Wednesday, 5 December 2018

December 2018

Hello friends!
It's been such a long time since I sat here at my laptop tapping out some words to journal our life and happenings here at Jembella.
This was the purpose of the blog, after all, but life generally gets in the way of sitting back and writing things down. So today's post is a catch up on what has been happening.
To those readers who also follow me on Facebook and on Instagram, you can expect to see some photos that you've seen before. Although these two platforms are also a great way for me to record my living journal, I realise there are dear friends who don't use them and the only way they can see what we're up to is by reading this blog.

In late October we drove to collect our two female piglets from Peggy, our friend and free-range pig breeder.
In years past we have always bought three piglets. One for our freezer and butchered at home, and two for selling the meat. 
By law, to sell the meat we are required to have them butchered at an accredited abattoir. However, due to our disappointment with the local abattoir, (read.... rough treatment of the pigs at their final hour of life was clearly evident  on inspection of the carcasses at collection time) we have decided not to sell our pork. We bought only two pigs because it will be manageable for us to butcher both pigs here at home on the same day, to our own ethical requirements. This pork will be for our freezers and shared with friends and family who have helped us out in various ways.

 They are living a good life and dining out every day on restaurant scraps and surplus milk. Soon there will be orchard fruits that we collect from under our trees of those of our friends.  I've often heard it said that home grown food animals "have a good life with just one bad day" but it is really important to us that our animals DON'T have ANY bad days.

Also in October we attended our local Angaston Primary School 140th anniversary.
One of my longest time friends (I won't say oldest)  joined us and we found our Grade 3 teacher, Miss Hahn. She was our favourite teacher and she is still a gorgeous lady.

Little Stretch seemed to be growing up and not out so I purchased a bag of "Calf grower pellets" which he would not eat!  I tried feeding him by hand, but he spat them out so I  taught him to drink from the bucket and add the soaked pellets to his milk rations twice a day. Almost immediately we could see him filling out.

 October Beekeeping workshop at Jembella Farm

November Beekeeping Workshop at Jembella Farm

We had the great pleasure of running two Beekeeping classes in both October and November. both of them fully booked out.
Yes, they are quite a lot of work to organise, especially so because I do all of the catering of morning tea and lunch, take all the bookings and do all the marketing and publicity, but they are enormous fun. We see people learn about keeping bees and then return to buy their equipment and bees, and then we mentor them through the beginnings of their new adventure. 
Brian and I both believe that knowledge should be shared. We shouldn't take it with us, as was the attitude of many older apiarists who we peppered with questions during our early years of beekeeping. 

Forty chickens hatched in the incubator and then placed into the care of three broody hens.
Another sixty eggs are in the incubator and due to hatch next week.  Most of them will be chicken for our table plus a few replacement layers and breeders.
I bought a chicken from the supermarket last month when our supply in the freezer ran out. It was a big disappointment and my plan is not to buy from the supermarket again! 

 After a tricky growing season..low rainfall whilst growing and then a downpour of 25mls after cutting... we actually got some hay baled. Phew!! 
Hay is so expensive to buy this year due to the shortage, and we can breathe a huge sigh of relief that we have enough to supply our stock for the next two years.

Cutting enough chaff from our new season hay to feed the cows when they're in the dairy for milking.

The nets are on the fruit trees. The birds are becoming hungrier and coming in closer than ever before. 

A reminder to take extra care when near the netted trees as snakes are often caught in the netting that touches the ground. This one had its head caught in the netting that covered the blueberry bushes. The only way out was to remove its head.
The week before this, Brian had a surprise as he lifted the lid on one of the hen's nests to find a Red Belly Black snake curled around half a dozen eggs. 

 This is the time of year for re-queening our hives if the Queens are getting old. We ordered (and received in the post) six Queens form Queensland last week. 
Brian's Queen breeding program is going well, with five young Queens gone to new homes last week.

And as if life wasn't busy enough, we found this sweet girl at the cattle sales last week. 
Her arrival has been challenging and eventful, but with great joy too.
Honeysuckle deserves a blog post all to herself, as you can see I'm completely smitten.

But before I go, I want to tell you about a beautiful new blog from a friend who I met through this blog and then through Instagram. 
Great things are meant to be shared and I think you will love Fairy Wren Cottage
as much as I do.
Jude is a wife to Michael and mum to fifteen year old Liliana. They live on a few acres in delightful Tasmania, in a cottage they have renovated together into something out of the pages of Country Style magazine. Truly, you will drool over the photos that Jude so cleverly styles and displays on her pages. But it's not just about beautiful things and a life of total fantasy. Jude suffered an injury a few years ago that has changed the way she has to live, and then young Lil also suffered an injury.
Jude writes about the ways they have learned to adapt, learned to be positive and grateful for the simplest of things. 
 (Lordy, don't most of us need a reminder at times, to be grateful for our good health and mobility that we mostly take for granted?)
This little family have a genuine love for animals, especially ducks, guinea pigs, chickens and dogs that is heartwarming to read about. Jude writes about and shares tips on permaculture and organic gardening and animal care, cooking, baking, sewing and crafting, homeschooling etc.
 Her beautiful mantra of "Bloom where you grow" rings true in my ears.
I honestly wish Jude lived just down the road from me, she is just the kind of friend we would all love to have. Oh and did I mention that she also writes for Grass Roots Magazine? Yep! 
So go over and have a read, I think you will be charmed.

