Sunday, 29 June 2014

Artificial Insemination

Today the planets have aligned. We managed to synchronize Bella's cycle in time with the AI (artificial insemination) man.
The calendar was marked three weeks ago that Bella was due to cycle on Friday 27th June.
Friday came & went, we had our local Dairy farmer friend on stand by, but there were no signs of anything. Yesterday evening we noticed Bella started to flirt with Daisy.
Aha... ! The time was right for us but our kind farmer friend was elsewhere!
Plans were made for him to pay us a visit today & hopefully she would still be receptive.
This is the frustration of relying on AI, so when we have a successful AI completed, we breathe a sigh of relief & count 21days hoping that the cow has conceived. If she shows signs of cycling again then, we know that this AI was not successful. This can happen & has happened.
                                                           Preparing the semen straw into the applicator
                                                                                 Sterile plastic glove
                                                               Bella is relaxed while she eats her chaff.
                                                                      The semen is inserted into the cervix.
I guess a warning of graphic pictures should have been placed at the top of the page, but if you're reading this blog you probably need to expect the unexpected occasionally. This is farming life & if we're to write about it, it should be in a transparent way.
Bella had no stress at all during the procedure. She happily walked into the milking parlour,  stuck her greedy head into the feed bin & munched contentedly.
Brian & I were probably more stressed than anyone. The hope of another calf born here on our property in nine & a half months time is something to be excited about. Each birth is equally as exciting as the very first calf born all those year ago.
Daisy is due to cycle next week & the AI man is on standby & waiting for the phone call.  Hopefully the planets will align again.
Next year Mulga Bill will be on hand to inseminate the girls. At just four months old, he's already showing bullish tendencies but needs to grow much taller.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The supermarket

Today I went to the supermarket. This is not something I do every week, or even every two weeks. I go when the list on my fridge starts to contain things that I really need to have before I can cook another meal.
So it's been approximately three weeks since my last shop at the supermarket.
I was flabbergasted to be standing in line behind a young woman who was doing her fortnightly shop. She had two monster trolleys and into them she had loaded more than four huge packs of  disposable nappies, chocolate bars, jars of meal base mixes, packets of biscuits, chips, sugary fizzy drinks, some trays of plastic wrapped meat, boxes of breakfast cereal, shampoos, soaps, liquid washing detergent, but hardly any vegetables.  Her and the checkout lady were chatting about "well... it was a two weekly shop and therefore is bound to be big."
There was I with a small bundle of items in my trolley that wasn't even going to fill two shopping bags and my eyes were goggling. As I stacked my things on the counter I sneaked a look at the monitor to read the total of her shopping. $639..!!! She didn't flinch. It's all the shopping for two weeks, of course it's going to be big!
This is entertainment for me. Obviously I need to get out more.
Is this for real? Is this what people buy and do they spend this much on their food and necessities out there in the real world?
She, and her family, are spending per week, equal to half of my wage on their food and household things.
I wouldn't mind betting that she wonders why they just can't get ahead, save any money or pay off their mortgage.
As I became included in the end of their conversation I couldn't resist making a comment that this is my three week shop. I didn't want to sound smug, but I just couldn't let it pass. For two of us plus two teenage boys who eat with us two nights per week my shopping totaled $38.75.
A conversation followed as she asked how I could do that, so I told her that I cook from scratch, make our soaps, shampoos, washing detergent, grow a garden, have a few chooks and generally live sustainably.
Their jaws dropped & both agreed that they would love to know how to do that.
OK to be fair, she probably doesn't have a cow in the back yard to supply all of her family's dairy foods. Nor would she have a few sheep and cattle in the paddock to supply their own meat, but anyone can learn how to cook a few basic things to feed a family healthy food on a realistic budget.
I don't want to start a rant about disposable nappies being a huge waste of money. That is already clear to everyone and I don't need to talk about the environmental effect of their disposal.
Is she the norm?
I wonder if she, and others like her, would really be interested to know how to save money, have more control of her family's future and eat healthy food.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Impossible Quiche

I love a wet and cold winter's afternoon when the supplies of firewood are stacked up outside the kitchen door and there's a hankering to cook something warm and nourishing in the wood oven.
This Impossible Quiche came to mind. It will be our dinner tonight with a rocket salad and tomato pie. (yes the last... really...... the last of the season's tomatoes.)
Leftovers for our lunches tomorrow.

