Saturday, 27 April 2019

An Accidental Outdoor Kitchen

It all started when Brian brought home a crumpled pile of wreckage that used to be an old wood stove.  Whenever there were a few spare minutes in his already busy days, he tinkered away in his shed until it was restored to it's former glory. He rebuilt the oven, made a new fire grate, rebuilt the ash draw, fixed the oven door and lined the back and sides with cast iron sheeting.
All the while we were pondering the perfect spot to install it for use. There were many things to consider as it would be functional and very useful in summer when it is too hot to light the wood fire inside the kitchen, and perfect for winter outdoor evenings.
It needs to be;
- Close enough to the house for practicality.
- Under cover- from rain and to provide shade for the cook on hot days.

An outdoor pizza oven had been on our list of things we wanted to build and while ongoing research  of building methods were stretching on, we had never been able to settle on a suitable position.
As we age we need to think of the practical side of our madness projects, so the Pizza oven plans had been put on hold.
As well as running the farm there were plenty of other projects going on in the meantime though; building the perfect shearing sling, the new sheep yards, the instant gas hot water service in the shed, the bigger meat saw. Oh, and he goes out to work full-time too.

I'm not certain which one of us came up with the idea of adding a small section onto the deck outside the kitchen door, and installing the wood oven there, under cover.
Oh joy, this could be a part of the outdoor kitchen I had always wanted.  I could cook all the things I usually cook in my kitchen wood stove on the days when it's too warm to heat the house. And lo... it would be suitable for outdoor pizza cooking too.
I often wondered at the practicality of the pizza oven when, in fact, we cook pizzas about six times a year. Yep, not all that practical really, and don't forget, practical is my middle name.

So work started on adding a metre to the deck. The first rotten joist was discovered, and from there it snowballed into replacing all, except one, of the joists.  The existing decking boards would be better if they were placed closer together to prevent draughts in winter. And besides, we didn't want to have a small area of new decking boards next to the old ones did we? So up they all came and all new decking boards were laid.

Each evening at beer o'clock, or wine o'clock in my case, more ideas came to mind and were tossed about.  Perhaps we should have some windows at one end to block the draught and semi-enclose the space to make it cosy.  Oh, and the galv cladding would look better if we extend it along the other side too. We can make a cafe bar on that section and buy some of those trendy Tolix cafe stools.

Of course then we need to cover the entire deck in clear sheeting to make it all waterproof while letting the light in. It will be hot in summer so we'll need to have a shade cloth awning made to put over the top in summer, and buy a trendy industrial fan.

The old ceramic butlers sink on the bench down in the vege garden would look lovely up here on one the work benches. Yes, kitchen benches on both sides of the wood stove.
Do you see where this is going?

Electricals were next;  enter the electrician. Light fittings and power points to be installed.
Plumbing to and from the butler's sink. Brian can do that. Phew!
Shelves under the bench tops, and a couple of cupboard doors at one end.

How did that free wood stove turn into this?

Meanwhile the mess of building materials, old and new, must be endured, while thinking ahead towards the finished product.

Whilst Jack is chilled out about the mess am I the only one who has experienced anxiety during a building renovation project?
For the first two days I could not get used to the way it looked different to what I had envisaged.  It has changed my outlook from the kitchen sink; I can't see all the way down to the garden, and that bothered me more than I thought it would. I keep reminding myself how good it will be when finished. How much fun it will be to style the new 'room' and make into a more practical and homely space than it was previously.

There is still much work to be completed, but I'm going away on my planned break for a week of rest and visiting friends.
The control freak in me has instructed Brian to hold off work on any more of the aesthetic parts until my return, but there are plenty of unseen jobs to be completed so he won't be idle. Ha, we can't have that can we?

See you on the other side folks.


Sally XX


Tuesday, 23 April 2019


 I'm very late in sharing the news of Lavender's new calf Minnie. I hope you were not holding your breath in anticipation.
The event took me by surprise last Wednesday morning.  (April 17th)
At feeding time Lavender's udder did not look large enough for imminent calving, but two hours later there was a small black shape on the ground, being licked by her mama, almost to the point of being rubbed out.

Honeysuckle watched with increasing interest as Lavender welcomed her new baby.

Honeysuckle moves in for a closer look....

....and closer.
The heifers in the adjoining paddock were fascinated with the proceedings. 

The most frustrating part of watching our animals give birth is observing the clumsy attempts of the newborn trying to locate and latch onto the teat to take its first nourishment.  I decided to leave them alone for an hour while I attended to other jobs, and hoped the new calf would have found the teat during my absence.