That's enough from me today, and thanks if you made it all the way through.
Sal XX

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Spring Rush and Dear Friends

Dear friends,
Thank you for your  kindhearted  comments in regards to the loss of our Soda. I know you will understand why I did not answer each comment personally, and I hope you will accept my gratitude to each and every one of you for taking the time to write, in each case, the perfect words that were balm to my soul. You knew exactly the right thing to say. Wow, from people I have never met came comments, emails and phone calls with wishes that were perfectly soothing and powerful.
What a beautiful community we have here, and I'm so grateful to you all.

 The days are warming up and the Spring rush is on.  There is much to achieve each day, and now the watering routine has begun. I do wonder why I create so much work for myself, but I enjoy pots of colour and greenery around the place.

You know how concerned we were about getting a hay crop this year? The contractor arrived last week and agreed it was time to cut.

This smaller crop was lush, but the other paddock was not so, but he cut it anyway.  Oh what a great feeling of relief, but we must not count our good fortune just yet; not until it's bailed and put away in storage.
The number of bales will be well below our usual, but combined with our stored hay from last year, there will be enough to feed our cows and sheep through summer and get us through until October 2019.

Brian has taken two weeks annual leave to do our shearing, among countless other things that need doing at this time of year. Most of these were the ewes that we did not mate up in view of the dry season ahead. So no lambs for them this year, but they put more energy into growing an extra long fleece. Brian was doing some fancy footwork to handle the huge girls and shear their wool off.

At morning smoko on the first day.  I didn't recognize Coco with her wool off, but she was happy to see me and came over for a chin scratch after I snapped this photo. She was one of my bottle fed lambs from last year, now grown into a lovely strong ewe.

Jack of all trades, this bloke.

We butchered the steer. 
I helped bring him into the crush because I was familiar to him and he was relaxed around me. We didn't want him stressed.  I then swiftly moved the other cows into a far paddock before beating  a fast retreat while the men completed the job in a competent and professional way. 
I'm so very grateful to have people around me who are capable and can be trusted to do such an enormous task. As a meat eater, preferring to eat chemical free and ethically raised and dispatched meat, I can't stress enough the importance of taking control of the entire process from birth to plate.

 Hung for two weeks in our refrigerated cool room.

Our butcher friend helped us cut the carcass into all manner of cuts and portions. I chose to forfeit a couple of rolled roasts and gained these ribs instead. 
We enjoyed some of them slow cooked in a sticky Asian type sauce in the wood oven for dinner that night. Delicious.!

This is the advantage of helping our butcher, standing alongside him, and choosing the cuts as we go.
Brian helped me to make approximately 10kgs of mince with the off cuts and then I spent the remainder of the weekend packing the meat into meal size portions. It's a huge job that needs to be done with care to avoid any waste.
Most of the meat was packed into vacuum sealed bags and will store very well in the freezer for twelve months or more. The meat that we intend to eat first, within five or six months, was packed into ordinary plastic bags.

  Rendering the beef fat in the wood oven. 

For baking and soap making.

The weather has been cool enough to have the wood oven burning everyday, so there has been quite a bit of baking going on.

It has been a bumper couple of months for the Farmgate stall since our local Cottage Industries shop in the town closed its doors. People obviously love to access old fashioned home made foods.

There's bee work of some type going on every day now that we're into Spring.

Marking young Queen bees ready for sale. Red is the colour for this season.

Bee rescue call-outs are a daily occurrence at this time of year.

 Heavy work.

My goodness we've come a long way since our early days of hand winding the honey extractor under some bee proof netting strung over the Hills Hoist (wash line). We laugh about that now, and never take for granted our much easier set up that we've built up over the years. 
However, for all the modern equipment that we have now, our honey is still the same in quality. It is still spun from the frames without the use of heat, to maintain it's raw and pure goodness. 

 Lavender's calf Bertie is six months old now and it's time she was weaned.  

As we have only three cows on the property now, and I wanted to keep Lavender and Poppy together in the same paddock, I needed to buy a paddock companion for newly weaned Bertie. 
Also, now that Lavender is not feeding a calf, she needs to be milked twice daily. 
ALL that MILK!!!  What a great way to use up some of it by feeding a bobby calf?
A call to one of our local dairy farms on Sunday, and by evening we had this little bloke in our possession.  A Friesan bull calf, three days old, had been bottle fed on colostrum...perfect.  
Such long legs, we named him Stretch. 
Before we lifted him onto the back of our ute I slipped an homeopathic Arnica pillule into his mouth to reduce the shock that he would suffer from the short trip to his new home. 
I previously wrote about our use of Arnica here.

