Saturday, 20 December 2014

Honey biscuits because it's Christmas in the Barossa

At this time of year every good Barossa Hausfrau has made honey biscuits.
Well, this is what I was told many years ago as a child growing up here in the Barossa and since I returned to live here after many years absence I made the decision to embrace the culture in many small ways and this is one of them.
And with unlimited supplies of honey from Brian's hives there's no avoiding the task.
Chris Doecke is the honey biscuit queen, and as I sat watching her rolling out dough on her kitchen bench last week I gained another hint to achieving the crisp thin honey biscuit that many love, including Brian and I. Thanks Chris, I was taking it all in.
I've never heard Chris complain about anything and when I had a little whinge about the tediousness of icing them all she had the cheek to say she actually enjoys it! So, today I iced my thin and crispy honey biscuits with a whole new attitude. I'm going to enjoy it, and enjoy it I did.

                            Nothing fancy, just a bit of colour and a touch of added sweetness.

On the stall for the next few days are Honey Biscuits and freshly made Apricot Jam as well as all of the usual honey and jams.
It's been a big jam making week as the trees have yielded buckets full of the gorgeous juicy fruits that we so love. Not one to waste a thing, we've got jam and preserves "from here to next Christmas"!

I wish all of my friends here on the blog a wonderful Christmas that is all you want it to be. I hope you get to spend time with the people you love most, enjoy some special food and have plenty of belly laughs.

Our brief this Christmas is to give a gift that is either hand made, found, or purchased from a charity shop (op-shop) to the value of less than $10.  All of us have so much and so many have so little, so we've agreed to donate our Christmas money to The Fred Hollows Foundation  again this year.
We've also made a donation to one of our dearest friends who is being treated for breast cancer and is supplementing her conventional medical treatment with alternate therapies which are so very expensive. 
The boys have had fun wandering the op-shops and using their imaginations to come up with suitable gifts. Being no stranger to op-shops, I wonder if I may have opened up a new world of shopping to them. I hope so.
So that leaves me still pondering what I will find for gifts early next week. Oh dear, looks like I'll be wandering the op-shops. (Heaven!!)

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Can you ever have too many tomato plants?

How are your tomato plants coming along?
This is how we gardening folk are greeting each other at this time of year.  Have you got your plants in?  Have you pruned them yet?
I handed over the tomato growing to Brian last year and it was a learning experience to watch his meticulous pruning. The tomato crop was  a bumper one during a year when most people I spoke to were having a bad tomato season.
Now he's got the job permanently whilst I grow the other veges.
As the cellar is still groaning full of jars of tomato sauce, chutney and preserves, we thought we'd keep our crop a bit smaller this year. Only fifty plants.....!!!  
Well, one can never have too many tomatoes. Can one??  It's addictive. 
I'll make more preserves, we'll enjoy lots of fresh tomato juice and share some with family and friends. 

Brian grew the plants from seeds that he planted in punnets in August and got them started in the glass house.  In late September he planted them out into the garden. This is the time to plant tomatoes here in the Barossa Valley, but the times vary depending on where you are and your local conditions.  Now they are big enough to trellis the plants and to do the first pruning.
I'm not going to explain about pruning the plants, there are lots of instructions for doing that elsewhere in gardening books and sites on line. 
However, if you want Brian to describe the process, I'll ask him to post a blog on here.

                                                            Before pruning and trellising.

                                                   After pruning and tying onto the trellis.

This is how the pruned tomato plant should look.
 Brian pruned off some of  the lateral shoots, leaving two main growing stems.

                  Now I'm going to make new plants from the bits he cut off.

I learned how to do this a few years ago and have done it ever since. Frugality at its best.
Take the laterals that you have pruned off the bushes and trim them.

Trim some of the leaves and stems so the plant will put its energy into putting out new roots rather than lush green leaves.

This is how they should look after trimming. Cut off half of the larger leaves. Leaving half leaves.

Place cuttings in a jar of water, rain water is best, and stand near a north facing window.
Keep the water topped up because we want to encourage roots to grow up along the stem.
 As soon as they have roots I'll plant them in the ground. These plants will be our second crop which will bear fruit right through until the first frosts in late Autumn.
If you are buying your tomato plants you could buy just one punnet or even just one plant, take cuttings and triple your crop for very little cost.


