Sunday, 31 May 2015

The last day of May

A foggy mist across the valley this morning as I headed out to collect some firewood.

The leaves have almost finished falling from the Glory vines and Manchurian Pear trees. I love this time of year and am ever thankful that I'm not bothered by leaves. Occasionally the leaf rake gets waved around when little plants are suffocating, but there's nothing quite like kicking through a pile of leaves when walking from the house to the paddock.
I never take this place for granted. The morning view of the house always makes me feel so grateful to be here.

An abundance of lemons and limes so I whipped up a few jars of marmalade to put in the Farm-gate stall. And for spreading onto home made bread, toasted, with lashings of fresh butter. (sigh...)

The recipe I used is from "A Year on the Farm" by Sally Wise
After borrowing this book from our local library, I knew I had to have a copy in my kitchen to keep, so it's one of the very few books that I purchased in its new state.
Now it's covered in sticky notes and bookmarks so I can quickly find cheesecake recipes, marmalades, jellies, cordials, chutneys and lots of delicious preserves.
I especially like the way she makes small batches so that nothing takes a monumental effort to achieve.  I remember in the early days of my married life, planning well ahead to make the yearly batch of chutney with 20lbs of fruit which took all day. The entire house, and everything in it, smelled of chutney for days after.
The Sally Wise recipes are simple and can be whipped up in little time. I wish it had been around twenty years ago.
Hardly a dent was made in the huge bowl of citrus perched on the dining table. While I ponder my next methods of using them up, the room is wonderfully fragrant.
I'll definitely make more citrus cordial for use in summer, as well as lemon butter and a lemon tart or two in the coming weeks.

Saturday, 30 May 2015


It's olive season and here in the Barossa there are plenty of olive trees to pick from. I pick mine from  the same secret location each year. They are big and plentiful and so easy to pickle.
In years past I tried to pickle olives but the disposal of buckets full of salt water every couple of days was a big problem. Where to tip it without it getting it into the soil, drains, and waterways?
I gave up on pickling olives.

A few years later I found another recipe that is so quick and easy. The jars last for years, we're currently eating some that I pickled in May 2011. I think they actually improve over time.

You will need;
A bucket (or 2, depending on how many olives you're going to pickle) to soak the olives in.
Some clean jars with screw top lids.
Rain water
Fresh garlic, lemon, fennel seeds, chilli or which ever flavors you want in your olives.
A big saucepan to make the brine.

Put olives into a plastic (food grade) bucket and cover with rain water. I use both green and black olives all mixed in together as this is how they come when we pick them.
Stir them around a little with your hand and leave them soak.
Change the water every day for 3 days.
On the 4th day when you're ready to put the olives into jars, make a 10% brine. (To 1 litre of boiling water add 100g of salt) Allow to cool for 5 minutes before using.
Drain the olives and put into clean glass jars, adding a couple of slices of garlic, a few fennel seeds, a piece of chilli, a thin slice of lemon, or none of these if you prefer.
Cover with the hot brine, and screw on the lids.
Write the date on the jars and store in a dark place for 6 months.
They ferment in the jars and sometimes ooze so I suggest you sit the jars in a plastic container to catch the spills.
Taste after 6 months. Sometimes they need longer. Keep in fridge after opening.
Play around with the flavours and wait to see the end result in a few months time. Then you can adjust the following year.
We have planted a few varieties of olive trees here and look forward to crops in the future. I love the trees and wouldn't really care if they give us olives or not.
Half the fun is in the searching for your olives and picking them just at the right time.
Do you pickle olives?
Do you have another recipe to share?
What things do you make from your pickled olives?

Friday, 29 May 2015

The kindness of strangers

 The little Farm Gate shop sits just outside our gate and is gradually growing in popularity.  All kinds of jams, pickles, sauces and chutneys, honey, garden produce, biscuits and potted herbs could be on offer on any given day. It's honesty box simplicity and I can honestly say that no one has, as yet, abused our trust in them.  I believe that if we give people the chance to be trusted, then in most cases they are honest.
The funds raised help us to continue with helping families in Nepal.
Occasionally customers return the jars when they return to buy more, which is always appreciated as I try to use recycled jars for the preserves as much as possible.
Last Friday, after a particularly tiring day at work, I arrived home to see a stash of lovely recycled jars on a shelf in the stall. In one of the jars were two perfectly knitted little cotton squares and a note, which I read immediately and was overwhelmed by this gift from a complete stranger.
To you dear Cheryl, your kindness is what makes this world a wonderful place to live.
You mention in your note that you enjoy reading my blog, which is a gift in itself to hear someone say that. Then you go on to say that you hand knitted the little cotton dish cloths that you use instead of buying disposable ones.  I love them. They match my blue and white kitchen perfectly.  In these times of almost everything being disposable I love to use re-usable cloths and wash them. How did you know? They deserve a time of sitting on the kitchen bench with your note as a reminder of such kindness, before they become utility objects that I will use over and over.
I hope to meet you some day Cheryl, so please make yourself known when you're next visiting and can see that I am at home so that I can thank you in person.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Rendering pig fat - Lard

Last month I wrote about making the bacon from our pig processing, and I promised to write more about using the whole of the pig. Not wasting anything from that animal whose life we took so that we could eat pork.
Lard is what you get when you render the fat that's left over after all the cuts have been made, ie, chops, roasts, bacon. I hate to see people throw all that fat away. Lard is a delicious fat for cooking and, if the pig was raised in a natural manner (not pumped up on grains and doctored with chemicals) the fat is healthy and nutritious.
The truth about lard

This is how I make our lard which I use for;

Roasting (potatoes and other veges)
Pastry making
Soap making
                                                          Don't throw the fat away!