Impossible Quiche (4 large servings)

1 chopped onion
2 rashers of bacon, chopped (for the vego's leave this out)
1 generous cup of whatever you like. (I had some roast pumpkin and potatoes left over from yesterday)

some herbs from the garden (parsley roughly chopped, oregano, chives)
some sliced tomato for the top if you have some, but not essential

4 eggs
1 Tablespoon melted butter
1 to 2 cups milk (or half milk, half cream. If you use cream you can leave out the butter)
1/2 cup self raising flour (or plain flour with 1 tspn baking powder)
1 cup grated cheese
salt & pepper

Grease a shallow ovenware dish. (I threw out all of my aluminium quiche tins & use only ceramic)
Arrange sauted onion and bacon with all the other veges in the dish.
Mix together all other ingredients (except tomato) and pour over.
Top with tomato slices and some extra grated cheese.
Cook in a moderate oven (180 C) for approximately 30 minutes.

The quiche is light and fluffy with a slightly visible crust. I can't say it's really like a quiche with a pastry crust, but as it's so quick and easy to make it's a winner in this house. A good way to use up leftovers; cold chicken, veges etc and another way to use that tub of cream that's been sitting in the fridge for just little bit too long.

Thursday, 19 June 2014


Everyone has different priorities and that's what makes the world an interesting place.
Our first priority when we bought this little farm eleven years ago was to be mortgage free as soon as possible. We both worked at our paid jobs and in the early mornings, evenings and weekends we worked together to build and establish what we felt was important. Planting trees and starting a vegetable garden.
After four and a bit years we made our last payment to the bank. It was a wonderful feeling and it gave us a sense of freedom which we still maintain. To achieve this we had to spend less and learn to make things from scratch. We both wanted the same outcome, to be mortgage free, so it wasn't difficult. That's the first step. It's no good if one of the partnership can't resist buying things. Both of us needed to be on the same page.
It's possible to live a rich life whilst being frugal and after the mortgage was paid we just went on living the same way.
I was then able to cut my working days to three days a week, but of course by doing so our income would be much smaller. We don't earn huge salaries but we feel rich in many ways and grateful that we both have jobs that we enjoy. Living within our means has made the journey possible.
This is how I have the time to make our food from scratch from the best possible produce that we can grow here in our own soil and on our land.
Happiness means different things to all people. To us it comes from the freedom we feel and the sense of responsibility we have towards everything we eat.  It's not about owning the biggest, newest, most expensive things.
We do have the freedom to buy whatever we desire, but if we can source that object from an *Op-shop, a Garage sale or Gumtree, that's even better. The thrill of the chase.
If we do have to buy something new, we would rather do without until we can pay for it right now. In cash. Not on credit.
How much more sustainable it is to buy or recycle what someone else has discarded in their quest to buy bigger, newer, better. Mostly you will find those are the people who just can't seem to get off the treadmill of debt.
The sofa we have had for over ten years is comfortable, in good condition and fits perfectly in our living room, but the covering was dated and gloomy. Instead of paying out thousands of dollars on a new one I purchased the cover I wanted on-line for less than $100.
When our toaster died I took two slices of bread to the local op-shop where I found a suitable toaster and asked the lady to plug it in so we could test how well it did the job.  It toasted perfectly and for $4 is still functioning four years later.

Sitting permanently on the kitchen bench are two gadgets that are used regularly. The old juicer cost $2 at an op-shop and turns out perfect juices from our freshly picked vegetables and fruit.
The food processor was a $3 find at a Garage Sale. It has a blender that whips up our daily smoothies and the chopper blades to make breadcrumbs, cheesecakes etc.
The old Sunbeam in the corner was purchased some years ago for a grand sum of $26 and has churned out many kilos of butter, birthday cakes, whipped cream and, as it's almost as old as I am, looks like a lovely vintage piece.

Our home is comfortable, warm and inviting. It's not the latest in fashion, but it's the way we like it. There are lots of books and plenty of comfy chairs. Our friends are welcomed and it doesn't matter if someone leaves a bit of dirt on the floor or if the dogs shed a bit of hair. It's our home and it's all ours.
We don't buy take-away food, nor do we buy take-away coffees or habitually go out for lunches or coffee. When we do that it's for a special occasion and is a treat. While I understand that many people love to go out for coffee it's just not something that we feel we need to do and that is another example of how we are all different. Why would we want to eat out when we're eating quality food right here in the surroundings we love? 
It's not all work and no play. We love to travel to new places within our own country with our old but efficient caravan. The "pre-loved" van is sufficient for our needs and will do us for many years to come. Small, basic and easy to tow, there is no need to get caught up in the endless quest for newer and better.
Overseas travel is something we enjoy occasionally and is another benefit of being frugal in our day to day lives.
It's all about balance, loving where you are and what you are doing.
Take the time to slow down and appreciate the simple things because none of us can have our cake and eat it too.

