Friday, 31 March 2017
After a couple of really busy weeks, I can feel this part of my world taking a big slow breath out.
Last Sunday Brian and I butchered a pig. This is the pig that we keep for ourselves, and we prefer to take full responsibility for the meat that we raise and consume.
A big job. It's not pleasant either. Both of us have our set tasks, according to our strengths, and we work well as a team.
I wrote a more detailed post about the pig processing around this time last year.
We try not to waste any part of the pig, so I'm going to have another try at making brawn this time using Lucy's recipe from her blog Dawson Valley Free Range.
The first time we killed a pig I made brawn with the meat from the head, but it didn't gel properly and neither of us liked the taste, so I'll let you know how I go using this new method.
The day after we killed our pig, we took the remaining two pigs to the butcher as it's not legal to sell the meat unless it's killed in a registered abattoir.
When animals leave the farm it creates a big gap. There's less for me to look after, but there's a gap. Every year, after the pigs have gone, I'm haunted by them and I hear their playful grunting and barking for a few days. Weird but true!
I've informed Brian that I don't intend raising pigs next year. I'm going to have a break from being tied here during those five months. As well as a couple of short holidays I might take on the spur of the moment, (because I can) my niece in Victoria is getting married in February, and I think it's too much to expect someone else to look after the pigs to the standards that I've set myself.
So you can see how far ahead we need to plan things when we have farm animals. Our window for pig raising is from October/November to March/April, to avoid the wettest part of the year.
Mulga Bill has gone to his next appointment, but not without a couple of postponements.
We waited three weeks from the date that we know he mated Lavender and as she showed no signs of interest in Mulga for those couple of days, we made plans to transport him to his next holiday the following day.
The farmer was waiting for us to deliver him, but as we were moving the cows towards the yards we noticed him taking a lot of interest in Lavender. So, it was looking very much like she was cycling again, which would have meant that she didn't get in calf three weeks before.
A phone call was made to the waiting farmer, postponing his (Mulga's) delivery, while we kept a close look out on their behavior over the following few days.
After four more days he stopped following Lavender around, so we knew it was OK to deliver him then.
They didn't appear to mate again, but I'm not one hundred percent sure, and will be prepared for the arrival of her calf on the date according to the first mating. In early December.
No pigs, and no Mulga Bill bellowing his presence across the valley at numerous times during the days and nights.
My days are different too, and I'm finding time to get other things done around the place.
The chimney got its annual clean, the kitchen wood stove is burning, and turning out lots of baked foods.
Oh Autumn! My favorite time of year.
Thanks for visiting.
Tuesday, 21 March 2017
Easing into full retirement, I'm so lucky!
For some people it's a big step to take, and they need to prepare for all of that free time they will have. I've been reading some things on-line about preparing for retirement, but as usual I don't feel like I really fit into that box.
There is so much to do here that keeps me on the go from sun-up until well beyond sun-down, but the big difference now, is that I can take it more slowly. Breathe..! Ah, it's so very good.
I have more time to practice gratitude for all the small things.
I've started washing the trims and some of the paint work outside of the house; a task I usually did at the end of each summer, but haven't done for a couple of years. The bird poop and spider webs are awful.
This beautiful home that we worked so hard to renovate to our simple tastes, looks sad and neglected, so with extra time in my week, it's a job that's being done bit by bit. I can't do it all in one day, but when I do it I want to feel good about this work that I'm doing.
I feel such gratitude for this home that we have; the home that is all ours. No one can take it away from us, it's our past, our present and our future.
My days are busy, but it's good busy. I prefer to say they are full.
Lots of living creatures rely on me. I'm responsible for their welfare and comfort; that gets me out of bed every morning. They come first and their needs are tended to before mine.
And the garden... those plants need nurturing and maintaining to keep them alive, especially now in this hot dry climate.
No two days are the same, but the skeleton of my days is constant, depending on the time of year and the animals that I have in my care.
This time of year is fullest of all, pigs, milking and cows, gardening, watering, processing the fruits and vegetables that grow here or what we've found in our secret orchards.
Yesterday was Tomato Puree preserving in the morning, and Fig Jam making in the afternoon.
Kombucha secondary ferment with raspberries. Fizzy!
Fizzy kombucha lid explosion!
I made the big mistake of opening a bottle of raspberry kombucha before fridging it first. I was thirsty and had forgotten to put a new bottle in the fridge. Bang! I felt such a shock, my hand felt like it had been blown up and I just stood there looking at my hand and waiting for blood to start pouring out. And then realised how lucky that the lid exploded off and not the glass bottle. No blood though.
I then went through the cupboard and very carefully "burped" the remaining two bottles of raspberry booch over the sink. It's only the raspberry that gets so fizzy. The ginger (Brian's favorite) hardly gets any fizz at all.
This was all I salvaged from that bottle!
This made our job a little easier as we were able to pull the boards away without concern about wrecking the structure.
I couldn't take any more photos because I had one gloveless hand to work the camera button which the bees were trying to attack. One small piece of bare flesh! I don't like getting stung.