Sunday, 23 November 2014

The pigness of the pig

These are the new addition to the farm this week. Three little piggies.
Every year we get our pigs from Peggy and John Stewart from Saddleworth. Peggy loves all animals and her pigs are no exception. I'm proud to grow pigs for the table in a sustainable and ethical way, and Peggy is the perfect pig breeder for my kind of farming. Her sows are NOT confined to sow stalls where they can't turn or move. Her sows farrow (give birth) in lovely roomy accommodation where she might occasionally squash one of her piglets, but that's natures way.
We've all seen pictures in the media of the horrible conditions in the commercial piggeries, but did we know that there are still a few breeders out there who show much more compassion to the animals and operate their farms accordingly?
All of Peggy's pigs are allowed access to paddocks to allow them to be pigs and do pig things like wallow in muddy puddles, dig up dirt, eat grass, play and socialize.

Peggy's breeding pigs are celebrating the "pigness" of the pig.
It was a hot day and they were having the loveliest wallow in their mud puddle. The enclosures are always clean and there is never even a hint of that awful stale piggery smell that whacks you if you drive past a commercial piggery.

Our pigs are five weeks old and just weaned. Inside the shelter is pea straw for them to burrow under and keep warm during the night when it's still quite cool at this time of year.
They will be confined to this yard for the first couple of weeks and then allowed access to the large yard.
I'll feed them pig "weaner pellets" as their main ration whilst introducing small amounts of table scraps and vegetable peelings for the first few weeks. Their little bellies are very fragile and any sudden change to their diet can cause stomach problems and even death. They will gradually get used to eating a varied diet of scraps, fruit, milk etc.
Clean water is available in a heavy container that has been cemented into the ground to prevent the pigs tipping it over.
The pig enclosure has been left empty since the last pigs were processed in March this year.  Brian rotary hoed and we planted a crop of oats to freshen the ground and remove any sourness that may have been present.  As the pigs ingest some of the dirt, doing what pigs do, we need to be sure it's clean and parasite free.

                            Two strands of electric wire to prevent digging under the fence.

Our unit wasn't fully charged when we put the pigs in their yard yesterday but we thought they would be OK overnight until the sun charged it up today.  While enjoying a much deserved glass of wine on the verandah before dinner, we were joined by our new little friends exploring the garden. Ooops!
Careful herding had them back in their yard and while I kept an eye on them Brian zipped off to borrow a unit from friends overnight.

                         This is the solar electric fence unit we use for the pig enclosure.

We enjoy eating pork but couldn't do that with a clear conscience until we started raising our own pigs. Well, we were in for a huge treat when we got our first pig to the table. Unbelievable flavour!
Imagine our delight when we met Peggy. The pigs we eat have a great life from beginning to end.
                                             A pig's eye view from the pig enclosure.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

From the kitchen today

Lately the weather has been too hot to have the stall outside so customers are invited into the  kitchen to make their purchases. As our dear friend Jules says, "You must take us as you find us".
You never know what you'll find here in my kitchen, but today the stall is still in the kitchen, even though the day is delightfully cool.
After a few hours spent helping Brian do some fencing this morning, I lit the wood stove and whipped up a batch of Honey Anzac Biscuits. What haven't fitted into the biscuit jar have gone into a couple of packets to put on the stall. So this is how you'll find the stall if you visit today.
"Jembella Farm" assorted jams and Plum Sauce, Honey and Biscuits.

                                           Wood Oven Baked Anzac Honey Biscuits 200g  $5

I had a most humbling experience yesterday of having the great pleasure to meet a reader of the blog. A stranger!  Anna, you made my day. Thank you for speaking to me in the shopping street in Angaston and I hope to see you some day here at my little stall.

I hope everyone who reads this is having a wonderful weekend. The much needed rain appears to have skirted around us and we got just a few drops, maybe you got more than we did.

For those in USA, a translation. Biscuits are what we Aussies call cookies.


Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Make icecream without using an icecream machine

Our philosophy here is to try, as much as possible, not to eat anything that contains ingredients that we can't pronounce, contains numbers or is unethically grown or raised.
Have you looked at the ingredients list on the ice-cream container in your freezer lately?
"Skim milk, Cream, Cane Sugar," (yes that sounds about right for ice-cream, right?) but wait a minute, there's also Glucose Syrup, Maltodextrin, Whey Powder, Emulsifiers (477,471,) Vegetable Gums (412,407a), Flavour, Salt, Colour(160b) Water Added, Milk fat 10% minimum.  ....!!
I don't know what most of those things are. Do you?  I don't want my family to eat this kind of Frankenstein food. Yes of course we eat the food that we're served if we're dining with friends and occasionally (once or twice a year) eat an ice-cream or take-away for a treat, but many people are eating these additives daily.
I can hear people saying "Well it must be safe or they wouldn't be allowed to manufacture it."  Ha! That's what they said about so many things that have since been removed from our supermarket shelves. And what about tobacco, asbestos, Bex powders and Thalidomide? They were all safe once.
A couple of years ago I bought an icecream machine and started making all of our icecream from our fresh cream, eggs and honey. That's all, no other ingredients. That's all icecream is.
The machine paid for itself within the first month. Brian loves his ice-cream and as we produce all of the ingredients it was very economical to make.
When I need to be a bit frugal with my time (lazy) I fall back on the easiest and quickest way to make icecream without using the machine.
 I've served this up to rather particular and very foodie people who declared it to be better than "Hers". If you live in the Barossa you will know who "She" is and her ice-cream is delicious, but pricey.

Ice-cream Ingredients;
                                3 cups cream
                                1 can condensed milk
                                1 teaspoon vanilla (Use real vanilla essence, the flavour is worth it)
Whip cream to soft peaks.
Stir vanilla roughly into can of condensed milk before adding to whipped cream.
Whip a bit more until well blended.
At this point it loses some of its stiffness and you will think it can't possibly work out. Taste it. It's heavenly.
Pour into a two litre container with a lid and very quickly hide in the deepest recesses of your freezer.
Scrape and lick the bowl and beaters. Now you will realise why you hid it so well!

 Ingredients list-
Cream, Vanilla, Condensed Milk (Milk, Sugar)
That's it. No numbers, no big words.

You can add chocolate chips or berries etc. With such a high sugar content it's not something we would eat every day, but as a treat, and we know it's a clean and wholesome food.

The hot weather is coming, so let's feel good about enjoying some ice-cream that tastes so good you'll want to be making another batch tomorrow.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Home sweet home

I put these two pictures on here before we left to go on holidays. Have tried to remove one of them but what ever I'm doing won't let me so there we are, overload of Brian and Lavender togetherness. Brian doing some training with Lavender and still looking pretty green, the grass, not Lavender.
We had a really good break touring Victoria to parts we'd never been before and visiting family, towing our old caravan and "freedom camping" whenever possible. We have set up our van to suit the way we like to travel.  Some solar panels on the roof generate enough power to run the 12 volt lights. The water tank capacity allows enough water for three days of washing, bucket bathing and cooking. A wee bucket is stowed just in case there are no sizable trees to hide behind.
This kind of caravanning doesn't suit everyone but we love the freedom of camping in some of the country's most picturesque locations, and love it even more if there are no other people around.
I'm afraid to say that not all "freedom campers" appreciate what we have here in this country and they show it by littering the countryside with used toilet paper and rubbish.
We are pedantic about leaving nothing behind but our tyre tracks and footprints. Oh, and the occasional fertilizing of the trees, but always well buried. Toilet paper is always carried away with us and disposed of at the nearest rubbish bin on our travels.
After three nights of freedom camping we generally find a nice quiet caravan park to spend a night where we can recharge the batteries, fill up the water tank and enjoy the showers.
                                                                   Aaah...the serenity.!