*Op-shop is a where donated items are sold to raise money for different charities. ie, Vinnies, The Red Cross, or the local community charities. Items range from clothing to toys to furniture & hardware.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Introducing Bella, Daisy, Mulga-Bill & Willow

These gorgeous girls greet me at the beginning of every day. What's not to love about those faces?
Daisy (the spotted one) is a Jersey X Friesan who we raised from two days old and trained to be our house cow.  She is now three years old and has had one calf in October 2013 while friends Anne and Klaus were staying with us, having their first farm experience. Daisy birthed easily while we stood and watched in awe.  Of course we had to name the little bull calf Klaus.
Daisy is still giving us lots of milk when we milk her just once every day in the evenings. Some of her milk is used for feeding the two calves Mulga-Bill & Willow.
Bella (the brown one) is a beef cow that we once thought might be half Friesan so we trained her to be milked as well. She is so very quiet and has been a wonderful foster mum who takes any new calves that we give her.

Mulga-Bill drinks from a store bought calf feeder while Willow drinks from a home made one.  It works just as well as the fancy feeder that cost around $70 a few years ago and for a cost of less than $15, is much more realistic to the frugal small farmer.  (Photos & directions of how to make coming on a later blog.)  Each calf has their own feeder for the four months duration of their milk drinking to prevent any cross infection of scours or anything contagious.
These two calves are fed 2-3 litres of milk twice daily and run with the big cows grazing the paddocks and with access to hay.
Bella is drying off now after fostering Bubble who was weaned  last week and moved to a new paddock with Klaus and Lavender.
We bought Mulga-Bill as a young Angas bull calf last month and is our new breeding bull who will grow and run with the cows. With lots of gentle handling he has become quiet and shouldn't be too much of a problem when the testosterone kicks in. We also plan to loan him out to other small breeders so he is being trained to walk onto our trailer while he's young and small enough to coax and manipulate without giving him any negative experiences that he will be sure to remember. Cows have memories like elephants.
There is something so very special about cows. The smell of their breath and their trusting nature is enough to melt any heart and calm the most anxious of moods. Impossible to hurry, big and gentle, these are what connect me to the earth and its bounty every single day.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Slow Food

Tonight's meal of Devilled Chicken was delicious and within fifteen minutes it was gone.  It took a few minutes to prepare and then cooked slowly for approx three hours in the wood oven.
Served with creamy potato and vegetable bake from our home grown potatoes and Daisy's fresh cream, and some kale and cabbage from the garden lightly fried in home made butter.
The total cost of this meal for four was less than $2.  Nothing came out of a jar or packet and most of the ingredients were grown in our garden or made here in the kitchen from scratch.
 No electricity or gas was used, the wood for the fire was gathered at no cost.
All it took was human energy, motivation and time. Lots of time. But during that time, we did other things as well. We traveled, worked, enjoyed each others company and the company of friends, mended fences, planted trees, grew a garden and lived life.
You see, this meal started being made four months ago.

In February the fertile eggs were incubated and hatched after twenty onedays.  Fifty chicks were introduced to their broody hen surrogate mums who looked after them as their own for many weeks. Of them all, thirty were hen chicks and twenty were roosters.
The hen chicks (pullets) have just started laying eggs and the roosters have just started finding their voices at 4am each morning.
It's time for processing and into the freezer.

The last moments of their life were not spent shoved into small crates and transported hundreds of kilometres to a slaughtering factory.

                                                          With kindness & respect.

                                                         Ready for the freezer.

Monday, 9 June 2014

An Ordinary Weekend

We loaded three of our young cows onto the trailer and brought them to this new paddock on Sunday morning. (No pics of the loading or the trailer ride.. way too preoccupied with our task at hand to pause for a photo shoot.)
They loaded easily even though none of them had been onto the trailer before. Treated with kindness from the very beginning of their lives with us, they have no reason to doubt or not to trust us.  Bubble and Lavender are both young heifers and possibly will be kept for future breeders to add to our small herd or they will be sold to a breeder or possibly they will be grown on for meat. Klaus, the young steer went with them to the new paddock. He will be butchered here on our farm in October when he is twelve months old.

