Friday, 31 March 2017


After a couple of really busy weeks, I can feel this part of my world taking a big slow breath out.
Last Sunday Brian and I butchered a pig. This is the pig that we keep for ourselves, and we prefer to take full responsibility for the meat that we raise and consume.
A big job. It's not pleasant either. Both of us have our set tasks, according to our strengths, and we work well as a team.
All set up and ready to go. The water is boiling in the old copper and will be bucketed into the bath to scald the carcass.

Brian takes over to do this part of the process, then the carcass is put into the refrigerated cold room for a week before we cut it into portions, and put the bellies into brine for making bacon.
I wrote a more detailed post about the pig processing around this time last year.
We try not to waste any part of the pig, so I'm going to have  another try at making brawn this time using Lucy's recipe from her blog Dawson Valley Free Range.
The first time we killed a pig I made brawn with the meat from the head, but it didn't gel properly and neither of us liked the taste, so I'll let you know how I go using this new method.
The day after we killed our pig, we took the remaining two pigs to the butcher as it's not legal to sell the meat unless it's killed in a registered abattoir.
When animals leave the farm it creates a big gap. There's less for me to look after, but there's a gap. Every year, after the pigs have gone, I'm haunted by them and I hear their playful grunting and barking for a few days. Weird but true!
I've informed Brian that I don't intend raising pigs next year. I'm going to have a break from being tied here during those five months. As well as a couple of short holidays I might take on the spur of the moment, (because I can) my niece in Victoria is getting married in February, and I think it's too much to expect someone else to look after the pigs to the standards that I've set myself.
So you can see how far ahead we need to plan things when we have farm animals.  Our window for pig raising is from October/November to March/April, to avoid the wettest part of the year.

Mulga Bill has gone to his next appointment, but not without a couple of postponements.
We waited three weeks from the date that we know he mated Lavender and as she showed no signs of interest in Mulga for those couple of days, we made plans to transport him to his next holiday the following day.
The farmer was waiting for us to deliver him, but as we were moving the cows towards the yards we noticed him taking a lot of interest in Lavender.  So, it was looking very much like she was cycling again, which would have meant that she didn't get in calf three weeks before.
A phone call was made to the waiting farmer, postponing his (Mulga's) delivery, while we kept a close look out on their behavior over the following few days.
After four more days he stopped following Lavender around, so we knew it was OK to deliver him then.
They didn't appear to mate again, but I'm not one hundred percent sure, and will be prepared for the arrival of her calf on the date according to the first mating. In early December.

So it's quiet here.
No pigs, and no Mulga Bill bellowing his presence across the valley at numerous times during the days and nights.
My days are different too, and I'm finding time to get other things done around the place.

But the best time of day is in the mornings when I walk over to the dairy to meet my girl waiting there for me.
 The weather has cooled off, the daytime temperatures have been below 23 degrees, and the nights cool enough for a jumper, so you know what that means!
The chimney got its annual clean, the kitchen wood stove is burning, and turning out lots of baked foods.
Oh Autumn! My favorite time of year.
Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Some Small Changes for the Better

As the official date of my retirement is getting closer I'm feeling so happy that I made this decision. There are a few "Long Service Leave" days up my sleeve, so I'm taking one of those each week, which means I'm working just one day per week now.
Easing into full retirement, I'm so lucky!
For some people it's a big step to take, and they need to prepare for all of that free time they will have. I've been reading some things on-line about preparing for retirement, but as usual I don't feel like I really fit into that box.
There is so much to do here that keeps me on the go from sun-up until well beyond sun-down, but the big difference now, is that I can take it more slowly. Breathe..! Ah, it's so very good.
I have more time to practice gratitude for all the small things.
I've started washing the trims and some of the paint work outside of the house; a task I usually did at the end of each summer, but haven't done for a couple of years. The bird poop and spider webs are awful.
This beautiful home that we worked so hard to renovate to our simple tastes, looks sad and neglected, so with extra time in my week, it's a job that's being done bit by bit. I can't do it all in one day,  but when I do it I want to feel good about this work that I'm doing.
I feel such gratitude for this home that we have; the home that is all ours. No one can take it away from us, it's our past, our present and our future.
My days are busy, but it's good busy. I prefer to say they are full.
Lots of living creatures rely on me. I'm responsible for their welfare and comfort; that gets me out of bed every morning. They come first and their needs are tended to before mine.
And the garden... those plants need nurturing and maintaining to keep them alive, especially now in this hot dry climate.
No two days are the same, but the skeleton of my days is constant, depending on the time of year and the animals that I have in my care.
This time of year is fullest of all, pigs, milking and cows, gardening, watering, processing the fruits and vegetables that grow here or what we've found in our secret orchards.
Yesterday was Tomato Puree preserving in the morning, and Fig Jam making in the afternoon.