There's no place like home! How lovely it is to return home to find everything in such good shape. Our two young men did a fine job of caring for the garden and animals and we couldn't be more grateful to them for giving us the opportunity to get away for short breaks occasionally.
We time our holiday breaks during off peak times here at the farm. The cows are all dried off, lambing has finished, and all the basic chores can be done in a couple of hours each day.
Both of us have another week of holidays to catch up on all the tasks that need doing here before returning to work.
Taking time out is such a regenerating thing to do for body, mind and soul and we both feel re-energized and so very keen to get stuck into the next round of the year.
Visits to both of my sister's gardens while in Victoria left us feeling rather envious of the rainfall they enjoy and the luscious growth of both their vegetable and decorative gardens.
They have none of the challenges we face here... dry conditions, frosts, earwigs..!!  Regardless of that, my two sisters are incredibly skilled gardeners with extremely green thumbs and beautiful gardens that are a credit to their hard work.

                                         My garden is bearing up well with little rainfall.

We've moved the sheep into new paddocks and have done lots of tidying up around the yards and gardens. After two weeks away there was plenty to do.

             This garden needs cleaning up and will be planted up with vegetables in the next few days.

One little surprise we weren't expecting was lambs.!  The ewes we purchased a few weeks ago were not supposed to be  pregnant and we had planned on putting them with a ram in January. This would have them lambing in May-June when the grass is plentiful. A phone call from the boys while we were away surprised us with the news of twins born followed by another lamb a few days later.
There are no signs of any more lambs and we can only assume that a rogue ram jumped the fence and partied with a few of the ewes before they were taken to market.
As the ewes are currently on some of the other land we have access to, we've brought home the two mothers with their lambs so they can be protected by the alpacas who are presently here on our home block. The little lambs are pretty gorgeous and we've been enjoying our morning tea breaks on the verandah overlooking their paddock.
I never tire of watching the alpacas protecting the sheep and lambs so carefully. They appear to be in a constant state of alertness and every little noise or movement has them curiously checking the scene and guarding their flock. They are truly worth their weight in gold. Well, in fat lambs actually.
Lambing season was always fraught with nervous stress before we bought our first two alpacas quite a few years ago. We would bring the ewes close to the house every night and we'd be out of bed with torches and gun numerous times every night. Such are the dangers of foxes here. The foxes would take lambs at any chance they had, even in broad daylight. The alpacas have allowed us to breathe easy with the confidence that they are on the lookout at all times.

Nothing gets past these nosy and curious animals.  

I love going away for holidays but one of the best parts of going away is getting home again. Putting on my work boots and old jeans is soothing beyond words. It's the comfort of being in the place where I want to be, doing the things I love to do with the people I want to include in my life. 
Being happy about being at home is a sure sign that all is right within my world and I have no desire to go outside these gates until I really need to or when it's time to return to work.
There is so much to do and to look forward to.

 Thanks for visiting and special thanks to those who leave a comment. Blogging is great fun and  a lovely way of connecting with my family and friends, but at times there's just so much to do and not enough time or clear mindedness to write a blog. Comments are wonderful to receive and apologies to those whose comments I don't get to answer quickly.  
I'm also always interested to hear how you manage things around your home, yard & property.

If you're going on holidays, bon voyage and happy journeying...
If you've just returned from holidays or time away from home I hope you're enjoying the reacquainting to your own personal space and pace.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Bee season .... honey flow.

With a 30 degree temperature, yesterday was the perfect day for extracting the first honey for the season. I started off well at taking photos, but as the day progressed there was too much stickiness to touch the camera.


Brian uses a hot knife to remove the wax cappings
on the frame.


Guiding an up and coming apiarist. It's now our turn to teach as we were taught in our early days of  bee keeping. 

                                                Spinning the honey from the frames.


 Available to buy in jars from various outlets OR here at the farm.  
 We'll fill your container or use one of our recycled jars.

 A long and tiring day, but very productive.
The final tally of the eight buckets weighed in at 96kg in total; the culmination of countless hours of preparation and tending of the hives throughout the year.
There will be more days of extracting the honey during spring and summer, usually every fortnight during the honey flow.
Beekeeping is a complex operation which would take a blog all of its own, so I won't be going into all the details here. There are the basic rules, but I'm sure all apiarists have their own ways of doing things.  We are still learning and discovering new things, although it's ten years this month since we collected our first swarm.
Gosh, when I look back at those early years and how difficult it all was it makes me wonder how we did it. Brian is a wizard at building and making things, he's a real do-er, so thankfully we now have a designated "honey shed" which has made life so much easier (and much less crankiness) on extracting days.
We are considering having a workshop on Beekeeping if there's enough interest locally.

