Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Daffodils already!

Is it really still the middle of winter? The garden is confused! There are daffodils galore nodding their bright yellow heads. There are even a few roses in bloom. They won't be there much longer! They're all getting pruned in another week or so. I am deliberately pruning the roses in two batches this year to see when we get the first blooms.

Even under the mulberry tree the dafs have popped up!

Looking down the drive to the front gate. There are clumps of cheery bulbs starting to bloom all the way along the fence. These two clumps in this garden bed are sitting at the foot of a beautiful white magnolia, which is covered in buds.

Last summer I planted sunflowers all along the front of the old shed. Once they were spent, I pulled them out (fed the heads to the chooks) and planted about two hundred daffodils and earlicheers. In between are red geranium cuttings that have started growing well. Once the yellow and white of the bulbs dissappear, we'll see a burst of red. Just in time for Christmas I hope! We will no doubt be spending much of the festive season sitting under the willow tree or around the fire pit which sits to the left of the old shed.

Last week we had a heavy frost. This is what frost does to a lemon tree. Sad. But fortunately not all the lemons were affected. The fruit at the top of the tree seemed to fare much better than the lower hanging fruit.  

Gathering the fruit from the top of the tree is quite a challenge. The tree is huge! That is a 6 foot ladder standing beside the tree. I keep meaning to make some lemon butter. Maybe next week.....

Here's a pic of the old farm house sitting behind the mulberry tree. Once summer is here and the tree is covered with leaves, the house is all but hidden from the driveway.

Duck report: It is now 34 days since mother duck here started sitting on her eggs. According to the experts (google) the incubation period for Muscovy ducks is 35 days. So we're holding our breath! We've bought the right food for the ducklings. Now we wait.... There are around 18 eggs in this clutch. This is one of the rare times that the duck has moved from them. This photo was taken yesterday.

Bower birds. They are beautiful birds. Facinating to watch. But a pest! They love to eat my veggies! Their favourite trick is to bite the carrot tops off and hollow out the top of the carrots that are still in the ground. They have also made mincemeat out of my cabbages and broccoli. So now I've netted most of the vegetables. Soon these birds will leave our place and go back into the bush. Thank goodness! Just look at that blue eye! Lapis lazuli..

As if having destructive Bower birds is not enough, we were paid a visit this morning by a flock of Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos. They are magnificent birds. Frans spent a while capturing them with his camera. Just look what they did whilst sitting in the tree! It will be a miracle if a branch or two does not rot and fall off. Damn birds!

A nearby neighbour brought me three monster pumkins last weekend. We did a mini food swap. I gave her eggs and she gave me pumpkin. I love being able to exchage surplus fruit and veggies with neighbours. 
So I'm going to cut a couple up into chunks and freeze them directly. With the third big pumpkin I'm going to make an enormous pot of pumpkin soup. I'll freeze it in managable batches. 
My Pumpkin Soup Recipe

Approx 1kg pumpkin, peeled and chopped roughly
2 onions, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 or 3 cubes of vegetable stock

Place all the ingredients into a large heavy bottomed pot
Pour water over vegetables until they are just covered
Bring to boil
Add vegetable stock
Turn down heat and simmer for approximately and hour or until all the veggies are soft and tender
Use a stick blender and blend till the veggies till smooth
Season to taste
Serve with a drizzle of cream and a sprinkle of coriander
This soup is hearty and delicious, especially if you serve it with home made bread! A winter favourite.

This week I'm leaving you with this wonderful image of Amelie chasing a chook. This photo was taken on the weekend when Frans' nephew Alan and his lovely wife Sonja came to visit. This must be one of the simple pleasures of childhood!

Have a great week!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Slow winter days....