One of the fences looked a bit flimsy so we put a temporary electric fence along that side. Anything that could touch the hot wire had to be cleared out of the way so it doesn't short out. The hot wire is powered by a small portable solar unit and is worth its weight in gold.

Because we both work during the week days, weekends are jam packed with the endless tasks that need doing around the farm. Morning tea is a tradition that we must have on weekends. Home made biscuits of course.

I picked the last of the pumpkins from the vines we planted back in September last year. The vines need to die off before picking the pumpkins. This is when they have matured and grown to their fullest. Try to snip them off the vine to retain the stalk so they will keep longer. If stored in an airy place they will keep for ages. This lot will supply us for the entire year ahead.

Soon the chooks (chickens) will be allowed access into the fenced off area where we grew our summer vegetables. Our Summer patch has 50% shade cloth covering the whole area which stops scorching and drying out in the hottest summer conditions that we have here. This protection from the elements  is also probably why the tomatoes are still ripening.
 I needed to transplant some rhubarb plants from the Summer patch into another garden so there was a rhubarb and apple pie that required making from all the stems I had to cut off.

The apple trees were pruned. Brian is the master pruner, while I'm the laborer who picks up the leftovers.

The last of the tomatoes are going into the pot with apples, onions, garlic, vinegar and spices for a few more bottles of traditional Barossa Tomato Sauce. Every self respecting Barossa cook makes at least one batch of Tomato Sauce during summer. It's just a bit disconcerting (and tiresome) to still be making it during winter!
A batch of soft cheese (Quark) is draining in the background.

Last of the daily chores is milking Daisy and feeding the bobby calves. The single stand portable milking unit makes life much easier.
Aahh... must be time for a glass of red. Cheers!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Kombucha- Updated Version

** When I share SCOBY to friends, I refer them to this post to make their first brew, but over the years I've changed my thinking about using plastics in our home, so it was time to amend and update.
More people are drinking  Kombucha these days for it's great taste and for its healthful value. Whilst it is available to buy ready made at some Farmer's Markets, Health Food Stores and many other outlets, it's quite costly.  However, it is so easy to make for a few cents per bottle and I believe our own brew is far superior in both taste and purity.

To get started you need to find someone who will give you a SCOBY. (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria & Yeast)
This is a jelly fungal like substance that grows and multiplies while fermenting.
(Many great friendships have been formed when sharing  SCOBY's.)
When you receive your SCOBY it should be in a jar or small container with a cup of Kombucha liquid, and hopefully, some dregs from the bottom of the brewing jar.

Kombucha SCOBY 

Put your SCOBY and small amount of its liquid into a glass jar that will easily hold 1.5litres and put aside until later.

 **I no longer put hot liquid or foods into plastic. Everything else in this photo is still as it should be, but I don't use a plastic jug for making the hot brew. See the photo below.**

 ** This is the mixing jar that I now use because I make a double batch  (3 litres) and I make the tea in a teapot first.  Pour the tea into the glass mixing jar, then top up with more hot water.

Put 1/2 cup of sugar into a glass mixing jar that is large enough to hold 1.5 litres.
Peg 2 tea-bags to the side. Pour in enough hot water to dissolve sugar and release the tea from the teabags, then top up with warm water.
*Take care not to add too much hot water at once or the glass jar may break.
 (Don't use honey. The natural anti-bacterial in honey will slowly kill the SCOBY)
Set aside this container of sweetened tea until it cools to body temperature or cooler.
*Do NOT pour the hot mixture over your SCOBY because heat will kill it.

When the tea mixture has cooled, tip into the glass jar with the SCOBY.  The SCOBY may float to the top or it may float around in the jar. Either is OK and makes no difference to the speed of fermentation.
Cover with a cloth to allow natural yeasts to move around.

 ** This is the 3 litre glass jar of Kombucha brew that now sits on our kitchen bench.

After approximately seven to nine days, depending on the warmth of your kitchen, a new SCOBY will have formed on the top of the jar of tea.


Lift out the SCOBY and its newly formed SCOBY into a clean bowl.

Strain through a cloth into screw top bottles.
Leave approx 2cm of sediment in the bottom of the jar for making your next batch of Kombucha.