 Figs gleaned from a neglected tree made up a lovely few jars of jam for us and some for the Farmgate shop at the front gate.

 Kombucha secondary ferment with raspberries. Fizzy!

Fizzy kombucha lid explosion!
I made the big mistake of opening a bottle of raspberry kombucha before fridging it first. I was thirsty and had forgotten to put a new bottle in the fridge. Bang!  I felt such a shock, my hand felt like it had been blown up and I just stood there looking at my hand and waiting for blood to start pouring out.  And then realised how lucky that the lid exploded off and not the glass bottle. No blood though. 
I then went through the cupboard and very carefully "burped" the remaining two bottles of raspberry booch over the sink. It's only the raspberry that gets so fizzy. The ginger (Brian's favorite) hardly gets any fizz at all.
This was all I salvaged from that bottle!

Brian phoned me from work in the afternoon while the fig jam was bubbling on the stove to tell me he was called to do a bee rescue after work. Now that I have more time in my week, I love to go with him and be his run-about helper. The jam was turned off, to be finished and put into jars later.

The owners of this property have been co-existing with this wild swarm living in the wall of a shed, but now that the shed is going to be demolished, they called us to rescue them, rather than call in the pest exterminators.
This made our job a little easier as we were able to pull the boards away without concern about wrecking the structure.
Behind the lining boards was this square frame and the bees had made it their home. Our job was to cut the beeswax apart and drop the bees into our bee hive, and put all the beeswax and honey into buckets.
I couldn't take any more photos because I had one gloveless hand to work the camera button which the bees were trying to attack. One small piece of bare flesh! I don't like getting stung.
They were mean and they wanted us out of there. They didn't know that we were just trying to save their colony and their lives.
We're not sure if we managed to get the Queen. The hive box will stay there for a couple of days to allow them to get accustomed to going into it before we bring it home.
Brian will return to assess it later today after work. He will know, by observing the bee's behavior,  whether there is a queen in there or not.

 Do you wash your plastic zip lock bags and re-use them?  The other day a young friend called in and when she saw these bags drying over my utensils holder she said "What a great idea! You're keeping the flies off your wooden spoons." 
Hmmm... well no, I don't actually have that many flies inside our house, do you?  As it turned out, she very wisely didn't want to use fly spray and her house was full of flies. I sent her home with my spare fly swatter.
A text from her later in the day "Where has this fly swatter been all my life? I'm a great shot, no more flies, but how do I get the squashed fly marks off the walls?"
Enough for now,
Cheers and go well.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Raspberry and Apple Jam

The raspberry plants are bearing plenty of berries this year.  Earlier in the season it was pure joy to be in the berry patch every evening to pick them, but I have to admit that the (almost) hour that I now spend picking every day feels just a little tedious. So I do it in the mornings, when I'm still feeling fresh, and with my iPhone tucked into my bra, playing a podcast of one of Richard Fidler's interviews on ABC Radio National, I lose myself completely.
This week I listened twice to the Bill Leak interview, who sadly passed away last week. What a funny, and very clever man he was!
Today I listened to Felicity Kendall, which was totally enthralling. She and Richard Briers played the parts of Tom and Barbara Good in the 70's TV series "The Good Life".
It was my favorite TV program, as I was then in my twenties and yearned to live the good life way back then. Ha! A sign of things to come.