                                 Brian uses his clever invention to make rewiring easier.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

A busy Wednesday

Some days everything seems to happen at once.
The butcher phoned a few days ago to confirm that he was coming to our place on Wednesday. We had brought Klaus home last week in preparation, so now it was time to intensify his preparation to ensure a stress free kill.
Brian has built a small "killing" yard, within the small paddock nearest the house, measuring approximately 3metres by 4metres in size.  Every day, for the few days preceding the butcher's visit, we feed the chosen steer his favourite food in that yard and lock him in for a few minutes, extending the time of confinement a little each time he goes in.  When the butcher is on his way, we have the animal locked in the yard, eating happily and calmly, in readiness for the butcher. Then I drive all the other cows away to another paddock and out of sight of what's happening.
We may be scoffed at by other big farmers but both of us are most comfortable with this method as we believe that meat animals shouldn't witness the killing of another animal.
We also wait until the blood from the butchering is scraped up and any remnant smells have dried up before we let the other cattle return to that paddock. To see the reaction that cows have to blood is enough to convince any skeptics.
We have access to an excellent butcher who travels to us to do the kill. He takes the carcass away to his place where he hangs it for ten days before processing the meat to our requirements and packaging in meal size packs. Then he delivers it to us, ready for putting directly into the freezers and sharing with family and friends.
The meat is tender and tasty. Stress free, organic and grass fed.
I was left with a bucket of offal, liver & heart, which I've divided into three bags and into the freezer for making stew for the dogs. The general rule is not to feed farm dogs uncooked offal from the kill. If parasites are present they will infect the dogs and even though we can never see any parasites in the offal, I always stick to that rule by freezing first and then cooking.

With that done, it was time for a quick bite to eat before driving to Mt Pleasant market.
Before Brian had his hip replacement surgery, we sold all of the sheep we owned. What a sad day it was, because we had built up our little flock over eleven years.
We knew Brian would be totally out of action for more than two months and wouldn't be able to care properly for the sheep if they were fly struck or having trouble lambing.  My hands were full, caring for Brian, looking after the cows, chooks and all of the other daily farm chores, plus I don't have the physical strength to tip a sheep on its back for cutting out maggots if that was required.
Fortunately, it was a market that  fetched top prices for all of our sheep and the proceeds have been sitting in the bank waiting for our re-stocking program.
Now that he's fully recovered we purchased twenty Merino ewes last month and, with more land at our disposal (as mentioned in my last blog), we needed more sheep.
Our strategy was to find approximately twenty sheep in low condition, preferably ewes, that would be cheap to buy.
Prices were high at yesterday's market, but we sighted a pen of newly weaned lambs that were on the small side and in dirty condition. There were more than twenty, more like fifty, but for the right price we could clean them up, grow them on, return them to the market in six months time at double the value. Let's do it!!
"Don't go over $50", were my instructions to Brian.
Some still had tails attached and we could see a few of them were dirty around the bums, fly struck and maggoty. This is enough to put a lot of buyers off but we knew we could clean them up easily enough and have them looking good in very little time. Sure enough, there was only one bidder against Brian and we got them for $44 each.
I'm amazed, and quite disgusted, that people would put sheep into the sale yards in that condition but it happens frequently. At yesterday's market  three pens of sheep were marked with Lice Notices. We never buy sheep that are penned next to a declared lice pen fearing that lice may have jumped onto the sheep in the adjoining pens.
Another thing I've noticed is the growing numbers of wool shedding sheep that are appearing at the market. A considerably higher proportion of these sheep have Lice Notices on their pens.
Small hobby farmers have a liking for these breeds believing they are low maintenance. They think they can turn them out on their land and leave them to keep the grass mowed, no shearing, no crutching, no fly-strike.  This may be so, but they are also rarely handled, wormed or treated for lice prevention as conventional sheep are done at shearing time each year. Owners of these sheep breeds really do need to perform routine maintenance on their animals. They are definitely not "set and forget" animals.
The prevalence of lice in the past few years has risen and begs the question... is the lack of maintenance on shedding sheep contributing to this menace?
The PIRSA (Primary Industries & Regions SA) inspector showed us some of the lice he spotted on the sheep in the marked pens. Hardly visible to the naked eye, but so destructive, ruining the wool and causing pain and discomfort to the sheep.
Just a few minutes of looking at your sheep can tell you if they have lice. They will be biting at themselves and rubbing against anything solid; trees or fence posts.  Sheep need to be treated for lice prevention each year at shearing time and we use Extinosad which is available at our local farming supplies store. It is the least toxic and has the lowest withholding period of all of the lice preparations on the market.
Sheep lice information  on this Victorian site is most informative and I noticed that it's illegal to sell sheep with lice in Victoria. I thought this was the case here in SA, but the sheep I saw yesterday were still sold to the highest bidder. Disappointing!
Three trailer loads later, fifty eight lambs, we worked into the night crutching, dagging, worming, tailing the couple that still had their tails hanging, and put elastrator rings on the two that still had their scrotums intact. Only three had maggots and were crutched and treated.
They were then confined overnight in a yard with access to hay and water before being released onto grass today to avoid sore bellies from sudden ingestion of too much fresh grass.
The sight of the lambs this morning was a joy. They certainly didn't look like the rough mob we brought home yesterday.
Exactly half are wethers (castrated males) and half are ewes (females). The plan is to grow the weathers for another five or six months to sell for meat. The ewes will be grown on and mated up next year when they are roughly eighteen months old.

