Friday, November 30, 2012

Colour everywhere!

Let me show you a huge whopping egg! The egg on the right weighed 68g. That's on the large side for a supermarket egg. Which makes the one on the left a freak! It weighed 96g. And yes, there were two yolks inside. Poor chook!
I have decided that November is my favourite month in the garden so far. The colours are just magnificent. Every few days another flower pops up or blooms. I planted a punnet each of snapdragons and foxgloves in this garden bed way back in April. They are now in full bloom and the colours are brilliant.  
We have many Californinan Poppies scattered around the garden. They can be a little 'weed like'. But I love them. They create a meadow effect with their ranges, reds and yellows. 
And here is an Opium Poppy. I found it flowering in the greenhouse. I have never planted them anywhere in the garden. A neighbour who lives a couple of kms away has some in her garden. So was it a bird that transported the seed to my greenhouse? A natural mystery. It is a beautiful flower. 
We're in the midst of broad bean harvesting. I planted three lots of broad beans about a month apart. We have now exhausted the first lot. Those are some of the stalks lying on the pathway on the top left photo below. I have to pull the rest of the spent plants out. A job I've been meaning to do for about a week!
I'm picking peas and artichokes too. The peas are so sweet! I use them raw in salads. I was hoping to freeze some for later, but they're too good to put up. I've got loads of broadbeans still to come, so I'll blanch a few of the pods and freeze them. You realise when you pick them fresh how different they are from those beans you buy frozen at the supermarket!
When it comes to the broad beans, our favourite method of eating them is raw with a little proscuito, fresh bread and olive oil. Simple and delicious. 
And here's me patting a horse. Note, there's a gate between us or I may not be as brave. This pic was taken at our friends John and Norma's place. These two horses are race horses. They are such show offs! They gallop around the paddock in complete unison. And they love attention.  
Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Christmas Biscuit Swap

I love Christmas! And I love all the crazy preparation that leads up to it. And this year will be no different. I've had a head start in the baking department though, and I thought I'd share it with you.
I've been going to my friend Norma Bakker's once a month sewing group since we moved down to the farm. Each year the group has a Kris Kringle (present swap). This year however, Norma has come up with a brilliant idea. Instead of swapping crafty gifts, we're swapping biscuits. We each bake our favourite biscuit recipe. Make up nine packets (that's how many of us sew together) and pop four biscuits into each pack. Then we swap them around and go home with a huge variety of home baked biscuits that we'd probably not make ourselves.
So being the Anzac biscuit queen in our house, I thought I'd make these with a little Christmas twist. I added a few handfuls of cranberries into the mix and then dipped the edges of the biscuits in melted chocolate.
I placed each set of biscuits into a clear plastic bag and tied it with bakers twine. Then I dragged out the box of saved Christmas cards that we received last year and started cutting! I use the front of the cards and make tags. It doesn't cost anything, and I'm recycling something that would otherwise be thrown out. 
I'm not fussy about the size or shapes of the tags. As long as I can fit a message on the back that's fine. 
And Viola! Don't they look pretty? I tell you what... it was a challenge keeping Frans' fingers off the choc dipped biscuits before they made it into the packets!
I suggested to Sara that she could do this with her friends. She said to me "no Mum, that's for old ladies". What a cheek!
Here's my recipe:
Anzac Biscuits
Courtesy of Hunter Magazine. (If you double it, you'll 40 reasonably sized biscuits)
1 Cup plain flour
1 Cup sugar
1 Cup rolled oats
1 Cup coconut
125g butter or margarine
1 tablespoon golden syrup or treacle
2 tablespoons boiling water
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Mix the first four ingredients in a bowl. Melt butter and golden syrup in a saucepan, add water, then bicarbonate of soda (it will go all frothy) and pour over dry ingredients. Mix well. Roll into small balls (about walnut size) and flatten on oven trays. Leave some room around each biscuit as they will spread a little. Bake at 150deg for 20 mins. Cool on the trays for a few minutes, then remove onto wire racks to cool further.
Tip: If you want crunchy biscuits, then let them cool completely before storing in an airtight container. If you like your biscuits chewy, then place them in an airtight container before they are totally cooled down or add a little more water to the mix. Frans likes his biscuits chewy, so I usually double the water.
A half a cup to a cup of 'extras' is usually enough. eg:
choc chips (use the small buttons, they're easier to work with)
chopped nuts
Enjoy with a cup of tea!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

One Wedding and a few 'catch ups'

A long time ago (well it seems like a long time ago!) we used to live in Brisbane. It's not often that we venture up to Qld, but when we do, it's usually for a special event and our time is rushed. So this time, we decided that we would have a few extra days and actually get to explore the city again. It has changed a lot since we lived there 12 years ago. There are new tunnels, freeways and the cafes are more interesting than ever. We found ourselves tracking back to the same area throughout our weekend there. I love James Street. The food shopping is wonderful and the regular shops are along a street. No closed in shopping centres (my pet hate!).
This is Ann Street in Brisbane. You can rent a bike provided you have your own helmet. This initiative to get people moving was a good one, except not everyone carries their helmets around with them, and so the idea has not quite worked. Unlike Paris and Amsterdam where we saw the same system, but there people seemed more used to the helmet requirement and the systems are well used.

A beautiful, quiet spot in the centre of the hustle of the city. The flame is always lit in rememberance of our fallen soldiers.

This is the Uniting Church in Ann Street. Our friend Janelle was exhibiting a couple of her art pieces at a small exhibition here. The church is beautiful inside.