Put all the left over skin and fat into baking dishes in a moderate oven and collect the fat as it melts. Every half hour or so, carefully tip the melted fat into a saucepan or other solid container. Not plastic, it will melt.
Return the baking tins to the oven until all of the fat has melted out.
As the poured off fat cools a little, but is still pourable, you can then tip into plastic freezer containers or glass jars.
The lard will keep in the fridge for a few weeks so I keep one in the fridge, but store the remaining containers in the freezer.

The solids that remain after rendering should be disposed of and not fed to the chickens. It's too rich for them.
Our dogs, Max and Meg, appreciate the crispy skin but we feed only a little at a time as it's very rich. We break it up into pieces and store it in the freezer.

And now to the pigs head.
The dogs enjoyed the ears. They had one each which they chewed on for hours.
The tongue and cheeks have been stored in the freezer with the liver for the making of Barossa German style white pudding at a later date.

The skull will be made into bone char (bio char) and used in the gardens and paddocks.

I hope our ancestors would be pleased that we used every part of the pig except the squeal.  

Sunday, 3 May 2015

New life

Apologies for the time lapse between blogs. A lot has happened here on the farm and further afield.  The major event, and most exciting news is the arrival of new Grand daughter Clover Rain who was born at home in Victoria on April 20th. She is adorable of course and her big sister Isla loves her to bits.
So I've spent two wonderful weeks over there in Victoria helping to look after the new Mum and big sister Isla. Truly special times.

The week before Clover's birth we had a birth of our own here at the farm as Daisy delivered a healthy bull calf on April 13th which we named Dusty.

Her milk supply is plentiful so on the following day we purchased a small bobby calf from a nearby dairy hoping she would foster it, but once again, she is not going to have anything to do with it. After our trying and persevering for nearly two weeks, she would not accept little Jordie, so we have him feeding out of the calf feeder.

We tried to teach Jordie, the foster calf, to sneak his drinks from the back while her own calf Dusty took his drinks from the side.
Some cows are natural fosters and will accept a second calf after just a few days of introducing and teaching. However, it appears Daisy is not one of those cows, unfortunately.
Our lovely old Bella is a wonderful foster mum and we look forward to her calf being born in September.
While I was away, I received a message from Brian.
"Murray rang, he has another calf there if we want it."
Well, we're already bottle feeding one calf, and Daisy has ample milk, so we might just as well bottle feed two calves. (As well as her own calf Dusty who runs with her and suckles at any time).
So little black Angas calf "Blackie" has joined us as well.
After a couple of day's quarantine and close scrutiny of the bowel movements, all three calves are now running with Daisy and the other cows, coming in at milking times for their feeds.
The bottle fed calves are fed twice daily and drink 2 litres of milk with 1/4 cup of garlic water and 1 teaspoon of dolomite powder mixed in to help keep their gut healthy.
All calves that we bring in seem to get the scours to varying degrees. Probably because they don't get to stay with their mums for long enough and don't ingest the correct amount of colostrum that is necessary to build the gut health for developing strong immune systems.
Garlic & Dolomite (Calcium, magnesium) is our maintenance procedure for growing calves.
The lactating cows also get a handful of Dolomite, (1 desertspoon Apple Cider Vinegar, 1/2 cup molasses) in every feed whilst in the dairy.
With three calves to feed, we're still getting lots of milk for the kitchen, so the fridge is groaning with fresh made butter, cheese, yoghurt, puddings, ice cream and cream.
It was wonderful to leave home for a break and to spend time with my family, but it's just so good to be home again.
Autumn is my favorite time.  I left here when the paddocks were dry, to return two short weeks later to green fields everywhere, red leaves on the Glory Vines surrounding our house, yellow leaves falling from the fruit trees, the Acacias flowering their beautiful Wattle.

 It's been a week fraught with anguish as we received the awful news of the devastating earthquakes in Nepal. For days I could not make contact with any of my friends and families living there, but gradually, one by one, each of my friends made contact through social media. Finally, I was able to phone and find that all of them have survived. I sobbed with joy and relief after thinking the worst for many days.
Here is a brief blog about my connection with Nepal written by Tess Fisher.
The Nepali people are the most resilient of anyone I know and after spending a week sleeping outside, they are now moving back into their homes as the after shocks subside. Anita Shahi told me they had experienced 114 earthquakes in the six days.
Of course, the news was not so good for thousands of people and the country needs a lot of aid to repair the damage and get back on their feet. 
My heart goes out to all of those who have suffered unimaginable loss of their loved ones and their homes. Australians are known to be so very generous and I do hope that we can all pull together to donate what we can to the aid relief.
Namaste to all of my friends near and far. 

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