While all this was happening the hay contractor arrived to cut our few acres of pasture crop for making meadow hay.
Phew, what a day! I was happy to spend today at my paid job to have a restful day.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Mulga-Bill goes on holiday

You don't necessarily need to own a lot of land to be a farmer.
We started "farming" while we lived on half an acre.
If you look around your area you may find residential lots of eight or more acres. The residents are quite often looking for someone to put sheep or cattle onto their land to keep the grass down. We have more than a handful of such blocks and we make good use of them while saving our sixteen acre "home property" for the house cows, calving and lambing.
It goes without saying that respect must be shown to the landowners.
Caring for our stock and providing for their every need is our job, not that of the landowner. 
We need to maintain the fences and manage the pasture well by not over grazing, so we always keep a close watch on both the stock and the land and move the stock before this happens. Where there is bare dirt you will always get weeds growing, not to mention a dust bowl.
Generally, the landowner will provide the necessary drinking water for the stock or an arrangement can be made.
Always notify the landowner when you plan to take your stock out.  Always close gates and leave the property as you found it, or better still, leave it looking better and tidier.
Don't arrive early on a Sunday morning to feed or move your stock. Be professional and above all, be considerate.

After work yesterday evening we moved our young bull, Mulga-Bill to the property of friends a few kilometres away.  He walked onto the trailer happily because he wasn't stressed and we offered him his favorite treat, bread!  Our trailer has a drop down ramp as well as a sliding gate so we can load up anywhere provided we use our transportable home made yarding system.
He got stuck into "work" just as soon as he walked off the trailer and met his three new girlfriends. He will stay there for approximately ten weeks to be sure they are all in calf before we move him on to his next place of "work".
Now that the bull is out of the way, we brought home our young heifers from one of the other blocks that we have the use of and of course we notified the landowners a few days before.
The heifers are not ready to be mated so we needed to get Mulga-Bill away until they are old enough. Our general rule is to mate up heifers after they are fifteen months old.  They need to be at least two years old before calving. Any younger than that and they are not grown sufficiently for the burden of pregnancy and birth.
Two trailer loads took care of Klaus, the twelve month old steer, and then the two heifers, Bubble and Lavender. They all loaded well with the help of their favorite treat, bread. No stress for them or us.
Klaus is on the menu for next month when the on-farm butcher will visit.

        Klaus is ready for his journey and the portable yards still in place behind the trailer.

                                           Heifers, Lavender and Bubble, on the next load.