We generally can't keep up with eating them so they go into the freezer. Raspberries freeze very well, remaining as single berries with no preparation needed. Just freeze in air tight containers and use as needed.
My three freezers are full, and although I'm trying valiantly to empty one of them, (to have just two running and one as a spare), I'm fighting a losing battle. In just three weeks time there will be a whole pig to go in there somewhere.
So, I'm doing my best to move frozen stuff... into our bellies (meat), into jars (fruit and berries), or into bottles (tomatoes).
I've been making Raspberry jam, and filling it out a bit with apples, that are ripening on our trees.

As a jam maker, I love experimenting with blends of fruits and flavors, but I think it would be blasphemy to interfere with the pure and unique taste of raspberries, so I only want to use enough apple to stretch the raspberries a bit further without compromising the flavour.
The first batch I made this week I used 1kg of raspberries with 500g of apples.

Today I used half and half raspberries and apples. 1 kg of each.
They both taste good, but the second batch is not as raspberry tasting so I'll always use the first method in future.
So I've done the experiment for you and here are the measurements I used to make the better tasting batch of the two.

Raspberry and Apple Jam
You will need;
500g apples
1kg raspberries
1kg plus 250g  white sugar
1/2 cup water

Cook jams, sauces and chutneys in a large pan, allowing enough space to bubble and rise. It will be dangerously hot, and can spit.

500 g apples, peeled, cored and sliced
Half cup of water
Cook with lid on until the apples are soft, then mash with fork or potato masher.

At this point, take the lid off and leave it off.
On top of the apples pour in 1250g of white sugar (1kg plus 250g)
(It seems a lot, but I've already cut back on the usual recommended amount of "equal weight fruit to sugar.")
Heat through while stirring, it will almost dissolve the sugar.

Add 1kg of raspberries and stir to mix.

Keep the heat high enough to boil constantly, and stir frequently to prevent sticking on the bottom.

This will take approximately thirty minutes to one hour before it starts to thicken and look like bubbling larva.
Stir frequently!

Test for setting point by putting a dessertspoon of jam onto a saucer, and place in the freezer for a couple of minutes. Then, in very good light, move the spoon across slowly, and look for slight wrinkling on the surface of the jam. If there is wrinkling, it's sufficiently cooked and ready to pour into jars.
Another method is to run your finger through the jam. If it holds the gap, it is set enough to pour into jars.

Take off the heat and using a small jug, pour the hot jam into very clean dry jars. Screw on the metal lids immediately and they will seal as the jars cool. 

It's ready to eat immediately, but keeps well for more than a year in sealed jars, in a cool dark spot.

This calls for a batch of soda water scones.

Making jam is really simple, so if you haven't already tried it, why don't you give it a go.

Cheers from Jembella Farm kitchen, where I can be found every day this week, working at expanding  those spaces in the freezers.


Monday, 13 March 2017

Hello March

When I'm out and about, I occasionally meet people who follow this blog. I'm always thrilled to meet readers, am always humbled too, and in there somewhere I still feel some awe of this modern tech world that we live in. After all, here I am sitting at my desk, tapping out words to put underneath a few photos of our simple life, and the consequences of that are, to me, overwhelming in so many ways.
Unfailingly, over the last few months, I'm asked about Lavender. My dear little cow who suffered an awful trauma late last year. Lavender and Freddie and I realise now that I haven't done a very good job of keeping you up to date with her recovery.

I posted some photos a few weeks ago of how we were managing to milk her with three cups of the milking machine whilst catching the milk from the injured teat in a container placed on the floor.
In late January the teat looked like it was healed well enough to try putting the fourth cup on, and it worked! Initially she flinched because it must have felt strange, but now she accepts having the cup placed onto the teat with no fuss at all.