They were mean and they wanted us out of there. They didn't know that we were just trying to save their colony and their lives.
We're not sure if we managed to get the Queen. The hive box will stay there for a couple of days to allow them to get accustomed to going into it before we bring it home.
Brian will return to assess it later today after work. He will know, by observing the bee's behavior, whether there is a queen in there or not.
Hmmm... well no, I don't actually have that many flies inside our house, do you? As it turned out, she very wisely didn't want to use fly spray and her house was full of flies. I sent her home with my spare fly swatter.
A text from her later in the day "Where has this fly swatter been all my life? I'm a great shot, no more flies, but how do I get the squashed fly marks off the walls?"
Enough for now,
Cheers and go well.
Sunday, 19 March 2017
This week I listened twice to the Bill Leak interview, who sadly passed away last week. What a funny, and very clever man he was!
Today I listened to Felicity Kendall, which was totally enthralling. She and Richard Briers played the parts of Tom and Barbara Good in the 70's TV series "The Good Life".
It was my favorite TV program, as I was then in my twenties and yearned to live the good life way back then. Ha! A sign of things to come.
My three freezers are full, and although I'm trying valiantly to empty one of them, (to have just two running and one as a spare), I'm fighting a losing battle. In just three weeks time there will be a whole pig to go in there somewhere.
So, I'm doing my best to move frozen stuff... into our bellies (meat), into jars (fruit and berries), or into bottles (tomatoes).
I've been making Raspberry jam, and filling it out a bit with apples, that are ripening on our trees.
The first batch I made this week I used 1kg of raspberries with 500g of apples.
They both taste good, but the second batch is not as raspberry tasting so I'll always use the first method in future.
So I've done the experiment for you and here are the measurements I used to make the better tasting batch of the two.
Raspberry and Apple Jam
You will need;
1kg plus 250g white sugar
1/2 cup water
Cook jams, sauces and chutneys in a large pan, allowing enough space to bubble and rise. It will be dangerously hot, and can spit.
500 g apples, peeled, cored and sliced
Half cup of water
Cook with lid on until the apples are soft, then mash with fork or potato masher.
At this point, take the lid off and leave it off.
On top of the apples pour in 1250g of white sugar (1kg plus 250g)
(It seems a lot, but I've already cut back on the usual recommended amount of "equal weight fruit to sugar.")
Heat through while stirring, it will almost dissolve the sugar.
Add 1kg of raspberries and stir to mix.
Keep the heat high enough to boil constantly, and stir frequently to prevent sticking on the bottom.
This will take approximately thirty minutes to one hour before it starts to thicken and look like bubbling larva.
Test for setting point by putting a dessertspoon of jam onto a saucer, and place in the freezer for a couple of minutes. Then, in very good light, move the spoon across slowly, and look for slight wrinkling on the surface of the jam. If there is wrinkling, it's sufficiently cooked and ready to pour into jars.
Another method is to run your finger through the jam. If it holds the gap, it is set enough to pour into jars.
Take off the heat and using a small jug, pour the hot jam into very clean dry jars. Screw on the metal lids immediately and they will seal as the jars cool.
It's ready to eat immediately, but keeps well for more than a year in sealed jars, in a cool dark spot.
This calls for a batch of soda water scones.
Making jam is really simple, so if you haven't already tried it, why don't you give it a go.
Cheers from Jembella Farm kitchen, where I can be found every day this week, working at expanding those spaces in the freezers.
Monday, 13 March 2017
Unfailingly, over the last few months, I'm asked about Lavender. My dear little cow who suffered an awful trauma late last year. Lavender and Freddie and I realise now that I haven't done a very good job of keeping you up to date with her recovery.
In late January the teat looked like it was healed well enough to try putting the fourth cup on, and it worked! Initially she flinched because it must have felt strange, but now she accepts having the cup placed onto the teat with no fuss at all.
She's cunning though and won't let down very much milk for me to take because she's waiting for me to let Freddie back in with her.
(On the days that I want to milk, Freddie is sectioned off into a separate paddock in the morning, so I can get some milk in the evening).
But we have a cunning way to prevent this happening. As Lavender is standing in the small yard before coming into the dairy, we open the gate to Freddie's yard and allow him to suckle for approximately half a minute and we can observe the milk starting to flow. Then we ask Lavender to 'Hup, hup" into the dairy, while blocking Freddie from following her.
We get twice as much milk by doing this, and now they know the drill, it's quite simple to manouvre.
Now and then I try bringing her straight into the dairy, thinking that surely she will let me have all her milk, but it doesn't work.
The temp was in the low thirties, but the stock were comfortable, now that the sale yards have water troughs in each yard. About time!
bone broth which needs to simmer for twenty four hours to release all of that goodness held in the bones.
I then tip the broth through a finer sieve before pouring into containers for the freezer.
A small batch of Raspberry and Apple Jam.
A few sourdough loaves. It would be wasteful not to utilize the oven as well as the stove top. ;)
Tasting...for purposes of quality control. Someone has to do it!
Autumn has officially arrived, but here in South Australia we're getting the summer weather that we missed out on during Summer, so the stove has been allowed to go out, as we return to high temps for the next couple of weeks.