                            Bella, Daisy, Willow, Klaus, Lavender & Bubble. Our little herd.

There was no thought of taking photos during the transportation of Mulga-Bill, but I did remember to snap some of the other cows during our moving and loading.
Lavender (now eleven months old) is a Jersey X Murray Grey heifer that we have raised to be our next house cow.
Today Brian started working on training her to learn the routine of being a milking cow. With gentle coaxing and working at her own pace, she will learn to walk into the milking parlor, eat chaff from the feeder while her head is held in the bales and accept being patted and handled. Started at this age and while she is small there will be no stress or bad experiences to remember when her time comes to be milked for the first time, after her first calf is born.
When people ask politely on a Friday afternoon "what plans for the weekend?" I shrug and try to come up with something exciting, but for us living "the good life" the reality is that there is work to be done every weekend. It's never ending, but to us it's always exciting.
We had our morning coffee sitting on the verandah overlooking the paddock with the cows all munching happily. By 10am we had achieved all the cattle movements and were ready for the next jobs on the list.

                                            A large garden doesn't look after itself.

                                                    Some hives needed checking.

                                 Lacto-fermented bread & freshly made butter for lunch.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Daisy takes a break (& so do we)

One of my most loved daily rituals has temporarily come to an end today.
I could have kept on milking Daisy for another few months, but her milk production has dropped off and Willow needs to be weaned off milk now that she's five months old.
A break in routine will allow us a few short holidays as well.
For the past week I've taken eight litres from her on alternate days in preparation for the drying off and she will now stop producing milk after a couple of days of swelling. I find this to be the most comfortable for the cow and I'll keep an eye on her, watching out for any signs of discomfort or mastitis.
Daisy gave birth to her first calf in October last year.  All of our cows are taught to foster other calves but she, being the highly strung little thing that she is, refused to accept another calf despite all of our efforts.
After trying all of our other methods of introducing a foster calf to a cow, Brian smeared onto the foster calf some of the placenta that we'd  frozen with this purpose in mind should the situation arise, with the intention that she would  lick the calf clean and then accept it.
Nothing we did would convince her to accept a new calf and so, after three weeks of trying we gave up.
Fortunately, Bella gave birth to Pumpkin a few days earlier and happily fostered the new little calf  (Lavender) that we had purchased from another dairy with the intention of giving it to Daisy.
When our cows are fresh in after calving, there is plenty of milk for their own calf, more than enough for household use (cheese making etc) and  sufficient for feeding another calf as well.
After the first four months, the calves can be weaned while another calf is brought in for raising. Generally, the cow's production will settle down to a steady amount and depending on the cow, if she has enough milk, another two calves can be raised. Or if for instance, I want to make lots of cheese every day, or feed orphan lambs, or grow pigs on milk, or if the cow's production has dropped I can raise just the one foster calf.
Another benefit of teaching cows to foster is being able to have small calves on your milking cow for a longer period of time. This gives us, the farmer, a bit more flexibility and freedom.
Of course the profitability of raising more calves has to be considered as well.
We can choose not to milk the cow on some days when we leave the calf or calves with the cow.  On the days that we want milk we separate the calf (calves) from the cow for up to 12 hours before we want to milk. This can be overnight if you want to do the milking in the morning, or separate the calves in the morning if evening milking is  your preference.
It's not a good idea to leave a calf of more than 5-6 months old suckling on a cow. The calf is getting very boisterous by this time and can damage the udder.
We also like to have more than one calf at a time so they have each other for company when separated from the cows. ALL animals will "do" better in company. They are happier, feed better, grow better and are generally healthier.
Daisy is due to have her next calf in April. Although, strictly speaking, we don't need to dry her off until two months before calving, we need to take a few short breaks away in the next couple of months before summer really hits.
Yes, even though we're living the dream, we too need holidays occasionally.
If she would comply to our wishes, and foster a calf, we could have put a new calf on her a month ago and retained our freedom to take holidays and have our milk as well.
She was initially inseminated on New Year's Day this year and, had all gone well, she should have calved in October (next month). However, things don't always go to plan and she slipped her calf at 3 or 4 months gestation. We had to start over again and call in the AI man once more.
Now that she's more experienced we're hopeful that she will accept foster calves next time around.  What a beautiful quiet milker she has become and we feel quietly proud to have trained her in the niceties of milking parlour manners and routine. Most credit to Brian who spends endless hours gaining the confidence of our new milkers, training them gently from when they are still small.
Her calf, Klaus, is booked in for the "on farm" butcher to visit next month as he will be a year old and perfect for the freezer.  The most nutritious and sustainable meat, straight from the paddock, no stress, no grain feeding (no irrigation, unsustainable farming practices and chemicals).
Grass Fed beef has finally found its place out there in the market place as more people realise the health benefits to the consumer and to the Planet.

