Monday, 28 March 2016

Easter 2016

Don't you just love this time of year? Oh Easter; a time to welcome the first peep of the cooler seasons to come. Fire wood to gather and cut. Garden plans to be put into action. Winter vegetables being planted. Soups, stews, curries and roasts making a come back to the menus.

 Yesterday Brian crutched the ewes and last year's lambs. The ewes are due to start lambing in two weeks time.


The last time we went to our local livestock market we saw that young weaners were fetching high prices, so we decided to turn over the two little heifers now, instead of growing them on to a year old before selling. They are both four months old so I advertised Rosie on Gumtree as a potential house cow for the asking price of $450.
There was quite a lot of interest, and the first people to inquire wanted to buy Blossom as well, for company and to kick start their cattle herd, so that worked out well for both parties.

 She was responding well to her halter training for a couple of weeks before leaving us. This will make it easier for her new owners to continue with her training during these first two years until she has her first calf.  She will be number one house cow at her new home and I could see that she was going to be very much loved.

 Two little heifers off to their new home.

A huge job of removing the wormwood hedge, made easy and very quick with the half day hired bobcat.  Oh, and what a difference it makes to the look of our yard now.
I planted that hedge approximately ten years ago and really loved it for all of this time. It broke up the yard, giving the illusion of smaller rooms leading off the main garden. But it was difficult to grow anything else in its proximity and with the very dry seasons of late, it was looking scrappy. Time to go, time for a change.

And finally, just in case you were fretting about us working too hard during the Easter long weekend, we had a small break last weekend. We never go away over Easter, everyone else is doing that.
Only fifty minutes away from home, this would have to be one of our favorite overnight, mini-break spots along the River Murray.
Meg's first time away with us in the caravan. That shows how long it's been since we took the van out!  She was such a good girl, slept like a baby on her little bed between the two tiny single beds in the van.  Alan stayed at home to be on guard for fox duty, but if you think he's missed out on all the fun, he had a wonderful day out yesterday with his favorite person, eldest son Michael.
I do hope you have had a wonderful Easter break.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Fruit Chutney

Last month Yvonne commented and asked about the recipe for Fruit Chutney. As it's getting towards the end of the season for stone fruits many of us have a,few bits of fruit that we need to use up.
Fruit chutney is a great way to do that.

Fruit Chutney

2 kgs of peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots (or any fruit you have)
1/2 kg of apples (peeled, cored and coarsely chopped)
2 onions (chopped)
2.5 kgs of sugar
2 cups of vinegar (I used cheap white or brown vinegar)
3 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of allspice
1 teaspoon of curry powder (I used Keens)
10 cloves
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
1 teaspoon of chopped fresh ginger or ground ginger powder

Put into a large cooking pan, bring to the boil and simmer for at least 2 hours until it has reduced and thickened slightly.
Pout into jars while hot. Screw metal lids on tight and the jars will seal.

**Stand the hot jars on a wood surface or one covered with thick paper or folded towel.
If you stand them while hot on a granite or marble bench top the jars will possibly crack.

You can use any fruit you have as long as you have roughly 2.5 - 3 kilograms.
I like our chutney to be a bit lumpy so I chop the fruit and onions into large pieces.

Just a few ways to use fruit chutney;
-on a platter with meats and cheeses,
-on sandwiches,
-in casseroles or stews to add flavor,
-mix with Philly cheese or similar soft cheeses (maybe your own home made cream cheese) as a dip.

Apples are landing on my kitchen table in large numbers and the quinces are almost ready for picking, so perhaps I'll try making this chutney using those two ingredients, with onions.
Go on, be adventurous.!

