Wednesday, 10 June 2020


The hay shed catches the first rays of sun in the mornings when I fork out enough hay to fill the cow's hay rack. Just a short walk to the rack on the other side of the fence, but it takes quite a few trips, so I often think I've done the equivalent of a morning walk after the exertion that warms me to the bone.

The past few mornings have been frosty with temps of -2C degrees at sunrise; two pairs of gloves are required to keep the fingers from seizing up.

Some rain last week accompanied by this rainbow in the late afternoon.

Pekin bantam shenanigans in the house garden. 

I could not imagine life without this. 
Day and night, a fire burns or coals glow; always at the ready to warm, revive, boil a kettle, bake bread, cook all of our meals, incubate cheese and yoghurt cultures. All round most useful and appreciated appliance and much loved soul of our kitchen is this Irish made Stanley wood combustion stove.

 One, two and often three per day.  Thankful that orders from buyers enables my obsessive sourdough making. 

 Working from the kitchen today as a pot of dried apricot jam bubbles on the wood stove. I cannot be trusted to leave the room when cooking, such is my propensity for becoming easily sidetracked. 

Dried apricot jam will guarantee to stick to the bottom of the pan as soon as my back is turned.

Thank you to those folks who have sent emails and messages following the publication of my article in the latest Grass Roots magazine. (No.259 June/July 2020 issue.) 
A couple of emails from people who wanted more information on skin moisturisers and deodorant that I mentioned in the article.
Maximum word limits sometimes make it difficult to elaborate in the magazine, and I tend to be a bit too wordy. My thanks always to the editors, Megg and Jessamy for their unwavering patience and encouragement.

My deodorant for everyday use is simply organic coconut oil mixed in a small jar with a few drops of essential oil. I prefer a very slight hint of fragrance and find that lavender oil does not change its scent on my skin as some fragrances do.
I once made deodorant using lemongrass essential oil which, after a few hours on my body, started to smell like urine!  However it wasn't wasted, we used it as bee pheromone to attract a swarm to a bee box, but that's another story for another time.

To avoid leaving oily residue on our clothes, a small amount is all that is required.  I especially like it on these freezing winter mornings, when deodorant roll-on or from a spray bottle feels cold to the touch and takes a minute or so to dry.
Coconut oil is also used as body moisturiser. Unscented, rubbed on arms and legs especially during summer is cheap and chemical free. Add a dash of lavender oil to repel flies and mosquitoes. 
Did you know that Parabens in many cosmetics and body moisturisers, are the cause of hormonal issues? Parabens and many other chemicals are scientifically proven hormone disrupters.
Our skin is the body's largest organ, is very absorbent so we really need to be careful what we put on it.

And hand moisturiser?.... is right there on the kitchen bench in a squirty bottle.
Olive oil rubbed in well, as often as required, is also cheap and chemical free.

We have some excellent local producers here and our trade economy is always welcomed. This is one of our favourite extra virgin oils, from John and Vicki at Cornucopia Farming.

 Glenafton Goats milk products are chemical free and extremely well priced.
I love this facial  moisturiser for my weathered and dry old skin. 

What I reckon is... if you wouldn't put it in your mouth, then why would you rub it onto your skin?
For $12 a pot, and free postage, I usually order three pots at a time to cut down the postage costs for the small family manufacturer.  I get almost a year from three pots, using it every morning and night.

When I think of the dollars that I wasted on 'products' during my lifetime, I squirm.  But when I think of the chemicals that I used to slather onto my skin and hair that were washed down in the waste water, the plastic bottles and containers I unwittingly encouraged, I cringe with shame.
There's no point stressing over the past, but once we have the knowledge we can be empowered to do better for our health and well-being, and for the sake of the planet.
Choose wisely folks.

Sally XX

Friday, 29 May 2020

The End of May - Pruning and Cows

Hello Friends,

It's the end of May and the last of the Glory Vine surrounding the house verandah has been pruned and mulched.
Brian did the pruning in less than an hour. Before I could offer to assist it was all on the ground.!  That man! He certainly gets on with things without a minute's hesitation. He is truly motivation on steroids.
"Leave the cuttings on the ground." I said.  "I want to go through them and make a wreath." 
The least I could do was pick up the mess on the ground, and I needed to find a valid excuse so that he didn't rush to do it all, and leave me feeling guilty for not helping.