I recently read about growing new plants from the old plant. This is a new celery plant reborn from the celery crown that would otherwise be thrown to the chickens or sheep. I've since planted every celery crown I find and if I can deter the snails, they will grow beautifully.

I love to have a couple of celery plants growing so I can break off a few sticks from the growing plants as I want to use them, adding them to soups, stews or in a fresh vegetable juice.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Making your own laundry detergent

Last year we removed the Hills Hoist & made this little kitchen garden in its place.
Brian built me another washing line that is more in keeping with the era of our 1911 built home.

The old cane wash basket & trolley purchased (cheaply) at a Garage Sale is just the icing on my wash line cake.

I started making our laundry detergent a couple of years ago. Not only do I save lots of dollars, I'm much happier about using the washing water on the garden.
In our dry state of South Australia we need to use all of our household water carefully and most people I know recycle some of their washing water onto their garden.
Like many people we used to bucket the water from the shower and washing machine, but realistically that isn't going to keep happening as we age and the buckets get too heavy for us.
So, one of the first things we did here when we started setting up the gardens was install a shut off valve on the water outlet pipe outside the house.
In our case the grey water from inside the house runs into a septic tank because we are outside the town drainage system.  It's still possible to install a shut off valve if you live within the town if your outside pipes are exposed above the ground.
Attaching a hose to this shut off valve we can divert the water from the bathroom and laundry onto various garden areas using gravity.
However, this water contains the residues of any detergents and substances used inside the house and can be detrimental to the soil and plants growing in it.  This is when I turned to making my own soaps and detergents.

                               Liquid Laundry Detergent
1 cup grated soap 
1/2 cup washing soda (Lectric Soda)
1/2 cup Borax
Melt in a stainless or enamel saucepan with 1.5 litres of water until dissolved .
Tip this mixture into a plastic bucket.
Add 8 litres of water & give it a stir.
Pour into large plastic bottles leaving a few centimetres at the top for shaking up when it gels.
2 litre vinegar bottles are perfect.
This will become quite a thick gel & needs shaking up to make it pourable.
Use approx 1/2 cup with each load of washing.
Suitable to use in both top or front loader machines.
It doesn't foam up but it gets the washing clean.

The recipe suggests either Lux Flakes or grated soap.  I use a cake of soap that I buy at the supermarket for a few dollars for a pack of five. Much cheaper than Lux and is just as effective. 
The easiest way of grating the soap is to get someone to grate it for you when they're sitting there having  cup of tea and watching you do all the work. 

Notice the space left empty in each bottle for easy shaking up of contents.

When using grey water on your garden it's best to alternate it with fresh water occasionally to avoid the salts building up in the soil. This gentle home made laundry detergent is much less toxic than the chemical laden commercial detergents. I've been watering our fruit trees and vegetable gardens with our grey water for years.

After a very wet winter we're not getting the Spring rains that we hoped for and the soil is drying out rapidly. The gravity fed grey watering system (a hose that I can move about) is trickling onto the vegetable gardens keeping things growing without costing us a cent in water bills. 

Brian has happily returned to work this week after seven weeks. His hip surgery was a great success and as we sat outside with our cups of tea this morning he explained his plans for redesigning the back garden. He's talking of building retaining walls and a pizza oven. Welcome back to the man I used to know Brian!!
The sun is shining and the garden beckons.
Thanks for dropping by and I hope you have a wonderfully productive weekend.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...