For a fresh ginger taste add 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger to each bottle.
For a berry taste add approx 6 raspberries, strawberries, mulberries or whatever you have in the garden or freezer.
These are our favourites but there are many flavorings to experiment with. eg, lemon zest, turmeric etc.

Leave a small space in the top of the bottle for the gas to form. Screw lids on tight. Write the date on each bottle.
Store in a cupboard until ready to drink after approx seven days.
Refrigerate & drink.
The kombucha that you make yourself has its own unique flavour.  Some bottles are fizzier than others.  The sugar is converted during the fermentation process and if kept too long it will develop a sour, vinegar taste.
We like to drink it up to two weeks from bottling, but some folks enjoy the more vinegar taste.
Each to their own! Either way, the health benefits are many.

So now it's time to make a fresh batch again.

Starting from the first step.
Make up a jug of tea with 2 tea-bags, 1.5litres of boiling water, 1/2 cup of sugar.
When cool, pour into large glass jar on top of the sediment from the previous batch and one SCOBY.
Cover and sit on bench top.

Store the remaining SCOBY in a jar in the fridge with a bit of the Kombucha sediment and liquid.
This is the SCOBY that you can give to a friend.

If you start to accumulate too many SCOBY's they can be fed to your chickens, pigs or mixed with the cow's chaff at milking time for a healthy boost to their gut health.

I know it all sounds quite detailed and time consuming, but this entire process takes me no longer than it takes to make a cup of tea.

The benefits I feel from drinking a glass of Kombucha tea every day are, less bloating, more energy, better sleep, less joint pain, high immunity to colds and contagious illnesses, and a general sense of good health and well being.

We wouldn't be without our Kombucha now.

How do you make your Kombucha?

If you love the idea of making your own Kombucha, but are still unsure about the instructions detailed here, please feel free to email me with any of your questions.


Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Citrus Peels & Good Friends

                                                              A gorgeous winter morning here in the Barossa.

                                                                        Citrus peel vinegar cleaning spray.

Winter means citrus. These tasty little mandarins from our tree smell as good as they taste. The peels have the most wonderful fragrance that I wished I could bottle. Then I found this handy tip last year and have not thrown out a single mandarin, lemon or orange peel since.
Put the peels into a glass jar and cover with vinegar. Ordinary cheapest white vinegar is fine.
Keep on filling the jar as you eat more citrus and cover with vinegar.  Let sit for approx 2 weeks to absorb the citrus fragrant oils. Strain some into a spray bottle, half citrus vinegar and half water, before using as a spray cleaner.
Suitable to use on all surfaces except marble.  DO NOT USE ON MARBLE.
Makes the bathroom, toilet & laundry smell fresh without using a single chemical.

                                                                   Anzac biscuits.

This week I've visited three lots of friends who have recently lost loved ones to cancer.  Until I lost my own parents, I didn't know how or what to do for a friend who is bereaved.
The loveliest of friends showed me the way. They called in with something home made in their hands, hugged me, offered help, stayed for only a few minutes and then left.
I try to follow that example now. These Anzac biscuits are for my dear friend whose husband recently died.
Another reminder to be grateful for every day and hug our loved ones often.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

A First Day of Winter Sunday

We've been blessed with 20mls of rain over the past two days. That wonderful feeling that all is well with the world as I head out in the misty rain to feed the calves their milk and let the chickens out. Rubber boots and steamy breath, this is what winter is all about.  Sunday morning is no different to any other day when you have farm animal commitments.  Oh, and I should add here that I'm likely to start talking about "chooks" any time soon, which is Ozzie for chickens, hens and roosters.

                                                  These lovely boys are destined for the table.  

            The girls prefer eating the cabbage leaves hanging from the tree rather than off the ground.

                                                         Noisy & bossy but good watch "dogs".

                                          Heading off to check where the electric fence is shorting out.
                                                   Moving Klaus & Lavender into a fresh paddock.

With the use of electric fencing we've divided all of our larger paddocks.  This enables us to move the cows onto fresh pasture every day or so to minimize parasite and worm infestation.  Allowing them access to fennel and wormwood when they feel they need it, we were able to stop using drenches more than eight years ago. Chemical drenches don't fit in with our organic lifestyle and we have never seen  worms in the gut of any of the beef we have butchered on the property.
Wherever you are, I hope you're having a lovely 1st day of June Sunday.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...