Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Summer done, Autumn break is here!

If you have been a regular reader of this haphazard blog over the past few years, my sincere apologies for abandoning my blogging duties! Sometimes there are just not enough hours in the day, what with planting and harvesting our own organically grown veggies, turning them into award winning preserves, being secretary of the Otway Harvest Trail, being President of the Birregurra CWA branch, chambermaid duties for the cabin and occasionally I turn into a washerwoman and make an attempt at getting some clothes laundered; I tend to get a little side tracked!
We have been busy the past few months. There is always something happening on our little patch. It has been a dry season. Not much rain. This means that many days have been taken up with watering the garden to keep the plants alive. One of our 'list jobs' is to sort our our watering system so that I don't have to stand at the end of a hose! Maybe this winter.... 
I can't make up for lost time, but here is a quick trip through the past season!
According to local folklore, if you count three months after a thick morning fog, you'll get heavy rain. Well, we have had a few foggy mornings this summer. So we're looking forward to a little bit of the wet stuff this winter. Our dam is very low! It needs topping up.
There are some parts of the garden that have given us blooms no matter how much I have neglected them. I love this garden bed. It holds some of my all time favourite blooms. Zinnias, dahlias, borage, cosmos, geraniums and rocket flowers.
It was a slow start for the toms. But they've come belting in! We're picking every couple of days. Each time we pick, we chop chop chop. These lovely tomatoes go into the freezer and come out when we need them for sauces, relish and our famous kasoundi!
I'm always amazed how quickly a vegetable bed fills with greenery. At the beginning of the season it's hard to imagine tiny seedlings growing straight and tall and producing buckets of food!
Ahhh..... the first of the nectarines announced their readiness in January. These are the white variety. Soooo incredibly sweet. Sucking on a warm piece of fruit whilst standing next to the tree, juice running down your arm.... that is one of life's all time pleasures!
What is more delightful than a basket of goodness?! Zucchinis that will be blitzed for relish and flowers to put in a vase for the kitchen table.
The bees have been busy! Frans was asked by Steve Robinson from Otway Pasta  to rob his hive. This is one Frans has not encountered before. It is an African Top Box Hive, a little different to the hives we have on our farm. A couple of hours later and Steve had a big bucket of oozing liquid gold. 
Meanwhile back at our farm, Frans harvested honey not once, but four times in one season. We were truly blessed this year with the honey harvest.  He lashed out and bought a bright, shiny, Italian-made honey extractor to make the job a little easier. We've bottled around 100kgs of wonderful raw honey.
The first drop!
Our honey is available in local stores around the district, at local markets and from our porch pantry. It is delicious! We are about 1km from the forest where the bees gather nectar for the many tea trees and leptospermum trees. Our very own version of Manuka honey??!! Want some? Try Jo's Pantry in Colac, Gosling Creek Winery and from our porch pantry.
This is the best way of celebrating a morning of honey extraction! Drizzle some honey on a warm loaf of freshly baked bread!
Besides making jams, chutney and cordials, we've been fermenting vegetables to make Kimchi and Sauerkraut. Fermented foods are good for your gut health! We always have something 'cooking' on the fermenting table beside the window.
Kimchi & Sauerkraut. Not for sale. We make this because we feel that eating fermented foods is an essential ingredient in our daily food intake. Maybe I'll play around with some of my recipes and bottle them for sale... 
We've had a small product development collaboration with friends and neighbours Paul and Wendy Troughton from Forrest Foods  They grow amazing Shiitake mushrooms and supply top restaurants around the region, including Brae and Bespoke Harvest. Paul supplied the mushrooms and I turned them into sensational pickles. Each batch we make sells out very quickly. 
It is usually all hands on deck when we're processing the pickles.
I combined shiitakes and our black garlic to create an antioxidant rich vegetarian broth! Delicious as a base to a lovely risotto.
You can find our delicious Shiitake Pickles at: The Forrest General Store, Jo's Pantry in Colac, Dinny Goonan Wines and from us directly.

Yes, we're rather silly sometimes.... Here are a couple of crazy Birregurra CWA girls and myself getting all stupid in a pic with legendary country music star, James Blundell. James kindly signed a jar of our luscious CWA Berry jam. We auctioned it and raised $55 for the jar! 
Our two new baby calves born in November are doing well. Young Lucky on the right is now going to be a mum. Her first time! 

Frans and I 'dog sat' our friend Norma's spaniel, Thompson, for a while. He became part of the furniture very quickly. We actually miss him! And no... I'm not thinking of getting a dog soon. Maybe....
A recent collage of some of our kitchen experiments! Let me tell you that picking dandelions for dandelion jelly is a total nut job. It took my lovely neighbour Lorraine and I ages to pick the right number of flowers. THEN we had to strip them to prepare them for the jelly. Let's just say this is not going to be a regular product line!

We looked after Sara and Stephen's lovely dog, Tilly for a couple of weeks. She's so fast! She will catch her 'ball' all day long if you have the energy to toss it or kick it to her!
Our neighbour Graham ploughed our garlic patch for us. Our mate Paul (Shiitake Paul) then dropped off a lovely load of compost which Frans and Ted (brother in law) spread over the beds. Then a week later it has started to rain. What fabulous timing! The worms are going nuts, wriggling about the beds and creating a wonderful rich environment for our garlic cloves! 
It's great getting help from our friends and neighbours who have the right equipment! Thanks Graham & Paul! 
Apples! Loads of them. We've made three batches of our own apple cider this season. We look forward to trying it out in a few months. 
Frans' Mum, Maria, who is 95 this year, came to visit for just under 2 weeks. She happy chopped apples for the cider! And a few dishes of Dutch apple sauce! 
The autumn leaves are turning yellow and gold. This is the old mulberry tree. Soon it will be bare. 
On a clear evening, you'll find us beside the old shed, sipping a glass of red beside the fire pit. 
And just because I haven't put a pic of us up for ages, you can see how the 'good life' is treating us! Fit, fat and flourishing!
Till next time, look after yourselves.
Frans & Ami.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Spring has sprung!

