Saturday, 2 June 2018

Olive Picking and Pickling

 Whopper olives!

 We picked our first crop from this olive tree that we planted approximately four years ago. I wish I could remember its name but I can't find the tag that I carefully put in a safe place.

 Yesterday I put them into jars using the same process that I posted about  here in 2015. 

This morning I've been out picking a half bucket of olives from a roadside tree in a secret location ;-) and have them soaking in pure rain water for three days.

At an auction a few years ago I bought a box of kitchen items for $1. Luckily this gadget was still in it's box, otherwise there's no way I'd have known what the heck it was used for.

It's an olive pitter and I do use it!!  We had home made pizza last night and although Brian is not a fan of olives, my half always has heaps of home pickled olives piled on.
And the other question.... to pineapple, or not to pineapple, on a pizza?

If you enjoy eating olives but have always thought that pickling them was too hard, have a go, it's really dead easy. The only difficult part is waiting six months until ready to eat, but if you do them every year, you'll always have some ready for eating.
Let me know how you go.
Cheers, and thanks for visiting.
XX :)

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Can that be right?

Exactly two months between posts and you might well ask, where the heck have you been? In fact I'm asking this to myself right now.
Can that be right? We're teetering on the very edge of May, and about to jump into month number six, and from then on, well.... we both know that it's all a gallop downhill to the end of the year again.
Oh life! So it must be a sign of good things hey? Time flies when you're having fun and all that...!
I certainly can't complain, although the lumpy bits seem to be mountainous when they occur, but isn't it miraculous how, in hindsight, we discover that things happen for a multitude of reasons?
Generally they are a form of "correction" to bring us back into balance.  I vaguely remember hearing that said about the Global financial situation, we needed a recession to "correct" the balance of something that included the words 'fiscal' and  'monetary policies' etc. You can see that I don't know a squit about any of that stuff, but life certainly does throw us some 'corrections', to even out the balance of our conscious presence in this world.

Life has not stood still though, and plenty has been happening about the farm. This constant in my life (one of many) for which I'm ever grateful and appreciate more as time moves forward.
The authenticity of this little piece of our world, keeps me grounded when all hell is breaking loose out there. The discovery and appreciation of what and who, are really necessary to survive.
So, there has been some spring cleaning, and onward we move.

 On a very hot afternoon in April, Lavender had her long awaited calf. As the signs were clear that she was in labour we observed from a short distance to allow her full concentration on her task of pushing out this beautiful healthy heifer. A quick birth with no complications, baby suckled well from the start, a textbook calving.

Baby was up and about within thirty minutes of arriving into the world. Lavender is in good shape and her udder is coping well with the demands of all that milk being produced for her calf. I left her for three days before I brought her into the dairy to take some of her milk for us. She has plenty, although she wasn't letting down for me, so we brought her calf in and allowed her to suckle until the milk let down. Then we guided the calf away and quickly attached the milking cups and milked a few litres. We had to do this little trick for just three days until she realised that we were leaving plenty of milk in her udder for the calf.
I love this way of milk sharing for two reasons.
Firstly and uppermost in our ethical thoughts on raising food for consumption, the calf and mother are allowed to be together as nature intended. Cows love their babies. They mourn the loss of their baby when it is taken from her at two days old. I don't care what anyone says, about how quickly she forgets her calf and all the platitudes and excuses. In an ideal world, this is the only type of milk I want to consume. And I'm able to do this under my control, in my sometimes ideal world. Oh of course I eat cheeses and dairy products made from conventionally farmed dairy cows, but here, because I can, I want my cows to be as happy and as natural as they can possibly be.
The second reason why I love this share system that Lavender and I have going, (our little contract with each other) I can skip milking whenever I feel like not milking, or when I don't need milk that day, or when I/we go on HOLIDAY.!!

We went away on holiday for two weeks!
 Driving across Western NSW  for five days before reaching the beautiful town of Bellengin near the Central Coast of NSW.

 Meg settled into holiday mode rather too well. 

Lots of wonderfully quiet free camping out bush during the drives there and back. Gosh, it's terribly dry out there in NSW.

 A short drive from Bellengin is Coffs Harbour, where we ventured one day during our stay. Not prepared for the hustle and bustle of busy big towns and cities (we were stuck fast in the slow pace of holiday mode), a quick lunch of fish and chips at the wharf, and we were on our way back to peaceful little Bello again.