Sunday, 6 March 2016

The One that got away

Do you remember that I wrote yesterday that we were having four sheep killed today?  One of them is over that hill! 
They had been grazing with our mob on one of the leased paddocks near our local town.  When Brian brought them home yesterday he was unloading the four of them from the ute when one busted away from the small mob. It galloped right through some big double gates, into another paddock, kept going until it reached the boundary fence and went straight though into our closest neighbor's property. From there it galloped around their house and out their front gate, down and across the road and busted through a fence into another paddock belonging to another neighbor. I was called from working in the vegetable garden, thank goodness for mobile phones, and hot footed it across the road to open the gates and attempt to cut the sheep off and direct it into our gate while Brian was following it from the other direction.  Well, yes I stood there and when it appeared I made an attempt to make myself appear as large as possible, waving my hands, clapping and "woofing" like a dog.
To no avail though, as it ran straight towards me, leapt into the air as if jumping an imaginary fence, and off it headed up this hill.
 Usually I would take off my jumper or over-shirt to wave about, but as it's so very hot and all I wear is a singlet top over a bra, I thought it probably was not a great idea to strip off and wave my singlet top around in the air, with my woofing and jumping.
Meg was called and off they went in pursuit. I was left on gate and road traffic duty and knew I could be standing there for some considerable time as that is a thirty acre paddock. Very soon I was entertained by a mob of four kangaroos hopping across that picture, but as I stood with my mouth open in delight, of course they were gone by the time I punched in the code of the phone to snap a picture.
Soon they returned minus the sheep. It had joined up with a mob of ewes and new lambs across the hill, and he was definitely not about to start stirring them up to try getting one rogue sheep from their midst.
So there it will stay until our neighbor brings his sheep into his yards some time in the future.
That little hogget has a reprieve until another time, but it makes me wonder why one sheep will, out of the blue, behave erratically when they have all been handled with care and kindness.

I was potting up some of these little succulents for the farm gate stall when I was dragged off to chase sheep.

 And earlier in the day we were surprised by a visit from my niece Kimberly, from Victoria. She's a Rep for a large country clothing and apparel company, and travels constantly all over Victoria and Tasmania. She was on her way to Echuca and stopped off at her old home town to do some visiting. A little out of the way, but it was just so lovely to spend a couple of hours with her.
Now I'm pleased to report that all of the sheep, minus one, are hanging in the refrigerated cool room, after a very early start this morning just on sunrise.
It's another really hot day of temps around 39C, so lunch time is spent watching Landline today. This is the one and only time of the week that the TV goes on during the day and we break all of our rules by eating our lunch in front of the TV.
I hope you're keeping cool somehow if you're in South Australia today. It's a scorcher.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Bacon- Brining and Smoking- 2016

The last bits of the pork processing have been completed with our bacon now wrapped and in the freezer.
I really am running very behind with my blog journal as this all happened last Saturday and Sunday.

The hocks and bones that we brined for a week and then smoked last weekend.

We will eat the bacon packed in plastic bags first. The vacuum sealed packs of bacon will keep much longer without getting that freezer taint that sometimes happens after freezing for too long. We expect all of this to last right through until pig processing time at this time next year.
The purchase of the second hand meat slicer has been a great bonus. We sliced the bacon as soon as it had cooled after being in the smoker for twenty four hours. Packed into meal size portions and into the freezer.

Our smoker that Brian built from scrounged objects patched together. The smoking sawdust is in the small metal cabinet on the side. This means he need not open the main smoking chamber every time the sawdust needs replenishing.

Charcoal and fine oak shavings smoking slowly in the metal cabinet with a hole into the smoking chamber.

The metal flue from the smoking fire box (metal cabinet) allows smoke to flow into the smoking chamber where the brined bones and pork bellies are on metal racks for even smoking.
The bacon needs to be smoked slowly, the temperature of the smoking chamber should be no hotter than 40C. Brian got the oak shavings burning early so the bacon and bones went in at 7am Saturday morning. He checked and replenished the shavings every 2 hours all through the day and all night until it was ready at 7am Sunday morning.
See the details of making nitrate free brine and smoking bacon in a blog I wrote last year. I have amended the amount of salt this year by cutting back by a cup, and we think it tastes perfect for our taste. The recipe you will see there is the new amended salt measurement.