 Bertie, meet Stretch.
Bertie was reluctant to accept Stretch as a replacement for his mum; weaning time is stressful for all and there were a noisy couple of days.

But this morning peace reigns as the two paddock mates have become acquainted. 

So I think I've almost caught up on our news for now. I'll show you the vegetable gardens next time. 
Cheers until then.
Sally XX


Saturday, 6 October 2018


Hello, it's been awhile since I wrote but we're still here.

 I've been trying to form the words, and although three weeks have passed, words still won't connect or make any sense of our loss.
As this blog is a real account of our life here on our little patch, I can't choose to omit an event that has knocked us over, to the point that we still can't discuss it with each other. 
Time will help us to process this part of our journey, but the loss leaves a big empty gap in our lives.

January 2018 - September 12th 2018

She gave us some challenging moments, but the joy we received from her funny antics will be treasured always.
Ever keen to please, always loyal and loving to her humans, and clever beyond words. 

What happened?
She was the master of escape, and although we had made every effort to prevent her from jumping over or digging under fences, she made her way onto the road and was hit by a passing car.
It all happened so fast and the end was quick.

Soda, you were a special girl, a darling companion to us all. May you run and play and chase bunnies forever. 

The pain passes but the memory remains. Each dog leaves a paw print on our heart.

Thanks for reading and visiting my blog today; it was a difficult one to write. 
Give your loved ones, especially your dogs, an extra cuddle today in memory of all those dogs who are taken before their time is up. 
R.I.P. Soda 


Tuesday, 4 September 2018


Lots has been happening around here lately, and this morning I'm sitting at the kitchen table with my cuppa as the sun peeps over the horizon, laptop at the ready, determined to catch up with you.
Maintaining a large garden, caring for animals, baking, bee-keeping, and the never ending house domestics, there is always plenty to do around here, but I admit I do like to be busy, so there it is.
With the arrival of spring and days that are no longer chilly, the grass (loosely referred to as lawn) around the house is growing at an alarming rate and needs mowing every ten days or so. I wish the same could be said for the hay paddock which seems to have stopped growing altogether. At this rate there will be no hay making, but we continue to hope it will keep pushing upwards as we have all of this month to wait for some last minute growth. Perhaps some sunshine on it will push it along, provided we get a few showers of rain too.
With the warmer days we're drinking more kombucha instead of an afternoon cuppa. I've given away a couple of SCOBY's to beginner kombucha makers lately and have referred them to my old blog post for instructions on how to make it.
I hadn't  looked at that post for some time, and I found it needed updating, so if you're just getting into making your own kombucha you might find it helpful.

Our freezers are re-stocked with lamb after a processing morning just over a week ago.

A friend brought one of his lambs to learn from Brian the skill of butchering. There is nothing like the satisfaction of raising our meat from birth to plate on our own piece of land. With this new skill, our friend Craig has achieved one step closer to his own food security and self sustainable farming to feed his family.

It was warm enough to open a couple of our bee hives to clean up the frames for the flowering season that is upon us now.

The bees in one of the hives had made a frame of honey under the lid which had to be removed, before adding a super (box) to allow them more space to breed and store honey. Very carefully we sliced off the honeycomb into strips and made up some jars of honey with honeycomb. A rare opportunity to let our buyers sample this product as we are often asked if we sell honeycomb; our answer is always no. We choose not to destroy their wax  foundation frames  when we are extracting honey from the hives. It takes a lot of energy, pollen and nectar, to build replacement wax foundations, and we would rather they use that energy to make honey.

These few jars of Honey with Honeycomb disappeared very quickly from the Farmgate stall.
This week the weather has turned to winter again, with some welcome rain and cooler temperatures so there was no bee work, but we have many more hives to open and perform maintenance checks  as soon as we get some warmer days.

 The beekeeping workshops will begin again next month on  Sunday October 28th, and this one is already booked out.
If you're keen to attend any of our workshops for this coming bee season let us know so we can book you in.
The next workshop will be on Sunday November 25th. The cost of $100 includes morning tea, lunch and beverages and is a full day course from 9:00am - 5:00pm. Numbers of participants are limited to 10 people to allow hands on participation and interaction.
Gosh, this season has come around so fast, and I'm caught slightly on the hop so we shall be working some nights to catch up. Orders are already coming in for equipment purchases and soon there will be swarms to collect as well as extracting honey from all of the hives.
Our Pure Raw Honey sales continue strongly as more controversy rages over imported honey coming into the country and containing fake honey substitutes. I'm glad it has come to the notice of the general public now, as it's something we've suspected for a long time but could not say anything about it until there was firm evidence.
Buy local, support your local farmers and apiarists. Nothing tastes as good as locally produced anyway.
There's mandarine marmalade to make, sourdough loaves to mix, a patch of grass to mow, and Kelpies to walk/run..... before lunch!
And now I'm behind again!!
Thanks for dropping by.
Sally XX

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