Now that we are in the grip of an Otway Winter, we're taking it a little slower on the farm. Most days it rains. And it's cold. The lawns don't need as much mowing. The garden is dying back. However, some chores are ramped up. Frans is hand feeding the cows twice a day. He started off by rolling a large bale of hay into the paddock to let the cows graze as they would. But they made such a mess of it. They dragged the hay all over the place and pooped in it and then didn't eat it. So he has resorted to eeking it out to them in managable chunks. At $45 a roll of hay, we can't afford for it to become paddock mulch. It is more cost effective this way!  More time consuming, but then again, he's getting up close and personal with the girls every day. They are now less shy and will eat out of your hand.
Early morning mist. This is the view looking down our driveway towards the front gate.


The cows in the top paddock. Early morning. Cold and frosty.

Looking down the long end of the property. The dam is full. We have had a LOT of rain.
 In a couple of previous posts I've waxed lyrical about our Rayburn wood fire stove in the kitchen. We lit it at the begining of June and it kept going for over a month. I had a little trouble regulating the heat in the oven. Usually it got too hot so I would open the door. But we then noticed that some of the fire bricks that line the inside cavity where the fire gets lit were cracked. Some had chipped and even broken. Then one morning a we found a big chunk of brick had collapsed into the fire well. We had no choice but to let the stove die down so we could investigate. What Frans discovered was not good. Most of the bricks were damaged. This could account for the irregular oven temperatures and the fact that he would get up most nights around 2am to add another log to the fire to keep it burning. We needed to replace the bricks.

Firstly Frans had to source a new set of bricks. A local business could order them for us. It would take a week. Mind you, these bricks only had to come a few hundred kilometers. I ordered something from Holland and received it in 4 days! But we won't do there. He removed the old bricks. Cement dust and ash floated around the kitchen. Once the bricks arrived, they were laid out on the bench to work out their placements. When I say bricks, I don't mean the square things you build a house with. These are funny shaped pieces of fired clay that fit into each other. There is an order to remove the old ones, and an order to replace the new ones by. Each brick had to be cemented with air dry cement. Then the entire fire chamber had to be sealed. Frans is meticulous, so this task was long and laborious. But it was finally done. He then took another trip to town to get the fibreglass rope that sits around the opening on the top of the stove. We waited 24 hours for the cement to dry then he lit a small fire in the oven to aid the drying process. We'll light the fire properly this afternoon, and if all goes well, we'll be cooking dinner on it tonight. A side benefit of all this messing about was that the electric stove was moved out of the way. We could clean behind it and as a bonus we found an old spoon lying between the cobwebs and dust bunnies! To be honest, I never move the stove. Maybe I should do so more often!

I missed my regular post last week. I wasn't feeling too crash hot. So I took to my bed. No, I didn't. I just wanted to say that. Instead I did do a bit of knitting. I wanted to get a move on Frans' jumper. I thought it would be a good idea to get it completed before winter ends. It turned out ok. He's happy with it which is the main thing. There were so many changes to the original pattern, but hey, it finished!

Is that a chocolate roll??? Mmm.. no, probably just the shirt underneath...

The back. One thing that really annoys me is when you knit with a good yarn and you're half way through a row and there's a join! Aaagghhh!

Between the rain and gloomy weather, I made it into the garden to start pruning the roses. I'm doing a dry run this year to see what flowers are going to be blooming at the end of October. I've pruned half my roses. The second half will get their chop at the end of the month. I've planted loads of bulbs and will see when they bloom. For Sara and Stephen's wedding next year, we are going to grow our own flowers. So this is the run up to see what we'll have at the end of October. We have a lovely neighbour who lives on a farm down the road. She's a keen gardener and has over 600 roses! I thought I had a lot to prune with my 60 odd plants. She has kindly offered her garden to us for the wedding flowers as well. So we have a back up! Peonies. We want to grow them too. They will have to be purchesed as root stocks and be planted in the next month or so.

This round garden bed looks lovely when all the roses are blooming. Now it's pretty ordinary.