There is just enough length on the injured teat to hold the suction cup on securely. (Front teat on the other side furthest from the camera)

I'm pleased to report that her beautiful friendly nature has returned. Once again, she's usually waiting at the gate, ready to knock me over when I let her into the dairy lane-way. No more do I need to walk up to the paddock to bring her down, instead we can call out "C'mawn, C'mawn" in the loudest voice that carries across the valley to reach her ears. Her head goes up, ears go forward, and she sets off towards the lane that leads to the dairy.
She's cunning though and won't let down very much milk for me to take because she's waiting for me to let Freddie back in with her.
(On the days that I want to milk, Freddie is sectioned off into a separate paddock in the morning, so I can get some milk in the evening).
But we have a cunning way to prevent this happening. As Lavender is standing in the small yard before coming into the dairy, we open the gate to Freddie's yard and allow him to suckle for approximately half a minute and we can observe the milk starting to flow. Then we ask Lavender to 'Hup, hup" into the dairy, while blocking Freddie from following her.
We get twice as much milk by doing this, and now they know the drill, it's quite simple to manouvre.
Now and then I try bringing her straight into the dairy, thinking that surely she will let me have all her milk, but it doesn't work.

We took the two Angus steers, Ambrose and Gordon, to market last Thursday. Cattle prices are still holding, so it's definitely worth the effort of raising calves.
The temp was in the low thirties, but the stock were comfortable, now that the sale yards have water troughs in each yard. About time!

After weeks of temperatures in the high twenties and thirties, we had a refreshingly cool day yesterday with a few downpours. Gardening was abandoned, and the wood stove was begging to be lit up.
A look at the forecast weather for the next two days showed that it would be cool enough to have the stove lit for two days. So a rummage in the freezers resulted in a couple of bags of cooked bones that I'd been saving from our meals over the past few weeks. The bones are all from our own organic home raised chicken, beef and lamb, so are perfect for bone broth which needs to simmer for twenty four hours to release all of that goodness held in the bones.

This big wire spoon is perfect for taking out the bones at the end of cooking. I bought it in Kathmandu, Nepal, and I don't know what it's called but I'm pretty sure this kind of utensil could be purchased here in Australia.
I then tip the broth through a finer sieve before pouring into containers for the freezer.

I think my favourite storage container for broth is zip lock baggies. Sit them into a container in the fridge to cool before placing into the freezer.  Remove the container once the broth is frozen into a block. This makes it so easy to grab a small amount of broth when cooking. No need to think ahead and thaw it out the day before. Who's that organised?? Need to make gravy... grab a frozen bag of broth, into the pot on the stove, and within a few minutes it's thawed.

Another two batches of chutney were churned out; this one for the lovers of spicy hot..!

A small batch of Raspberry and Apple Jam.

A few sourdough loaves. It would be wasteful not to utilize the oven as well as the stove top. ;)

Tasting...for purposes of quality control. Someone has to do it!

Autumn has officially arrived, but here in South Australia we're getting the summer weather that we missed out on during Summer, so the stove has been allowed to go out, as we return to high temps for the next couple of weeks.
Gosh it was a nice two days though.! Come on Autumn.
Cheers and thanks for dropping in. :)

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Bye Bye February

I've been entering a few things in the Angaston Show over the past few years; maybe for the reason of following in our family tradition? I'm not sure.  My father was a keen supporter of our annual local show, by way of volunteering for the ring events Horses in Action, and he would also enter his flowers in the floral section, mostly the huge Dahlias he specialised in growing.
Then my older brother Mick, became a keen supporter in his adult years, and was a tireless volunteer in many areas of the annual show.
My sisters and I competed in the Horses in Action events with our horses from a young age too.
So when prompted five or so years ago by a young friend who was trying to drum up entries for the traditional and historic show hall display,  I promised I would support her by entering whatever I could manage, and in recent years it has snowballed from there.

 I always say that I'm not entering to win, but I can't deny the thrill of seeing my produce and entries displaying prize tickets when the judging is finished and we, the public, are allowed entry to the Show Hall.
The Barossa Valley Cheese Company are sponsors of the dairy section.  I was lucky to win the most successful overall points in that section with yoghurt, hard cheese, soft cheese, milk and butter.
For the second year in a row I've won their donated voucher to spend in their award winning cheese factory shop, and this year there were squeals of delight when I opened the envelope to see the generous amount of $50.!

Back to daily life again, fruit season, and this is my kitchen right now.  Wooden boxes (half cases) of fruit, picked from neglected orchards around the area, are  on the floors of the kitchen, passage and spare bedroom.
Great care is needed when getting up for a twinkle in the middle of the night, for fear of tripping over a box of pears!

