Friday, May 17, 2013

Cabin Fever!

Well, at last! We are finally getting a move on with fixing up the old loggers hut. After waiting for building permits for what seemed forever, we're getting stuck into the nitty gritty of getting this little cabin spruced up to what will hopefully be a very comfortable little Bed and Breakfast cabin.
Frans got stuck into removing the side planks and poured the concrete pads in the stump holes. We were very lucky to have our young mate Michael come down from Melbourne to help us with the first stage of the build.We met Michael when he was a little kid, and now he's a strapping big builder!
Before any serious work could begin, some of the tree branches of this old gum had to be removed. Carefully. While Frans was busy with the prep work, I went into town on a mission to buy nails for a nail gun (very specific requirements given!) and a few bits and pieces that would be needed for the weekend. 
Saturday morning rolled around and Michael arrived bright and early with his Mum, my good friend Lynnie. Of course nothing is ever perfect, and the nails I'd bought the previous day were no good. They simply crumpled as they were being shot into the timber. Tools were downed and the boys went to town to get another box. Lynnie and I retired to the kitchen where we labeled jams and bagged up Anzac Biscuits. A while later the workers returned with the correct equipment! 
Michael and Nala set out the string lines.
Lynnie decided it was boring just holding the timber, she'd rather do some serious work!
Is this the mark?
 Not satisfied with a little drop saw action, this amazing woman had no hesitation in blitzing the frame with a nail gun!
Frans and our good friend John mixed up concrete to pour around the stumps. The first part of the job was almost complete.
By mid afternoon the frame for the ensuite was up!
Now for the next step.... Putting up the frame. Stay tuned!

Then, Frans got sick. He had struggled through the day in getting the first stage of the cabin done. He then took to his bed. For a number of days. This meant I had to wear the 'Farmer Frans' hat for a few days while he recovered. Morning and evenings he feeds his cows. I can see why he loves them. They all have individual personalities. I wasn't sure if they'd come up to the feeding spot if I called them. But they did. It feels so corny standing at the fence calling 'come on Eileen'! Yes, the cow with the mean look in her eye below is called Eileen. (Sara's name pic). We've had a little rain and although the paddock looks green, there really isn't a lot of grass for the animals to eat. It's easy to throw some hay over the fence and let the cows eat where you drop it. Usually Frans rakes the hay up close to the fence to stop the cows standing in the good stuff or pooping in their breakfast. I've done this too on quite a few occasions, but one morning I got a little side tracked and I leaned against the front fence and the rake touched the electric wire. I can try and describe what it feels like to have a crack of electricity fire through your body. The first realisation that something odd has happened is a jolt you feel deep in your gut and the crack you hear as your flesh makes contact with the national grid! A sharp sting rushes through the hand holding the metal rake while the leg touching the fence feels like it has just been touched with a branding iron. The spot burns for a while! Second problem is the rake has been dropped on the other side of the fence. How do I get it back without walking all the way around the fence line. I use a garden fork and CAREFULLY lift the handle and slip the rake through the gap between the electric wire and the fence. Ok. Breath. Come on cows! Breakfast is ready!

Eileen is a real cow. She's the boss. And she let's poor Thursday know it. She pushes her away from the hay and often stands parallel to the fence so that Thursday can't get close to the feed. More action with the rake is required to shove Eileen to her end of the fence!
Thursday does have one advantage over the big old cow. She's young. And faster! When I call them, Thursday bolts up to the fence from waaayyy down the end of the paddock. She gets in first. Take that Eileen!


This was my task today. Clear out this garden bed. Remove the spent dill. Pull out the exhausted zucchini plants and remove all the carrots, eggplant and gem squash left after the Autumn harvest. The morning was cool. Well, more than cool. COLD. 
As I work my way down the bed, I dig up rogue potatoes. I don't plant them. They just pop up everywhere around the garden. It does drive me a little nuts! But the upside is that they all add to the food haul for the day.
Carrots of all sizes, shapes and colours are pulled from the ground.
Almost done. Rain threatens and I grab the sunflowers I've cut and go and hang them up under the outside shed.
Not a bad collection. Corn, potatoes, carrots, zucchini, gem squash, eggplant and dill.
Sunflowers hung upside down to dry. Some of seeds will be saved for growing again next season and the rest will go to the chooks. They have given us a summer of bright colour and the bees have danced around the heads taking pollen back to the hives. The dill is also hung to dry. I'll gather the seeds for the kitchen and to plant again.
Time to call it a day. The weather is rolling in...
I fill the wheelbarrow up as much as I can so I only need to make one trip to the compost heap!