Later in the day, when I'd finished what I was doing, I made a wreath.
The remainder of the vine sticks went onto the mulching pile for Brian to run over with the tractor and mulcher.  After rotting down over winter I'll shovel it onto the garden.

 Honeysuckle is almost unrecognizable from that timid and thin cow that we brought home from the livestock market roughly two years ago.  You can catch up on bringing home our new Honeysuckle cow here
After numerous AI (artificial insemination) attempts we took her to visit a bull last October, and is due to calve at the end of June. Next month!
Unlike our other two house cows, Lavender and Poppy, who were hand raised here and learned to trust us from an early age, Honeysuckle was raised on a large commercial dairy.  Understandably, she was shy and had very little trust in humans. It has been a long process to gain her trust, I can gently stroke her head now, but only when she's in the right mood. She will follow me into the dairy but will not comply if any other person is within sight.
It is more than a year since I stopped milking her, allowing her to dry off and put all of her energy into gaining weight, conceiving,  and carrying a calf.
She has been enjoying life, as she rightly deserves, and now it's time to resume her training to walk into the dairy each day.
After her calf is born I will be milking her every day, sharing the milk with her calf which will stay with her. Cows love their babies, as much as we humans love ours, and it aggrieves me to see calves taken from their mothers.
After the calf is born, I don't want to put Honeysuckle through the stress of re-training, re-learning to walk into the dairy. So, for the past month I have been putting in the effort every day, to remind her how great it is to walk into the dairy for her special treats. I'm also able to check her thoroughly each day and when her calf is awake I can feel it moving about in there when I rest my hands on her belly.
Last weekend I found a lump under her jaw that worried me, so I called a vet to come and check it out.
Honeysuckle would be easily stressed if we tried to move her away from the other cows so we brought all three of them into the cattle yards attached to the cattle crush.  She has never been into our crush, there has never been a need, and I absolutely didn't want the vet to treat her in the dairy. The dairy is to be associated with pleasant things, not traumatic events.

After drafting off the other two cows, Honeysuckle moved calmly into the crush, poked her head through far enough for the mechanism to close, holding her head to prevent any movement.
We really struck it lucky with this new (to us) vet. Georgia from Barossa Vet Services is wise and experienced beyond her years. A young woman, slight of stature, really knows her way around a cow. I admit to being a bit stressed, but she certainly put me at ease with her gentle and respectful treatment of both animal and humans.
She told me that most farmers wouldn't notice a lump of that size, and she would usually be called when it was much bigger and required more intensive treatment.
Thanks to the close daily contact between cow and owner, we are able to get on top of this infected cyst, requiring a course of anti-biotics, before her calf is born.
Had I left it longer, and she had required anti-biotics whilst lactating, neither calf nor other creatures could consume the milk for seven days or more. In such a case, taking her calf away from her would be required.  A stress neither cow or this owner would want to endure.

Here's another valid reason for all cow owners to have a working and reliable crush. I can't believe how many folks buy cows but don't think to build the infrastructure to properly care for them.
I can't tell you how many times we have needed to bring in a cow to remove a grass seed from an eye. Often this simple procedure can be done in the milking bales, which is fine for those cows that are used to being restrained for milking.
But what happens when a beef cow gets a grass seed in its eye? If it isn't removed within a day or two the eye will become ulcerated and blindness will rapidly follow. A devastating result caused by a neglectful owner. 
Hobby farmers - Please ensure you build the proper infrastructure before taking ownership of cows. You will need secure yards with solid fences high enough for cows not to jump over, a loading ramp and a crush of some type.

In the latest Grass Roots magazine I've written about what's been happening here, while the front gate is shut to all visitors while we are in isolation. Actually not much has changed but I have enjoyed the more relaxed lifestyle, with no calls to host guests or to be sociable. Perhaps I'll keep the gate closed for awhile longer.
How about you? Are your bursting to get out or are you secretly enjoying the peace and solitude as I am?