In my experience, I will intervene if the calf has not had its first drink within two hours of birth. It is a simple matter of putting a halter on the cow, one person holds her still while the other person guides the calf to the teats. 

When I returned - without my phone to capture the moment- I found the calf suckling on Honeysuckle, who wore a blissed-out look of love on her face.  Lavender was standing next to them licking her calf.  
Great suckle Minnie, but wrong cow! 

With the aid of a feed bucket I lured Honeysuckle out of the paddock and walked her over to join the other cows. 
The poor girl was visibly upset, pacing the dividing fence and calling out to the calf for nearly four hours until she settled and joined her new paddock friends. 

Lavender's instinct was to stay close to her calf and although her water trough and hay rack were only ten to fifteen metres away she would not walk that far to drink. Calving is thirsty work;  I filled the bucket three times before she was sated and returned to munching the pile of hay that I placed close by.

This is the second time I have witnessed Honeysuckle allowing a strange calf to suckle her, so it seems she may become a good foster mother to future brought in calves.  
And in future I will separate her from other calving cows as her maternal instinct appears to be exceptional. 
But don't feel too bad for sweet Honeysuckle, her own calf is due to arrive in October, and because she is a Jembella cow, she will keep her baby. 
According to the details from her previous owners, she has given birth to one calf last year, but as she was part of a commercial dairy herd, her motherhood was very short lived. That is just too sad to contemplate and I am grateful everyday that we choose to farm naturally, to consume dairy products from cows who provide milk with love for their offspring.

Lavender and Minnie have been kept in a paddock separate from the other cows for five days so I can feed her a special food mix of chaff and minerals to boost her calcium and magnesium requirements. Today she was ready to join the other cows and show off her new calf.
After opening the adjoining gate, I watched closely as Minnie and Lavender joined the other cows, and wondered if Honeysuckle would try to kidnap the calf again.

Whilst Lavender's udder appears to be very full right now, and the calf is not drinking all the milk she is producing, I will let nature guide her to adapt to supply and demand.  However, when she walked into the dairy and stood waiting for me yesterday morning, it was a sure sign that she wanted me to take a bit of milk to ease the pressure.  I took three litres of lovely fresh Lavender milk and she looked more comfortable.
Our milk needs are small at present with no pigs to feed and cheese making taking a back seat, so I will milk her once or twice a week. This is how adaptable we can be with managing a dairy animal.
If we plan well, leave the calf with its mother, and have no need for copious quantities of milk, we are able to manage the milking to suit our requirements. This will not work for all breeds of cows, but it has been successful in managing our mixed breed dairy/beef cows. It is another reason why I love the mixed breeds.
I am enjoying a break from everyday milking, (the outside milking) and all of the tasks involved with using the milk (the inside milking).
There is more time available for replanting and revitalizing our sad drought affected gardens, some house renovations, and holiday plans for spirit and energy renewal.
I hope you all had a wonderful break over the Easter weekend. We swore off chocolate this year, but I made a huge and delicious batch of Easter buns which we are still eating.
House renovations are ongoing, and I will tell you about that next time.

Sally XX

Friday, 12 April 2019

Friday.. And No Calf Yet

 What's going on Lavender? I took this photo 288 days ago when you and Mulga Bill were definitely up to something.
The gestation time for you bovine creatures is 283 days so would you please tell that calf to get a hurry on.
This is all I'll say on the subject right now.

 In other news.... Goldie has begun to lay.

I'm leaving them in the nest and a new egg is added each day. I'm going to let her sit on them when she thinks there are enough. How many will she lay before she starts sitting?

Dad rooster is a fine looking fellow with the attitude of one very much larger. In fact, he has become very protective lately and attacks my leg every morning when I let them out of their shed. If I was wearing shorts my legs would be badly scratched so this is not a good habit for him to have. Therefore, if it continues he will need to be dispatched just as soon as we can replace him with another rooster. I haven't yet found a suitable name for him, and perhaps that's the reason why. 

Brian has two cage fox traps down in the paddock below the poultry yards. Yesterday morning another fox was trapped.  There are five dead foxes hanging from the fence now and the trap has been set again with a roadkill rabbit as bait.

The nights have been cold this week and the days cool enough for the kitchen wood stove to be burning all day. Lots of cooking and baking has been happening. 
I love sourdough baking and although we eat a very small amount of bread, I can't stop making it. Fortunately there are enough people who will take them off my hands each day for $7 per loaf through the Farmgate stall at our front gate.  