We'll be at the Lions Market in Colac this coming Sunday. Come and say 'hello' if you're around.
Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Olive Trees taste good, so does rabbit!

 One morning last week, I looked out of the window and spotted our neighbour's sheep in what I thought was his paddock. I could see the new baby lambs and went out to take a photograph. As I got closer, I saw they were actually on OUR side of the fence! (must need new glasses!) AND they were happily nibbling on the newly planted olive trees. Frans and I chased them back to the other side. They didn't even notice the electric fence! Our grass and trees are obviously better as they have visited a number of times over the past few days. We have also noticed that the trees have been gnawed along the stems. Rabbits! Tell tale droppings have confirmed that we have too many nightly visitors that are helping themselves to our trees. I've since wrapped strips off cut up feed sacks around the stems to hopefully stop the damage.
These little babies are twins. They play and jump around the paddock. So lovely to watch.

So back to the rabbits...
Well, two of them are going to be pie!

Frans has learned to skin and gut a rabbit in quick time. They get left to hang overnight and then I get the job of cutting it up. No point in being squeamish! It's food. Delicious, low food miles, and free! And don't worry, those t.towels are not for kitchen use!
I jointed the carcasses, and layered them between baking paper and popped them in a zip lock bag (my favourite kitchen helper!) There was 2.5kgs of meat. This will provide us with a family feast when we next have an big group of visitors!
We're coming to the end of our Summer and Autumn veggies. I pulled up a big basket of beetroot this week. We had a delicious vegetable lasagne with home grown veggies and home made ricotta cheese. 
My brother Lionel visited us for a night (quick visit!) and I shoved a big fat free range chook into the wood oven. The stove has been burning 24/7 for a couple of weeks. Many pails of wood will be hauled into the kitchen in the next few months. There's something about the warmth in the kitchen that a wood stove pumps out. It says 'home'!
One of the last chores for the season is seed gathering. I'm drying dill seeds in these packets. I pick the drying flowers, bunch a few together and put them 'face down' into a brown paper bag. I leave them for a couple of weeks then make myself a cup of tea and sit outside in the sun and wriggle all the little dried seeds from the flower heads. I will use the seeds to grow more dill next spring, but even better, I have a big spice jar full of these aromatic seeds. They are delicious sprinkled in a potato salad, fish or in a salad dressing. 
The sunflowers are also coming to the end of their splendour. I've cut the heads off the stalks and will dry them. Then it will be another cup of tea in the sun activity... breaking the seeds apart. Some will go into seed bags for next season, and the rest will be given to the chooks. They LOVE the seeds!
There are so many different varieties and sizes of sunflowers! This is a BIG one. Can't remember the name, but the stalk grows to over 2m!

In between working in the yard or the kitchen, I'm madly working on Sara and Stephen's wedding quilt. It's not going to be finished on the day, but I'm hoping the top will be done. I am making it all by hand. I started off doing all the hexagons myself. Since I began, I've had a few helpers which has been great. There are a few local friends who are adding their workmanship to the quilt, as well as my Brisbane friend Michelle Steel who made a huge pile of these little babies! I lay all the completed 'blocks' out on the tables at the Saturday Birregurra Sewing day. It has grown since this pic was taken. I have a few more to go.... 
A close up of the blocks. Sara chose the fabrics. I love the retro feel the quilt is taking on. Here you can see where she played with the fabrics and also some ideas of what the finished quilt will look like! 
And so it seems that no week is complete without a little tractor action! We bought some hay last week and our good neighbour Graham moved it to where we wanted it. 
And you can see Frans directing the traffic here.... And you see that pole just to  the right? Well it is no longer there! Didn't need it anyway Frans said....

And a beautiful sight as I say goodbye this week...
We had visitors a few days ago. Three magnificent peacocks. Well, one peacock and his two hens. They wandered away from Graham's place and found that our shed roof was a cool place to view the world from. An hour or so with 4 people  chasing them around our yard, we finally got them back where they belonged. 
Have a great week!