The dehydrator is running around the clock, drying pears, peaches, nectarines and tomatoes.

Jars of preserved tomatoes, tomato sauce and chutney are being turned out daily.

The raspberry patch is productive and I'm picking every day. 

A few jars of a new (trial) jam made yesterday that passed the taste test, Raspberry and Peach, so another pot of the same ingredients is on the gas hot plate today.
That kombucha needs bottling off too.. Ahh, not enough hours in the day..!

 A new apiary that we're managing, over the ranges, roughly forty minutes away with a different flowering aspect to that which we are experiencing here this season. 
The hives are full of honey! So we extracted a few kilograms last week to put us back into the honey selling business from the Farmgate shop.

The hives have been neglected for a few years and the owner contacted us with a plea for help. After putting her on the right track, we asked her if she would like us to manage them for her, which was gratefully accepted. So, in exchange for a bit of honey for her own use, we now have two more stands of bees closer to the Adelaide Hills. 
Some of the hives were smothered by blackberry bushes, so there was a need for  suiting up to cut back the prickly bushes that were covered with tasty berries. I kept a few cuttings to pick off the berries when it was safe to take my suit off. Berries are irresistible to me, and I would have loved to pick lots more, but our work was cut out for quite a few hours, dealing with the bee hives.
We transferred all of the (triple high) nuc boxes, into full brood boxes with a super on top.
The owner had placed nuc supers on top of the nucs to give them more space to breed, thus stopping them from swarming. This was the best she could manage to do, being a rather elderly lady, and we praised her efforts. Even though it was an unusual way of bee keeping as such, she did the right thing in her limited circumstances.

The temperature was approximately 29 degrees, but fully suited, and working hard, it was like a sauna in our suits. I was trying to take some photos, but with my thick gloves on, it was a bit difficult. Later, I found lots of unintentional selfies! 

The shed on the property had lots of boxes stacked up to the roof, full of wax moth, and desperately in need of maintenance. We loaded up our cattle trailer and ute to bring them home to work on.

Brian has spent every evening this week, after his day job, scraping and burning off the wax moth residue and eggs, before sanding and then giving every box a new coat of paint. This is the third and final row of boxes.
We've booked ourselves up on Sunday for another full day of bee work at one of the apiaries, and will bring some frames home for extracting.  
These are long days with an early start, traveling to the hives, sorting and inspecting the hives before choosing frames full of honey, then traveling home to extract the honey in our honey shed, then one of us (Brian) takes the empty frames back to the hives, while the other (me) remains here to clean up the extracting equipment.

There's honey in the Farm-gate shop again, and the customers are grabbing it while they can.

This morning I walked up to the top of the hill to move the cows into a fresh paddock, as I do every few days. I had my phone, so snapped a photo looking back down to the house and gardens from the rear view. Although we're having a hot week or two now, this summer has seen more rain than I can ever remember experiencing here. The lawn grass around the house is still green, and for the first time ever, has needed mowing every couple of weeks right through summer.
The paddocks still have a good coverage of dry grass with green pickings of rye and phalaris coming through to keep the cows happy.

Now eleven months old, Ambrose and Gordon are off to market next week.
Lavender came on heat earlier this week, so Mulga Bill was very attached to her for a few days. Getting her in for milking, and away from him, was a bit interesting. Luckily we have lots of interconnecting yards and a clever gate system, so with the assistance of a few slices of bread thrown in the right place at the right moment, I tricked him into parting from her for a few minutes each morning and evening.
All being well, her due calving date will be December 7th. We will observe closely in three weeks time for any signs that Mulga shows interest in her. If not, we will know that she has been successfully mated.
I'm not milking Lavender twice a day, but I do need to bring her into the dairy so I can move her calf, Freddie, into another paddock for the day. I then milk Lavender in the evenings and let the calf in with her afterwards so he can spend the night with her.
Some days I don't milk her at all. ie, when we've got a full day doing something else, or if I'm working, so on those days the calf is allowed to remain with her. This is what I call share milking and  in my opinion, the most humane way to get milk and keep a happy cow and calf.
Oh another epic!
OK enough for now,
Cheers and thanks for popping in.

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