But before we could take time away from the farm, the important job of burying cow horns filled with cow manure had to be done.

The basic rule is to prepare Prep 500 during the full moon at Easter, but here in South Australia we wait until the first rain has arrived. This year we had a bit of rain a couple of weeks after Easter so we got ours filled and buried during the days around the full moon in April.
They will lay under the ground over winter and we will dig them up after six months.

The 500 pit covered with hessian bags and an old gate to prevent dogs or chooks from scratching them up.

Seeing double? Or double trouble?
We've talked about getting a second Kelpie so when this one appeared on Gumtree we made inquiries. Purchased as a cute puppy, this little girl was not bred for a suburban back yard with small children. So by the time she reached seven months they had no control over her at all. Hopefully they have learned their lesson about acquiring unsuitable pets for the conditions.
We see this all too often but it continues. 
We named her Soda because it rhymed with the last two syllables of her previous name which was far too long and unsuitable as a working dog. 
The first day with her here and we really thought we had made a big mistake! She was uncontrollable! But after hours and hours of training over the first two days, and gaining her trust in us, her behavior has done a complete turnaround. What a great little dog she is, and we look forward to many years ahead with her. What a delight it is to see her so happy here, running free in the paddocks with the other dogs, and generally trying to please us with her beautiful nature.
Casterton Kelpie Muster is coming up during the June long weekend, of course we're going, but with two Kelpies this time. ;-)
Cheers for now, and thanks for visiting.

To European readers, privacy laws have changed and as a blogger, the European Union Laws require me to give EU visitors information about cookies and data collected on my blog.
Apparently there is a cookie and privacy notice displayed on my blog for EU visitors, but because I'm not in the EU I can't see it.
So may I ask you please, if you're  reading this from the EU, to write a short comment to tell me if you can see this notice. Please also mention which country you're in so we can identify problem areas if they arise. Many thanks to you all.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

An Impromptu Holiday...with a twist.

Dragging my bloke away for a holiday is not always easy.  I'm sure many of you women out there will know what I mean. However, include the holiday with sheep, bees, cows, (insert anything that your bloke might be interested in) and well, now we're talking!
Some Texel ram lambs were advertised for sale in country Victoria, and as they're not easy to buy here in South Australia, what better excuse was there to hitch up the Avan and drive over to buy a couple of them?
Our Avan is well set up for camping, with solar power for lights, and gas for the little fridge, so we prefer to camp out bush whenever possible. We would never have found this quiet spot just minutes from Bendigo, if not for some last minute preparation (late night browsing on-line camping forums.)
We had agreed to be at the farm on the other side of Bendigo to collect our Rams mid morning, so this turned out to be a great spot to spend a quiet night.

Rams collected and the deal done, we set off on the return journey with our precious cargo.
The boys had a bale of straw to stand and sleep on, a bale of hay to eat and a bucket tied to the side of the sheep hurdles for water. They were content and traveled very well.
What better holiday could a bloke have? Chops on the barbecue (yes, lamb chops but we didn't mention it to the boys) a beer in hand, and two new sheep to look at.
We enjoyed another free camp well off the road between Dimboola and Nhill, before arriving home on the afternoon of the third day.

There was enough time before dark to shear, de-worm and vaccinate Bertie and Ernie before settling them in for their first night here on Jembella.
We're working on making them quiet enough for easy handling, but not so quiet they will push us around when they grow into big rams. A fine line, but it will make our job of moving them around much easier if they will jump onto the trailer by following a bit of food. 
Tex the Texel Ram did this so beautifully when we borrowed him from a friend during the last two years.
A couple of days away from home does wonders for refreshing and recharging the batteries, but now I wonder how I can lure him away again, for a bit longer.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Cows - Mulga-Bill is Home

