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.

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