As the shavings were still smouldering I unwrapped a cheddar that I had made in October and left it in the smoker for four hours. After cooling, I vacuum sealed it again and we will try it after two weeks.
Well, Summer has returned with a vengeance and we expect a week or more of temps above 35C. One consolation is that the nights are cool.  I'm trying to stay positive, as like many, we're looking forward to autumn and winter for so many reasons.  I figure that if the weather is all that we can complain about, then we are not too badly off are we?
Regardless of the weather, life has to go on and farming jobs need to be done.
Brian processed eleven roosters for the table this morning. There are still more there to be done, but I was concerned there was not enough space in the freezers. They are four months old and are all around 3kg dressed. Big birds!
To conserve some space and pack them in tighter, I jointed six of them into packs of; chicken breasts, leg and thigh pieces, wings, and the frames for soup and stock.
We ate a roasted chicken tonight. Cooked outside in the old Weber barbecue in the "Le Chasseur" heavy enameled cast iron pot with a few spuds thrown in and a salad on the side. Simple and delicious with left overs for lunch tomorrow.
There are four hogget (lamb that has lost its first lamb's teeth, approx 1yr old, also called "two tooth") remaining from last year's lambing which are being butchered tomorrow morning. Early, because the forecast is for 39C..!!! They will hang in our refrigerated cool room for a week before we process them into roasts and chops next weekend, and will then be traded and shared among friends and family. I think I have space in our freezers for half of one, but of course I'll be doing my best to squeeze as much as I can in there.
Our meat variety in the freezers at this point in time are, lots of pork and bacon to see us through for the coming 12 months, a small bit of beef from the last beef we killed approximately six months ago, approximately ten chickens, some pigeons that Brian processed two weeks ago, approximately half of a mutton and a small bit of hogget. A friend brought us a Snapper and some Whiting fillets a couple of weeks ago that I traded for some dairy products, which is a welcome seafood treat for a couple of meals.
The vegetable gardens are still supplying us with abundant food, so I'm not buying anything much at all lately except tea, coffee, flour, and some organic wheat grains for milling in the stone grinder to make our sourdough bread.
So that brings me to getting back to the kitchen to feed the starter so I can bake a loaf tomorrow morning. 
Wishing you light and peace, with a measure of happiness and contentment in there too.
Until next time,

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

The Country Show

The Nashi pears have been prolific in one of the orchards this year. Unlike all of the other fruit trees, the birds have not touched the Nashi trees. I wonder what it is about them that makes them undesirable to the birds? They are amazing in taste and juice for the humans though.  What can I do with them? They are little juice bombs and drying them doesn't seem right, so we've been eating them in great quantities.

Everyone in the Barossa is just about Nashi-ed out too I suspect, after the farm-gate stall has, for the past few days, had a steady stream of cars stopping to make their purchases of Nashi pears. Another advert in the Barossa Online Classifieds page on Facebook has been a roaring success.

 Just doing my bit to help keep our small Agricultural Show going by entering a few things in the Show Hall sections.
Imagine my surprise when I went later in the day to bring my entries home. 
I started entering only five years ago when the daughter of a friend asked me to make the effort and help keep this show going. She wanted to start a section for dairy produce, and as we had a dairy cow, I was fair game to rope in. I had a few wins and placings, so I enter a few things each year.
Little Lavendar's milk won first prize in the milk section that was well represented by all of the professional dairies in the area. I wonder what those dairy folks would think if they knew they had been pipped by a little cow that is only half dairy breed? lol
I guess organics and grass fed is the winner here.
I put in some Feta cheese, yoghurt, butter, eggs, honey, plum sauce, tomato sauce, cordial and milk with a place or win in every section.
Super pleased to have earned a second place with my tomato sauce as there are some seriously good sauce makers here.
When I started entering I was considered one of the "younger ones", which was five years ago when I was fifty five!
These country shows are at risk of ceasing to exist and it is only with the enormous efforts by the numerous volunteers and the ordinary folks like us, supporting them by entering a few things to make some competition.
When I was very young I can recall going to the show hall early on show morning with Dad who entered his prize winning Dahlias every year.
So if you have a country show in your town or area, think about entering something in the show hall sections. It doesn't have to be fancy, or even very good, but it's great fun. Winning a place or a first prize is just the bonus.

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