I couldn't figure out why Lavender has patches of light over each eye in this photo. My shadow perhaps?
The girls were confined to this small yard while Mulga Bill was loaded from the trailer and pushed along the lane-way to  the safety of his (Alcatraz) paddock.  Electric fences, with a paddock buffer zone on all sides of his paddock.
Poppy was due to come on-heat in the next couple of days and we don't want Mulga getting access to her at this young age of nine months.
The following day he caught wind of her though and lifted his gate from its hinges and was standing in the 'buffer zone' paddock when I got out there first thing in the morning.
Roused from my wake up cup of tea when I heard the timbre of his voice sounding a bit different than usual. I was out there in a flash in my PJ's and rubber boots, no time for putting on socks.
Quick work and luck on my side, the two girls were up near the yards waiting for their breakfast, so I was able to confine them out of sniffing distance while I called Brian  to come home from work.
"Emergency please Brian!"  I wish I had my camera with me,  to show you the circus unfolding, but as soon as Brian picked up a small twig and waved it about in front of Mulga, he turned and walked back into his paddock.
A second hot wire was put place, and although Mulga sang romantic songs to Poppy, and every other heifer in our valley, peace reigned and safety was restored.
He's having a short stay here at home before going off to his next job in early April. There's no need for him here as Lavender's calf is due to arrive in April or May.
It's not what we planned, her due date of calving  in December came and went. No calf!
We saw her being mated on February 6th and again three weeks later on Feb 27th. Surely one of those matings was successful?
I dragged out my 2017 diary and found that Mulga had returned home for a ten week period in July/August and during the time that he was here, and running with Lavender, I noted in my diary on June 29th "Lavender looks like she's on-heat. What the?? Isn't she already pregnant?"
OK..!! So we counted forward 283 days (looking at our Cattle Gestation Table) for a due date of April 7th 2018. 
So her February matings were either unsuccessful OR she may have slipped her calf early on in her pregnancy. Whatever happened, we will never know, but looking at her now, she's definitely in calf this time.
I dried her off (ceased milking) in late October, expecting her to have two dry months before calving in December. It's been all that time that I haven't had a cow to milk and fresh milk to play cheese, kefir, butter, yogurt, etc
If you think I might be counting the days until I get those milking cups onto her again, turn the handle of the cream separator, get a batch of cheese on the go... you'd be absolutely correct.!
Five months is a monumental time of waiting.. deprived of raw fresh frothy milk, but the time is drawing near.
Little Murray Grey steer is Mulga Bill's companion whilst he's in his Alcatraz paddock and away from any heifers. They have access to two paddocks, approximately three acres in total.
One large round bale of hay in the cow feeder is being consumed each week as it's the end of our dry summer and barely any feed in the paddocks. Every morning they have a treat of a few slices of bread, to maintain the friendly contact between us.

Yesterday I followed the trail back from one of the comments on my previous post, as I frequently do, and found a delightful new blog that will be getting a regular visit from me.  Laura from  Grow Gather Enjoy sounds like the person I'd happily invite around for a morning cuppa and a chat about anything and everything.
I'm presently trying to insert her blog onto my side-bar under "blogs I read" but for some reason it's not cooperating, so you will need to use the link above to go over for a peek. A glitch (on my part) that will iron itself out hopefully.

Cheers for now,
Sally XX

Friday, 16 March 2018

Growing and Changing

Hello and welcome. Pull up a chair and lets catch up, it's been too long. I'll put the kettle on and warm some scones.

Life has been ticking along here since I posted about zucchinis in my last blog post. The zucchinis are still growing and landing on the kitchen bench almost daily, and I'm happily keeping up with them. 
It's really quite incredible how many ways they can be included into our diet and we still haven't tired of them. In fact I'll be sorry to see the last of them, but I've preserved a number of jars of ratatouille with added onions, tomatoes and garlic for quick easy additions to meals during the winter.

 (Lightly fry sliced zucchini, onion and chopped garlic, add some sliced apple too if you want to, then add chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper. A small amount of kasoundi, marsala paste or chilli flakes added give a bit of depth to the flavour but is optional. Cook until it looks tender and ready to eat..then.. fill the mixture into your clean jars. Screw the lids on tightly. They must be metal lids. Stand in a large pot on a cake stand or similar so the jars are not touching the bottom of the pan. Pour in water until it reaches half way up the largest jar. It doesn't matter if the water covers the smallest jars and it's OK for the jars to touch each other. If the contents of the jars is still hot be sure not to pour in cold water or your jars will crack. Put the lid on the large pot, bring to the boil then turn down the temperature but it must remain lightly boiling for approx twenty to thirty minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the jars in the pot without removing the lid until next day. Check the lids are slightly concave, they have sealed. Store in a cupboard where they will keep for months or even years. Any that don't seal can be place in the fridge and eat within a week.)

It's terribly dry here. The vegetable gardens have water priority over the house gardens so the plants are looking quite sad with just enough water to keep them alive.