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Sourdough Discard - Muffins

I haven't been baking many sourdough loaves lately, but I need to feed my "Mother" occasionally to keep her alive and healthy.  As you know, I never like to waste a thing, so there's a jar of discard (flour and water sourdough)  in the fridge that needs to be used.

When I'm baking sourdough loaves regularly I don't accumulate any discard at all.
Here  is the blog post that explains how to NOT waste flour.

Last time I made Crackers using some of the discard and this morning I felt like making small cakes (or muffins) to put into the Farmgate stall.

As usual, I have adapted the recipe from various ideas and previous bakes, using basic supplies from the fridge and pantry.

Apple and Spice Muffins

1 cup sourdough discard (straight from the fridge or the bench, it doesn't matter)
1.5 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bi-carb
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of salt
2 dessertspoons butter melted in 1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar (we don't like them too sweet)
1 egg
1 peeled and chopped apple

 Put sourdough discard in a mixing bowl.  Mix flour, baking powder, and bi-carb together before  adding to the bowl. Add sugar, spices, butter and milk, and stir with a wooden spoon before adding the egg.  Add chopped apple and stir until well combined.
Mixture should be the consistency of cake batter.  Your sourdough discard may be wetter than mine so you may need less milk. 
Spoon into paper muffin cases and bake at 180C for 15 - 18 minutes - turn the tray after the first 10 minutes.
Makes 10 muffins.

These basic muffins can be adapted in lots of ways and variations.
Leave out the apple and use a mashed banana.
Leave out the spices and add berries or cocoa, or choc chips. 
Add dried fruit, dates, dried apricots... the possibilities are endless.

How long will they keep?
If you want to keep some for later, you will need to wrap them well (after cooling) and put into the freezer before anyone sees or smells them.
Unfrozen they will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container and are good for lunch boxes or smoko (morning tea) for the workers.

There's absolutely no reason to throw away flour and water from our sourdough excesses and what good fun it is to discover new ways to use it.

Sally XX

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Soudough Discard Crackers

I hear a lot of sourdough bakers mention the waste of flour during the sourdough mother feeding process, but there's absolutely no reason to waste any flour at all. 
When I'm baking loaves regularly (four days a week) there's never any waste to deal with because I'm feeding and using the sourdough mother with each bake.
You can read about my method of sourdough baking here and here 
At the moment though, I'm not baking loaves for selling in the Farm-gate stall, so I'm baking just a couple of loaves each week.
There is discard, but not waste.
Our supply of shop bought crackers has been eaten, and as I'm still not going into shops (sixth week of no shopping) I searched for a recipe.
I can't tell you how many times I have attempted to make crackers, only to end up with hard lumps of unchewable cooked dough that were good enough for dogs only.
So I searched and found lots of recipes for these Lavosh style crackers. I've seen them for sale in gourmet  shops, but crikey, I could buy enough food to feed us for three days for the cost of one pack of those fancy crackers.
As you will know me by now, I can never stick to a recipe. I almost never have exactly the correct  ingredients on hand, so I substitute, plus I like to find an easier way without all the palaver. Honestly, some recipes go on and on don't they?
So, for the purposes of recording this (fluke?) success for future reference and for anyone else who may want to whip up a few,  here is my new crackers recipe.
So save your excess sourdough mother in a separate bowl or jar in the fridge. There are lots of ways to use it up.

Sourdough Discard Crackers - Often called Lavosh or Bark (in the Barossa

200g sourdough mother - It need not be active but should not be smelly.
1 cup (120g) bread flour - I used white unbleached
2 desert spoons of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fine salt

Salt flakes, sesame seeds, chopped herbs, poppy seeds -  Choose one or more for topping.

In a bowl combine sourdough starter with flour, olive oil, and salt. Mix to combine until it comes together as a medium stiff dough. If it feels too dry add a dribble of water, 1 teaspoon at a time. It should be the consistency of pastry.  Work it into a ball, wrap up to be airtight and place in the fridge for at least 30mins and up to 24hrs.
The recipes all said to wrap it in cling wrap but I used a waxed food wrap because that's what I have.