And I'll leave you this week with a little piece of Australia! Our neighbour Graham looks after a few farms around the district. He told Frans that on one of the farms there is an old kangaroo buck that gets into one of the paddocks and then can't get out. He's big. Very big! He can't get under the fence and he's too old to jump over it. He usually hangs around in the paddock for a few days till he gets enough umph to jump over the fence again. So a couple of Sundays back Graham came over and told Frans to get his camera. The buck was in the paddock. So off they went to find him.

And this week it was Nala's birthday. She turned 14. I gave her a delicious lamb bone which she burried and dug up a number of times during the day. She charged around the yard with the energy of a two year old. Then she collapsed in front of the fire! I did have to wash her face before she came inside! This is a 'before' the end of the day shot!

Till next time.... Ooroo!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Winter is here!

Well the cold and wet has set in. This is what the Otways is well known for. It is one of the highest rainfall areas of Victoria. Usually we can see the hills to our East, but some days (like the one in the pic below) we are engulfed in misty rain. It is lovely spending time inside with the woodfire going. However, it does mean that outside jobs are difficult to do or simply get put off till another day! Frans has been using this 'down time' to get our paperwork in order. You know, all those little jobs that you put off. Our important papers like insurances, birth certificates etc all have to be copied. The copies will be put on a memory stick and stored off site for safe keeping. This is just one of the tasks to be done for our Fire Plan. Frans is still cleaning up debris under the huge Cypress Pines. Another 'fire' job.

Since coming to live on this little farm, we find that our lives revolve around the seasons. If we're not preparing for the fire season, then there's the dam that has to be mended to cope with the winter rains. Wood has to be gathered for winter heating. There are garden beds that have to be prepared for the next round of planting. Living in a city where we used to go to a supermarket for all our supplies, separated us form the natural rhythm of living with the seasons. We've not had any tomatoes for a few months now. And I won't buy them. Instead we are eating what is in the garden or what we have previously harvested and preserved. In a few weeks I will plant tomato seeds at put them in the greenhouse. I am looking forward to a fat juicy, red tomato... around the begining of December I hope! 
Even the bees need protecting from the fierce cold winds that blow from the South West. Frans purchased hay bales from the Co-op and stacked them around the hive.

Remember the ducks mating? Well, we have some exciting news! Mama duck here is sitting on NINETEEN eggs. Yes, you read it correctly.... 19! She's a Moscovie. The eggs will take around 5 weeks to hatch according to our neighbour. She's been sitting on the eggs since around the 18th of June. So not wanting to count our ducks before they hatch.... I think we should see some ducklings emerge around the end of July. The timing will be excellent for us to sell Xmas ducks. Christmas dinner.... Yum. 

I want to show you what we did with the fruit trees we planted a few weeks ago. The problem with the position of our our backyard orchard is that this is where we let the chooks roam. Well, it's perfect for them. But, try planting anything new and the chickens scratch around and spread the mulch all over the garden. So Frans came up with this method of chook proofing the new fruit trees. He cut four logs (no shortage of wood here!) and surrounded the tree. The mulch was filled into the hole. Then he cut a piece of chicken wire and cut a slit in the wire and wound it around the tree. Then to keep the wire from moving he popped another couple of logs on top. And that's it. The chooks can't get to the mulch. In the mean time they are happy to dig around the rest of the yard. Periodically I check to make sure that the mulch hasn't smothered the stem.  

Now speaking of fires and keeping warm, I have to show you the difference in 'left brain' and 'right brain' fire lighting techniques. The well organised stack below belongs to Frans. Works every time.

Fire stack below belongs to me. Mm... works most of the time with the help of a fire lighter or three!

 I thought I would show you some of our text books! When we don't know something, we refer to these books. They are our 'go to' references. Yes, there is also Google.

Our future farm gate stall/van. A couple of weeks ago we bought (on ebay! I told you I love ebay..) a 1970 Caravan. She's a beauty. We're going to gut the inside and turn her into our farm stall. We're still debating the colour for the outside. I'm leaning towards bright red! We want her to be noticed from the road. Stephen says fluro pink.... mmm... ideas? 

Till next time... have a good one!