 The stone fruits have finished, (peaches, apricots and nectarines) but we're still picking tomatoes, capsicums, basil, lettuce, kale greens and beetroot, plus herbs... and zucchinis of course. The apples are ripening nicely, with these Jonathons the first to be bagged up and sold in the farmgate stall.
Brian has planted the first crop of brassicas; a few each of cabbages, cauliflower, and broccoli. He'll keep planting a few plants every month or so, and we will have a steady flow of these delicious winter veges right through until next summer.

 The plants are only just hanging in there.

By creating an illusion with green plants and trees at all entrances to the house I can cope with the dry season.

The courtyard/outdoor room.

 I find it difficult to believe that I've been retired (from paid outside work) for almost a year. I'm fascinated though at the way this past year has unfolded.
When I was employed three days a week I loved my days at home, busily doing all the things I wanted to do, and not wanting to go out anywhere on those 'home' days.
For the first six months of retirement, I had so many things I wanted to do here at home that I felt, pretty much, the same way about going out as I did when I was employed. Content to be at home in my own company.
So moving forward six months, I've caught up on lots of those tasks I wanted to get done, life is allowed to move a little slower, stress levels are as low as they could ever be (what's stress?) and now I actually enjoy going out, meeting friends, exploring new places and ticking off activities that were always there in my mind but never had the time or energy to do it.
The first year of retirement is a biggie for most people, where we learn how to manage our time, learn how to wind down, and discover new things about the way we think and the way we see things.
I still have a little work to do on myself about managing my time, or more specifically, being more disciplined with my time, but overall this life is not too bad. I can thoroughly recommend it in fact.
Everyone is different, and has different ways of looking at things. I'm gradually figuring out ways to balance my need for peaceful solitude with my social and people interactive needs.  Looking back now I can see how very tired I was, and my needs for solitude were much stronger then, than they are now.
It seems to me that our best years of life are spent in a constant struggle to achieve, and our tiredness levels are beyond measure. Believe me, looking back from where I now sit, it's as clear as day, but little do we realise this at the time, when we're in it, so to speak.

 Out and about with friends at Adelaide Writer's Week. I've always wanted to go, and at last I have the time and energy.

 Out and about with my bloke! At the Garden of Unearthly Delights; Adelaide Fringe Festival.

I've been a bit quiet on social media for the past couple of months, feeling the need to concentrate my energy on the here and now and to engage fully in my days and the people around us. Of course I still enjoy switching on my laptop a couple times a week to read about what my blogging friends are up to, but apologies for my lack of comments.

I did my best with entries in the local Angaston Show at the end of February and won a few prizes with jams, sauce and cordial.   However, without a lactating cow at present, my only entry in the dairy section was this matured cheese that I made early last year, but it won first prize and enough overall points to gain the trophy for "Most Successful" in the dairy produce section.  The entries were so few, sadly! 
A lovely $50 voucher donated by our local "Barossa Valley Cheese Co" which I can spend on their delicious prize winning gourmet cheeses. I think this kind of Trophy is much better than a thing to sit on the shelf and look at. 

I came very close to stepping on a Brown snake two days in a row. I think they were two separate snakes (one was much bigger than the other) which doesn't thrill me knowing there are TWO snakes hanging around the house! My main concern is for the dogs who both have a tendency towards attacking lizards and anything that crawls or slithers. The hay bale net wrap is placed strategically to trap any snakes who might slither through and I check it frequently in case a trapped lizard may need rescuing.  None so far, thankfully.
My tea cup is empty and the wind has whipped up bringing with it the smell of rain, or is it merely an illusion? A mirage perhaps, so desperate are we for a bit of rain.
I'll tell you about the cows next time.
Cheers, :-)


Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Zucchini (Courgette) Time Again

Beautiful fresh zucchinis (courgette) are starting to pile up on the bench and in the fridge so it was time to make relish.
First, I must say that we try very hard to eat our garden produce in its most natural and nutritious state of rawness (first choice) or lightly cooked.  We're enjoying zucchini sliced in  tossed salads, chopped in coleslaw, lightly cooked in garlic butter, in our fresh juice with carrot and apple, in quiches, frittata, lasagne, zucchini and walnut cake.... but still they keep building up.
I did a search through my old posts to find Zucchini Relish and within just over one hour there are no zucchinis left in the fridge and a dozen jars of relish cooling on the table.
I've made a couple of changes to the recipe though, adding some coriander seeds and some salt, which I have amended on the original post.
So if life gives you lemons, make lemonade; but if life gives you zucchinis...well you know what you can do.
Wishing you a long and fruitful zucchini season..Ha! That's all very well to say now, but it's just the beginning of what looks like a bumper year for the humble zucchini. Ask me again in another month and my words may likely be uttered through my teeth.
Cheers X