The next bit is just like rolling out pasta. I use a hand-wind pasta machine, but if you think you can roll it thinly with a rolling pin do have a go. If you're OK with rolling pasta you'll be fine with this too.
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F)
Break off small lumps of dough, roll into an oblong shape on a floured bench with your fingers. Roll the flattened oblong dough shape through the thickest setting on your pasta machine. Don't forget to dust your pasta machine with flour first. Work your way through the settings until the dough is thin. I stopped rolling at number 7on the dial.
It takes a bit of dexterity but honestly, if I can do it, so can you. If you haven't rolled pasta before you will work it out, just persevere. Practice makes (almost) perfect.
Lay long thin sheets onto baking trays lined with parchment paper. Do not overlap. You may want to cut the shapes into smaller pieces to fit more easily on the trays.
Spritz with water using a spray bottle and, working quickly, sprinkle lightly with salt flakes, plain sea salt or Himalayan salt. Then sprinkle on your toppings of choice.
Put trays in oven. Cook for approximately 10 mins, rotating the trays mid way through. They will burn very quickly, so watch carefully.
When cooked, place on cooling racks until cool, before packing away in airtight jars.
Repeat with remaining dough. This amount made two large jars of crackers.
I have no idea how long they will maintain their crispness, but I estimate maybe a week. Ours will be eaten before the end of the week. 

Apart from all the obvious ways to enjoy crackers, they were a delicious accompaniment to our lunch of leftover Moroccan Beef stew, having eaten all of the couscous last night.

There are so many ways to use up sourdough discard. Crumpets and pancakes are delicious, and very high in carbs too, which is not such a good thing, so I'm super excited about these light and versatile crackers.

I'd love to know how you go with making these.

Sally XX

Saturday, 4 April 2020


A reader (Kathy) asked for my ice-cream recipe.  I have a few that I use depending on various factors; 
- the type of cream on hand, 
(shop cream, cream from our own cows, very thick, or thin cream)
- the amount of eggs I have on hand.
(are the hens laying or are they having a spell?)
- do I want to use the ice-cream churn or not?

The ice-cream that I made this week is the original recipe from the instruction booklet supplied with my cheap ice-cream churn purchased approximately eight years ago.  
The freezer bowl of this churn lives in the freezer until I'm ready to use it.
This is a quick and lazy ice-cream but of course, as you will know me by now, I have adapted it slightly to improve the texture and flavour. The original recipe is below and my adaptions are in red. 

Vanilla Ice-cream 
 1 1/2 cups milk     
1 1/2 cups cream          2 cups cream
1 egg                            Separate egg. (Save egg white until later)
1/2 cup castor sugar    Icing sugar for a smoother texture. Icing mixture is OK too.
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence   or 2 dessertspoons runny honey

Method; Process all ingredients (except egg white) in a blender or food processor until well blended.
Place mixture into a pouring jug or bowl, cover and place in freezer for an 1 - 2 hrs until chilled and starting to slightly freeze at the edges.  
Stir mixture quickly and pour into rotating freezer bowl.
Just before pouring into ice-cream churn beat the saved egg white until fluffy and fold into chilled mixture.
Process until it begins to look like soft ice-cream.  

Scrape into a bowl, cover with lid and freeze.
Ready to eat after 4-5hrs.

With so much cream and no artificial fillers this ice-cream is rich. The ice-cream addict here takes just one scoop instead of his usual two.

However, if you don't have a churn this Mary Berry Ice-cream is very very good. 

We're ticking over to four weeks of isolation and no shopping.  The trade economy in our neighbourhood circle has kicked in; bringing with it a deeper sense of appreciation for things we may have taken for granted previously. 

I filled Meg's bottles with fresh milk and received these treats that we don't have growing in our own garden. 

Brian and Damon are doing some poultry trading......but I got the best end of the deal. 
This was a total surprise, and delivered to our gate too!
Never before have flour and yeast, eggplants, beans and capsicums, made my heart sing quite to this extent.

I hope there is the joy of a generous community where you are too.


Sally XX

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Every Day Feels Like Sunday

....but without Landline (ABC TV)  at lunchtime.

