooped out and fed as a supplement for the poultry. We never feed fresh milk to poultry, but if left to sour or clabber, it can be digested easily and is a high protein food, perfect for laying hens.

Alan washes the dipper for me each day.

An abundance of milk again.

Cream so thick it looks like ice-cream.

Feta curds

Not from an op-shop! A brand new eleven litre stockpot for cheese making, purchased from K-mart.

More Quark, more cheesecakes.

Cultured Butter and Buttermilk

My friend Meg recently attended a David Asher cheese making workshop in Daylesford, Victoria and has been raving about his methods. Serendipitously, my friend Marieka, loaned me her new copy of his recently published book!
It's revolutionary and wonderful, and I've ordered a copy for myself.
Although I'm pleased to have learned what I know about cheese making, the basics, and then started  experimenting and using my creativity, I'm over the moon ecstatic to now have this book.
He uses Kefir for his starter cultures, and has simplified the processes of many varieties of cheese.
The book is easy to read...I read it in one night, couldn't put it down, but I'm a self confessed cheese nerd.
The steps are easy to follow with lots of beautiful photos to illustrate the tutorials.
Anyone can make great cheeses by following the instructions and information within the 298 pages.
In a nutshell, David Asher has thrown out the daunting mysticism of cheese making and has made it simple and do-able.
I've always been a fan of making do with what we have in our homes, re-purposing and adapting items to make molds, presses, baskets etc, so I was thrilled to see his adaptations of kitchen wares in similar ways to my own.


Last year's abundant crop of garlic was beginning to sprout, so upon the advice of our friend Merv, the garlic grower, I peeled them all from their outer shells, leaving the skin on, put them into zip lock bags and into the freezer.
NOT in the fridge, that will only make them sprout faster, they must go into the freezer.
We had such a huge crop of beautiful large garlic cloves, but I was going to lose half a year's worth, so I was pleased to heed Merv's good advice. Now I know I'll have garlic for the next six months until we pick our next crop.
Brian planted out three hundred of the largest sprouted cloves last weekend, as well as  cauliflowers, cabbages, broccoli, bokchoi, (spell correct tells me it's Chiorboy), tatsoi, Asian winter greens and beetroot.
I planted coriander and lettuce among my self seeding patch of kale, mustard greens and parsley.

In my Kitchen

Anzac Biscuits for Anzac day, sold like hot cakes in the Jembella Farm-gate shop at our front gate, and seem to be a favorite all year round.

Feta and spinach triangles baked in the wood oven that's burning around the clock now.

 The Mother's Day gift that keeps on giving. My step boys know the perfect way to win my heart.

 My chrysanthemums are dismal this year so Mum got purple sage on her grave. She loved purple, and loved any kind of flower, she even saw the beauty in weeds.
My other Mother's Day gifts will arrive by plane on Monday morning. A week of mothering and grand-mothering will be mine.

I hope YOU have a rich and rewarding week ahead too. 

Friday, 5 May 2017

I thought there would be more free time! Retirement furphy no.1

When I retired from my paid job almost a month ago some of the folks at work asked me what I would do. Those few folks didn't know me very well obviously!
I told them I'd have plenty to do around the farm and would probably have a little more free time to do a bit more writing and reading, but so far that hasn't been the case at all.
Fruit season has kept me busy preserving, making jams and sauces, and selling excess through the farm-gate shop near our front drive way.
The Barossa Vintage Festival, a bi-annual event, followed straight after Easter, which is always lots of fun with plenty of free events to attend. There are lots of pricey events too, dinners, cooking schools, master classes etc.
Having worked in Events and Catering  for a few years I was lucky to experience being behind the scenes at lots of these gala occasions, so I can say, "been there done that", and spend my hard earned $$$ elsewhere. Or not at all.

An art exhibition honoring the historical Barossa Cookery Book at the Tanunda Regional Gallery was well worth seeing.

 These installations could have almost been my kitchen. They spoke to my heart and soul.

 And this gorgeous piece by Janelle Amos won first prize. 

 Getting out and about with friends during the Barossa Valley Vintage Festival.

We left the farm in the capable hands of Brian's sons while we took the ferry across to Kangaroo Island for a few days.

Our Air BnB accomodation was completely adorable and surpassed our expectations. Tiny but a bit like the Tardis inside, with all comforts and everything we could possibly need. 

Catching up with other honey farmers was high priority. No surprises there!
Cliffords Honey Farm is the original honey outlet in KI and the honey icecream is to die for. We loved this place so much, we went twice. Two lots of icecream.
I tried to manipulate a few hints on the much guarded recipe, with not much luck. Can't blame them keeping it secret though.

Lots of sight seeing. 
Lots of seals, sea lions, and kangaroos.
It was the first time for me in Kangaroo Island and I absolutely loved the pristine landscape, the people, and the food.

We ate out every night, had lunches in cafes or bakeries, but always had a thermos in the back for those out of the way places when a nice hot cuppa is called for.
Eating out is not something we do very often, and why would we want to with all the lovely foods we grow?  So it's a real treat to have a few days away, staying in accommodation that's perfect but not going to break the bank, and eating out at various relaxed places.
All boxes ticked.

After four days of no cooking you can guess what I did first.

So much cheese and so little space..both in our tums and in the fridge, so what to do?

I offered to exchange cheese for a list of my preferred trading items on Jembella Farm Facebook page and next day I met a complete stranger at our front gate. She gave me a big bag of these leafy greens and chillies and I handed over a tub of cheese.!!
Still so much to tell you, but I think you'll be glazing over by now, so until next time,
go well.

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