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Summer 2018

After a mild start to summer, our part of Australia is really heating up now.  The split system air-con that we had installed during renovations fifteen years ago, but have rarely used, had a couple of runs last week.  This 106 year old house is solid stone and surrounded on three sides with wide verandas covered in Glory Vine (Ornamental Grape) so it retains its cool for a few days if we keep it closed up during the heat of the day and open it up when the outside air is cooler than inside.
The ceiling fans get a good workout, as do a couple of free standing fans to focus on the parts that the ceiling fans don't reach, and they cost only a pittance to run.  But when the temps are soaring between 36deg and 42deg for more than four days in a row the walls start to warm up. I'm so very thankful that the air-conditioning is there, when we really need to use it.

There's very little outside work happening, apart from my morning garden and animal care, which needs to be done very early on hot days. The evening garden and animal jobs are done after the worst heat of the day has passed.

 Brian keeps plodding along as he doesn't mind the heat, and his jobs list is always long. I draw the line at cutting chaff, mowing lawns, mending fences and digging the garden on hot days, but I admit I'm getting a bit lazy these last couple of years and have learned to prioritize tasks. However, when there are livestock involved, there are times when fence mending and animal maintenance has to be done in all weather.
  We hired a commercial size shredder over the New Year long weekend and removed a row of nine Flinders Range Wattles that were past their best. Planted in 2004 as a wind break for our main vegetable patch, the roots were beginning to invade the vegetable plots and we had plans for planting a double row of bee loving trees in their place.
A nice pile of firewood and lots of lovely mulch that I've spread along the paths throughout the gardens. In winter time the garden paths in the house yard become dangerously muddy and slippery, so wood mulch is the best material at hand for this.

Halfway there, just the stumps to go.

A double row of Leptospermum Scoparium (Manuka) for the bees to produce some Australian (Manuka) honey. This is a fenced lane that joins part of the poultry yards, so it has been temporarily fenced off until the little trees are tall enough to withstand chooks scratching around them.

Between naps on the front seat, (drivers side door is open) Meg is on the lookout for any geese or chickens that might cross the line and enter the work zone.

It was just too hot for the foreman.

The following weekend it was cool enough to process sixteen of the chickens from our last incubation hatching a few months ago. 
There are roughly twenty left to process, when time permits and the weather cools off a bit. 
Just in case you're thinking I'm some kind of marvelous farming woman, I might add that I'm not involved in this activity in any way except for packaging for the freezer, and later on, the cooking of said chicken after retrieving in a civilized fashion from the freezer.
Childhood memories of gagging at the smell of hot wet feathers while my father plucked a chicken for a special Sunday roast lunch, is still too off-putting, even after all these years. Well...that's my excuse anyway. ;-)

We attended three local livestock markets before surrendering to high market prices to buy this Murray Grey steer.  Cattle prices are staying high, which is great news for breeders.
We sold off our weaners at good prices last year, so that we could rest our home block for awhile. Now we need a few youngsters to grow on and ouch!!'s a bit different being on the other side of the trade . Aiming to double our investment when we sell him again after eight months or so, is better than money in the bank.

At the same market this pen of twelve Merino ewe lambs looked so malnourished and poorly we just had to buy them (cheaply) and bring them home to be properly looked after. After worming, vaccinating and on good dry pasture with access to minerals they have improved beyond recognition in just three weeks. 
They will return our investment many times over with their lambs over the next few years. 

 Do you remember Trevor? The little lamb that was my biggest challenge last winter, is now just one of the flock and has caught up in size to the other Merinos. He wanders over to say hello to me, but he prefers the company of his friends. Brian remains under strict instructions that this little guy will never be loaded up for market or the butcher. Luckily his Merino wool is of value, so I have a fair and balanced reason to keep him. ;-)

These raspberries need picking, and then the dogs and I will be retiring to the cool of the house today as it's already 32c degrees at 9am.
There are zucchinis to be made into relish and then, as it's Sunday, perhaps I'll work at that pile of library books on my desk.
Have a wonderful day friends, wherever you may be.

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