We are well into week three of self isolation and every day is like Sunday.
With no structure to my weeks, library volunteering, visiting elderly friends, shopping, meeting friends for coffee, and visitors, each day flows into the next. As a self confessed introvert I'm rather enjoying it.
We're both busy with our work here on the farm,  and never before in my sixty four years have I valued our lifestyle, growing our food, as we do right now.
 Brian is finding isolation more difficult than I am, which is to be expected.  Just three months into "retirement" and transitioning from his previous sociable work life to this one.
And what a transition it must be!
Into this new territory that is affecting the global population in ways we could never imagine.

However, we are counting our blessings. There is so much for which to be thankful.

Never before have we felt this intense value of all that surrounds us, the ability to live well for as long as it takes without the need to buy anything from a shop.

With well stocked pantry, cellar and freezers there was no need to go into a state of panic bulk buying when I last did my fortnightly shopping. I did buy an extra packet of tea and ground coffee though.
Now into week three; the packet of potato crisps, the bag of mixed nuts, the Aldi block of chocolate and the tub of icecream are memories of the past.
All luxury items that we can well do without. However we are not feeling deprived of anything - the wine cellar is well stocked - and with this challenge we're probably eating better than ever, to be perfectly honest.

 Garden pickings for our daily juice. Necessary to maintain immunity.

Daily routines for healthy mind, body and soul.

This morning I was able to gift some butter to one of my young friends who is five months pregnant. She is finding it difficult to find butter in the shops, along with all the other shortages.
 The round of cheddar remains maturing in the fridge.

 My days are busier now that I'm using all of my homesteading skills to produce all that we eat from scratch. 
Making our ice-cream was one of those jobs that slipped off my schedule these past couple of years. The flavour is far superior to the shop bought stuff because I'm using our own cream, milk, honey and eggs.
My ice-cream recipe would probably read something like this;

First milk your cow,
Put milk through the separator.
Chill cream whilst washing all thirty something parts of the separator, feeding the poultry  and collecting the eggs.

 The Barossa Valley has been locked down since last week owing to a spike in Covid-19 cases. All tourist related, and some community cases as a result. 
All non-essential travel between the towns of Angaston, Nuriootpa, Tanunda and Greenock has been discouraged.
With this in mind it was an easy decision to close the Farmgate Stall. Our last day of trade on Monday was a record breaker as I had notified our supporters via the Facebook page giving them one final day's notice in order to stock up on our produce and honey. I was kept busy all day restocking the shelves and pouring honey into more tubs and jars.
Closing up this funny little stall at the end of day was sad, but it's just for awhile.  However, I felt a new calm, less anxiety and an acceptance of this quiet time ahead, just Brian and I, comfortable and deeply grateful to have all that we need to survive the duration.

Eating well with what we grow. 
Eggs, milk, honey...
Bread and Butter Pudding baked in the wood oven and served with baked apples from our abundant harvest. 

We don't know when we will enter a shop again so I'm using my most frugal living skills to stretch  out shop bought supplies to last as long as possible. 
Used tea bags can be used a second time to make a pot of chai for two.

Ginger, turmeric, cloves and a cardamom leaf. 
If you don't grow cardamom a couple of pods will do. I keep ginger and turmeric (from our garden) in the freezer and scrape off what I need with a knife. 

Simmer spices in 1 cup of water and 1 cup of milk with 2 used teabags (for two cups of chai) allow flavours to infuse for five minutes before straining into cups. Stir in honey or sweetener of choice.
Save the spices in the pot, and keep in the fridge.  You will get another two lots of chai before the flavours become too weak. Replace teabags with another used tea-bag or two for each batch of chai.

Without focusing too much on Covid-19, (I'm becoming information fatigued are you?) I think it's really useful to document our experiences during this surreal time.
I hope to spend a bit more time writing and sharing some of the frugal things we're doing with a positive outlook.
Not only is it allowing us to stay away from shops and people, we're not spending any money either.
As self funded retirees, too young to get aged pension and not eligible for a pension when we are old enough, our superannuations have taken a severe hit. Fortunately we were prepared for a financial down time and we're confident the stock market will come back eventually. We don't qualify for any of the stimulus packages and government assistance. We will be living close to the bone for the foreseeable future and all I can see are the positive challenges ahead.

"Fear is contagious, but so are faith, hope and love"

Take care. Stay home. Be kind.