The stained glass windows are superb.
And this was the reason for our trip! My beautiful niece Genevieve was getting married. Frans was the official photographer. This was his first gig at as head trigger man, and he took his role very seriously.

I call this incredibly lucky... Genevieve had her bridesmaids dressed in puple. And it so happened that there were plenty of Jacaranda blossoms strewn around the venue where the wedding was held. Here is Frans getting a creative shot! Sara acted as photographer's assistant and did a splendid job.

It's hard to imaging that earlier this day there was a terriffic storm accross the city and the reception venue was flooded. Alternative arrangements were made very quickly and everything went ahead as planned. If it wasn't for the storm, the blossoms would probably not have been laid down in such a beauitful carpet!
Sara and Stephen. Both looking great.

And here's a pic of the three of us. 
I'll post some 'farm stuff' later. Have a happy Saturday!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A swarm of ..... BEES!

And so apparently, you must expect your hive to swarm in Spring. Wish we'd been prepared for that! Last week we had our friends Martyn and Eugenia down from Melbourne for a few days. The boys spent time cleaning up fallen trees and fixing fences and pumps. While they were busy one day, they noticed a lot of bees around the apple tree closest to the hive. On closer inspection, there was a huge 'glob' of bees just hanging right there on a branch! What to do?! Quick. Ring the bee man, Alf. He gave Frans instructions for capturing the swarm and Frans and Martyn set to work preparing another hive. This activity was punctuated by lunch and a coffee. After lunch we all went out to witness the 'capture'. While Frans was pouring himself into his bee suit, I noticed a lot of bees above the tree. See them on the top right of the photo below. I stood waaayy back inside the shed door and observed this amazing phonomenon. The bees were on the move again! This time we would not be able to capture them. Frans was just a few minutes too late. They took flight up into the very tall Cyprus trees beside the old chook shed. It was a dissappointing loss! We were hoping to start another hive. Binoculars and cameras came out to try and find the swarm's second resting spot, but we couldn't locate it. A few days later Alf the bee man came around and brought a treasure of beekeeping goodies; new brood boxes, frames and of course the most important piece of equipment we lacked... a net capture thingie!
Standing looking up at the tops of the trees gives you a crick in your neck. So Frans improvised! Who would think a wheelburrow can be so versatile. After the swarm, he checked the hive. All still looks ok. We have since added another brood box to the top. We'll rob the hive around December and stock up our honey stores again.
This past week I also transplanted out my tomato seedlings into bigger pots. I know it seems late, but everything is later here in the Otways. I'm hoping to get the plants into the ground in the next couple of weeks and that should give us lovely tomatoes late December and January. Last year I ended up with so many green tomatoes very late in the season. I'm hoping that I can avoid that this year. There are only so many green tomato pickles one can eat!
There is a story to the two pics at the bottom of this little collage. Our friend Mark who lives in Brisbane does a lot of travelling for work. On one of his trips he was in Townsville. Beside the site where he was working he spotted a lovely vegetable garden with the biggest, most luscious Ox Heart tomatoes. He was going to nick a couple of tomatoes for the seeds, but decided to first have a chat to the old man who tended the garden. It turned out he was an Italian gentleman and had brought the original seeds from Italy in his pocket in the 50's. He was most generous and told Mark to take as many tomatoes as he liked. And so here they are.. some seedlings from the seeds Mark dried. And they're from that same original stock. I just hope I don't kill them! Thanks Mark!
Do you like our new garden setting? Looks pretty I think. I bought it at the Reject Shop for $35! I wasn't sure what the material would be, but the fact that the box wasn't too heavy should have told me that it wasn't cast iron. Nope... it's resin. But hey.... not bad for $35. And much easier to move around! And yes, it may only last a season.... I'll keep dreaming about a metal setting.....

The roses are all coming into bloom. The garden is looking pretty good. The flowers are amazing. And so are the weeds! It's a constant chore to pull them out.
Animal update.... Ducklings are doing well. Frans has had to lock the drake up in solitary confinement as he's really nasty to the little ones. Last week the drake was spotted trying to drown a little one. If Frans had his way we'd be eating him, but then there won't be any future little ducklings!
I give the chooks plenty of spinach and silverbeet. They love it. I threw some out to them a couple of days ago. Spike, the rooster, somehow got a piece of silverbeet on his back. He trotted around the yard as if he was saving it for later! Nala had a friend come to visit. His name is Harvey. Harvey is a latte' dog. He lives in the big smoke and has a very nice house with a small yard. He gets taken for walks every day on a lead as most city dogs do. He loves the farm. Can you tell? And I have to show you these two cows. A mum and a baby. Not ours. But just have a look at how strong genetics can be! Identical face markings. Crazy! 
Mother duck and babies lying under a shady shrub.
  Frans entered a few of his photographs in the Colac Show last week. So we toddled off to the show on Sunday to have a look at them. Before we got the the photographic section however, we had to first view the produce competition. It was Sunday, so the lovely leaves on plates were rather wilted and sad looking. I think the rules stated that you had to have 4 of everything. So four onions or four silverbeet leaves on a plate.

Perhaps I'll enter something next year.....
 And here is Frans' entry that won third prize. He's rather chuffed with himself. So am I. Well done Love.
And this photo below is one he won first prize for in a local competition.
And on that note, I'll head outside before it rains and go and pull some weeds.... Have a good weekend!