The last time I posted something on this page, it was to announce how excited we were to receive a SILVER award from the Royal Melbourne Fine Foods Awards. Sara and I headed to the gala dinner which happened to be in the Masterchef building. We were like star struck teenagers! We were not alone. Everyone there was taking the odd 'selfie'. It was such a vibrant atmosphere, with so many amazing producers all in one room!
Sara outside the entrance. We entered via a red carpet! 
We're in the book of 2015!

Around the farm, the fruit trees are blossoming at last. This is our plum. It is looking beautiful.  
In the polytunnel, the broad beans flowered and we picked the first pods a week ago. They made their way down to Forrest to Bespoke Harvest and appeared on their dinner menu last weakend.  
Everywhere we look, there is colour! I love this gnarled Rhododendron that somehow survives along the old shed wall. I never water it. Its saving grace is that the tree sits on the south facing wall.  
During the month Frans got some jobs finished that have been on his list for a long time. A big tick went beside the 'underfloor insulation' of the cabin. As you well know, Frans is not fond of small crawl spaces. I was tasked with handing tools to him, cutting insulation sheets and generally keep him from panicking! 
Finally we have some lovely signs up. This one is down on the corner of the Crabb farm. 
And this big sign is now at the front gate. We think they look pretty good. I planted some flowers that need watering in the flower bed. Silly mistake. It's a mission to drag a water bucket down to the gate. I will forget that idea and think of something else. In the mean time the bulbs have been lovely, and we wait for the Aggies to grow. No, they're not self seeding. They're infertile. So not a weed!
Another big chore was to check the bee hives. Frans was fortunate to have a local bee keeper and berry grower come and give him a hand and some pointers. 
We have tasted our first honey for a year! It is delicious. More to come we hope! 
Frans did a pretty good job of getting the mower bogged in some soggy ground. It required a four wheel drive and a snatch strap. No damage done. 
They I had a minor altercation with a tree. This incident also required a four wheel drive and a snatch strap. Damage...?? Hopefully not.  
It is a delight to dig up a garden bed and find a load of hidden gems! Aprons are essential for gathering produce when a basket is not at hand! 
Not a straight, perfect carrot among these fine specimens! 
We're picking fennel too! I cooked this delicious Yotam Ottolenghi dish. It was fabulous! If you love vegetables, then this book is excellent. I recommend it highly. It is called Plenty More. 
I continue to experiment in the kitchen. There is always something 'brewing'. In this pic is a jar of honey fermenting into mead. There's a pot of kefir. And under the wax cloth is a big ball of sourdough rising. Nothing in the round clay pot. It's just there because I love it, and it reminds me of our amazing journey to India. 
Still experimenting.... We're using our black garlic papery skins to smoke foods. Delicious with chicken or fish. 
And still on the subject of fermentation, we took our large Kombucha jar to two markets. We wanted folks to try it and see what all the fuss is about. We have come home both times with an empty vessel. It's exciting to see how positive the reactions are to this delicious probiotic drink! 
We've had a few visitors enjoying the Spring weather. The cabin is a little haven away from the crazy world of the city! Sit on the verandah and you can see all the way to the Otways. 
The little garden around the cabin is beginning to look more settled. We have a few more ideas yet. 
We had a delightful couple stay with us a few weeks ago. This is what they left us. What a delightful 'thank you'. 
Sunrise is always a lovely time of the day. Now that daylight savings has arrived, we get to enjoy the mornings that little bit earlier! 
There's been much digging, preparing garden beds for Spring planting. 
The soil is healthy and full of good worm action. Just look at this monster! 
I'm thrilled to see we have our first almonds ripening on the trees.  
These orange poppies are like weeds. I can't get rid of them. But at the same time I do love their cheeriness.  
The strawberry flowers have started. And that means one thing..... Strawberries. Soon! 
It was the Birregurra Festival last weekend. Sara and Stephen entered Tilly the wonder dog into the jumping competition. Here they are waiting their turn. 
And here Stephen is encouraging Tilly to jump 6 feet, up and over the boards. Sara is standing on the back of a ute, encouraging her up. 
And she did it! She didn't come first. But she certainly gave city dogs some kudos! 
If you're still with me... this is pretty exciting....
We have been nominated for the Agribusiness category of the Colac Otway Business Awards. The announcement is on the 17th of October. Being finalists is already a great buzz. 
And for the bird lovers, this baby magpie has just left the next. He allowed me to stroke his feathers, and watched me as I worked in the garden bed beside him. 
My favourite tree on the farm is the willow tree. The empty fronds have started growing leaves again. Soon it will be time to place a comfortable chair in the shade and read a book for a while. This is what spring and summer is about! 
And last but not least, the view from our farm is just glorious. At sundown we're treated to a few minutes where the light turns gold. This is known as the golden hour. 

One of our neighbour's sheep had twins. Aren't they too cute for words! 
Till next time,
Stay safe.