Sally XX


Tuesday, 3 March 2020

We're Still Here

Hello friends,

As summer draws to an end and the hectic pressure of summer is easing, there's time now to take a look back on the past few months since I last wrote here.
It's always a very busy season here on our place and I'm not going to bore you with all the details, so here's a pictorial snapshot of our summer.

The original apricot tree, already past its prime when we moved here fifteen years ago, and kept alive with lots of TLC,  this was it's final harvest. The apricots were not suitable for jam making or preserves, so the wildlife carers in the family made good use of the fruit for the rescued animals in their care.

Swamp wallaby Ivy visiting with her foster mum carer Indi and puppy Molly.

Between October and January we hosted three Beekeeping workshops and connected with thirty three new beginner apiarists. 
We also maintained our own hives.....
rescued so many swarms around our area that we lost count...
harvested over a tonne of honey..... 
visited and mentored various new beekeeper students......
made and sold more bee boxes, bees and beekeeping equipment than any previous year...

Christmas came, and with it came Honey Biscuits... because this is the Barossa and no Christmas is complete without them.

 Brian and Michael butchered a steer that I raised from a wee calf we brought in last year.  At a year old he didn't look very big but when hanging up, the carcass was huge and, although cut into four quarters, only just fitted into our refrigerated cool room.  After two weeks hanging, our butcher friend came over for the morning and did a fantastic job of cutting into all the correct cuts.

 Packing up an entire beef carcass took three days, and once again we were grateful for the cool room, where more than 200 kilograms of beef was stored safely until I could get it all into our freezers.
We have enough steaks of all types for a year. We made lots of mince and some preservative free sausages too.

Linking snags (sausages) like a pro..!

The driest and hottest summer in living memory, with bushfires covering more of Australia than is bearable to think about now.
We folks on the land and country dwellers' anxiety levels reached a new high, day after day, and nights too.
Is it any wonder that we breathe a sigh of relief as we herald the coming of Autumn?

There are pumpkins! I hate to think of our summer water bill when it comes, but we have been picking enough tomatoes to restock our supplies of sauces and chutney.
Zucchini, cucumbers, and the usual summer vegetables have been landing on the kitchen table daily. Jams, relishes and preserves are a daily task right now, but oh, how grateful we will be for these jars of supplies throughout the rest of the year.

A hand made gift for a special baby girl.

During the hottest of hot days with temps soaring above 45C degrees there were plenty of things to keep me occupied inside the house. 
After the yearly purge of cupboards cleaned out, "stuff" donated to the local op-shops, I did a bit of sewing and made this bunting for a friend's baby girl. 
Don't look too closely at the stitching - sewing is not my thing - but I did enjoy making this with love.

The cows are on dry feed (hay) as South Australian summers are dry. (Our wet season is typically winter and spring)
It's always interesting to note the colour difference in the butter that we produce here. The yellow butter was made in Spring time when the cows were eating green grass. 
(I freeze and vacuum seal the butter as I make it, for use throughout the year.)   
Butter that I make during summer is colorless due to the lack of carotene that is present in green grass. The flavour is still very good, but is missing the Vitamin A (carotene).

There's plenty of thick fresh cream to enjoy after a hard working day.

Raw milk cheeses.

Brian's "retirement" has seen him busier than ever. We're slowly getting the hang of this new type of living with occasional days out - the only way we actually stop is to go out, shutting the gate and never ending work list behind us.  
Every couple of weeks we try to go out somewhere new, have lunch, and see new things. We're not able to actually take a holiday at this time of year, but we can take a day off.  
A 'mental health' day does wonders for our spirits and when we spotted some (very expensive) quaint bird nesting boxes at a trendy garden shop in the Adelaide Hills, The Handyman came home and whipped these up.
This is certainly something new that I'd never seen in The Handyman in all our years together. Time for creative pursuits!

 I asked him to make some carrying boxes too...

.....and sold them all at the market last weekend.!

Meanwhile, all is well here as Autumn pokes her head around the corner. The weather has been cool enough for the wood oven these past couple of days and the sourdough mother has come out of retirement in the back of the fridge. 

From all of us here at Jembella Farm, we wish you good health, calm and productive days, and peaceful nights.


Sally XX

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