Gosh it was a nice two days though.! Come on Autumn.
Cheers and thanks for dropping in. :)
Thursday, 2 March 2017
Then my older brother Mick, became a keen supporter in his adult years, and was a tireless volunteer in many areas of the annual show.
My sisters and I competed in the Horses in Action events with our horses from a young age too.
So when prompted five or so years ago by a young friend who was trying to drum up entries for the traditional and historic show hall display, I promised I would support her by entering whatever I could manage, and in recent years it has snowballed from there.
The Barossa Valley Cheese Company are sponsors of the dairy section. I was lucky to win the most successful overall points in that section with yoghurt, hard cheese, soft cheese, milk and butter.
For the second year in a row I've won their donated voucher to spend in their award winning cheese factory shop, and this year there were squeals of delight when I opened the envelope to see the generous amount of $50.!
Great care is needed when getting up for a twinkle in the middle of the night, for fear of tripping over a box of pears!
The dehydrator is running around the clock, drying pears, peaches, nectarines and tomatoes.
Jars of preserved tomatoes, tomato sauce and chutney are being turned out daily.
The raspberry patch is productive and I'm picking every day.
A few jars of a new (trial) jam made yesterday that passed the taste test, Raspberry and Peach, so another pot of the same ingredients is on the gas hot plate today.
That kombucha needs bottling off too.. Ahh, not enough hours in the day..!
A new apiary that we're managing, over the ranges, roughly forty minutes away with a different flowering aspect to that which we are experiencing here this season.
The hives are full of honey! So we extracted a few kilograms last week to put us back into the honey selling business from the Farmgate shop.
The hives have been neglected for a few years and the owner contacted us with a plea for help. After putting her on the right track, we asked her if she would like us to manage them for her, which was gratefully accepted. So, in exchange for a bit of honey for her own use, we now have two more stands of bees closer to the Adelaide Hills.
Some of the hives were smothered by blackberry bushes, so there was a need for suiting up to cut back the prickly bushes that were covered with tasty berries. I kept a few cuttings to pick off the berries when it was safe to take my suit off. Berries are irresistible to me, and I would have loved to pick lots more, but our work was cut out for quite a few hours, dealing with the bee hives.
We transferred all of the (triple high) nuc boxes, into full brood boxes with a super on top.
The owner had placed nuc supers on top of the nucs to give them more space to breed, thus stopping them from swarming. This was the best she could manage to do, being a rather elderly lady, and we praised her efforts. Even though it was an unusual way of bee keeping as such, she did the right thing in her limited circumstances.
The temperature was approximately 29 degrees, but fully suited, and working hard, it was like a sauna in our suits. I was trying to take some photos, but with my thick gloves on, it was a bit difficult. Later, I found lots of unintentional selfies!
The shed on the property had lots of boxes stacked up to the roof, full of wax moth, and desperately in need of maintenance. We loaded up our cattle trailer and ute to bring them home to work on.
Brian has spent every evening this week, after his day job, scraping and burning off the wax moth residue and eggs, before sanding and then giving every box a new coat of paint. This is the third and final row of boxes.
We've booked ourselves up on Sunday for another full day of bee work at one of the apiaries, and will bring some frames home for extracting.
These are long days with an early start, traveling to the hives, sorting and inspecting the hives before choosing frames full of honey, then traveling home to extract the honey in our honey shed, then one of us (Brian) takes the empty frames back to the hives, while the other (me) remains here to clean up the extracting equipment.
There's honey in the Farm-gate shop again, and the customers are grabbing it while they can.
This morning I walked up to the top of the hill to move the cows into a fresh paddock, as I do every few days. I had my phone, so snapped a photo looking back down to the house and gardens from the rear view. Although we're having a hot week or two now, this summer has seen more rain than I can ever remember experiencing here. The
lawn grass around the house is still green, and for the first time ever, has needed mowing every couple of weeks right through summer.
The paddocks still have a good coverage of dry grass with green pickings of rye and phalaris coming through to keep the cows happy.
Now eleven months old, Ambrose and Gordon are off to market next week.
Lavender came on heat earlier this week, so Mulga Bill was very attached to her for a few days. Getting her in for milking, and away from him, was a bit interesting. Luckily we have lots of interconnecting yards and a clever gate system, so with the assistance of a few slices of bread thrown in the right place at the right moment, I tricked him into parting from her for a few minutes each morning and evening.
All being well, her due calving date will be December 7th. We will observe closely in three weeks time for any signs that Mulga shows interest in her. If not, we will know that she has been successfully mated.
I'm not milking Lavender twice a day, but I do need to bring her into the dairy so I can move her calf, Freddie, into another paddock for the day. I then milk Lavender in the evenings and let the calf in with her afterwards so he can spend the night with her.
Some days I don't milk her at all. ie, when we've got a full day doing something else, or if I'm working, so on those days the calf is allowed to remain with her. This is what I call share milking and in my opinion, the most humane way to get milk and keep a happy cow and calf.
Oh another epic!
OK enough for now,
Cheers and thanks for popping in.