The Farmgate stall through the eyes of one of our visitors who kindly sent me this photo.

The morning rush hour.  
A motley looking bunch, but it's not their looks we care about. These are destined for the freezers, just as soon as I can make some space between the beef, pork, lamb, bone broth and other necessary flotsam that cannot be chucked out. 

A few jars of Mulberry Jam made from some berries taking up space in the freezer.  
Oh dear, the skanky old fly swatter steals the show in the background but I can't be without it at present. The flies!!!  It must be the change in the season. Warm days, cold nights, they just want to get inside the house.
We will be here all weekend waiting for a calf and building the new deck. 
This project has snowballed into a major undertaking. Brian has it all under control but I'm quite hopeless at imagining how it will look and, to make matters worse, I've been given the task of searching the salvage yards for the windows! Help!! Measurements and me don't mix so it should be interesting. 
Wherever you are, and whatever you're doing I hope you enjoy a peaceful weekend. 

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Sunday - Waiting for a Calf


 Big girl Lavender is a little short tempered during these the last few days of her pregnancy and who can blame her?  She is due to have her calf  tomorrow (Monday) or Tuesday and she is huge, so you can expect my next blog post to be all things cow and calf.

 I won't be going far from here until her calf is safely delivered and suckling well, so we spent the day busily getting on with normal stuff.

 I made a four kilo batch of apricot jam from fruit I had stored in the freezer. 

 Do you save the froth that is skimmed off the top of the jam before bottling? Waste not want not, and it is perfectly fine to eat.

 Now that all the events are finished for summer, a renovation has begun. And what a mess!

 Today's view from the kitchen sink. 
Last winter we were given an old wood stove that had fallen into a sad state of disrepair. Brian spent many hours in his workshop shed working on the restoration, while we pondered where to install it.  What was going to be a small job of placing it onto the deck as part of our outdoor kitchen, has snowballed into a major rebuild. New deck flooring, windows (yes windows), and clear sheeting across the entire deck roof.

A home grown chook baked in the kitchen wood oven for dinner tonight. Those fatty bits cut from the bacon added a delicious smoky bacon flavour to the meat, potatoes and onions cooked in the same pot. Served with zucchini cooked in butter and garlic (we still have a glut) and oven roasted tomatoes (a glut of them too), there's plenty left over for our lunches tomorrow.

Special thanks to Rhonda over at Down to Earth.  I've been fortunate to participate in her latest Writing Workshop and yesterday was our second and final Skype session with three other ladies doing the course.  I have absorbed like a sponge the experience and knowledge she shares so generously.  The course has helped me to look at my writing with more clarity,  motivated me to write more articles for Grass Roots Magazine, and who knows? perhaps a book one day.
If Rhonda intends to facilitate more of these Writer's Workshops, I can highly recommend taking part if you want to start getting serious about your writing.

And now, pulling on coat and boots for one more observation check on the mother in waiting before hitting the pillow.

I hope to have calf news for you tomorrow or Tuesday.

Cheers for now,
Sally XX

Friday, 5 April 2019

Bio-dynamic Field Day and The Ordinary Days Ahead

There was a large turnout at our Bio-dynamic Field Day on Tuesday this week, where attendees embraced the talks and demonstrations with great interest.
It was wonderful to spend the day with so many people who are keen to learn the finer points of living, growing and farming using the bio-dynamic philosophy; as Brian and I  have been doing for the past fifteen years.
John Hodgkinson from Bio-dynamics Agriculture Australia  Bellingen, NSW kept us all enthralled with the spiritual aspects of BD, and Shane Joyce from Kilkivan, Qld, inspired us with his knowledge of practical cattle farming using bio-dynamics.

Bio-dynamic Field Day at Jembella Farm on Tuesday April 2nd.

      Filling cow horns with fresh cow dung.

Brian and Shane Joyce burying the cow horns in the pit to make Prep 500.

The crowd were interested in our Peter Andrews inspired leaky dam. Now it just needs to rain. 

Our Team; Shane Joyce (Qld), Brian, Roger Carthew (BAA Chair), John Hodgkinson (NSW), Sally.

Ordinary days ahead at Jembella Farm
 All of the events for this summer have been ticked off on the calendar.
Beekeeping workshops, Farming workshops, visitor tour groups and catering.
The people have gone home. The catering boxes of cups, crockery and urn have been returned to the cellar, the trestle tables are back in the shed.
Life here at Jembella will take on an ordinary rhythm once again.
It feels good. No pressure. Ordinary is going to be wonderful.

Happy weekend ahead dear reader.

Sally XX

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