Thursday, August 15, 2013

Amazing August

We're not even half way through what should be a cozy, quiet month in Winter, and I've got lots to share! So grab a cuppa and sit a while as I give you a brief run down....

Firstly... CWA. Our Birregurra group were treated to a very special event last week when football legend and general nice guy Shane Crawford (aka Crawf) came to town. The mission was for Shane to have a bake off with one of our CWA girls. Belinda Stewart took up the challenge. There was much hilarity all round. 
The event was filmed for an ad for Racing Victoria. Props were made and arranged. The orange blossom, daffodils and lemons arrangement in the red jug was from our garden :-). We sent that bunch of 'country cheer' home with Shane for his wife. 
Getting ready for filming. Camera man on the left, Amanda Garner (CWA Pres) me, and Prue Campbell, who was very cheeky with Shane!
If you didn't know this by now, Stephen is a MASSIVE Hawthorn fan. Of course Shane is a Hawks legend. I scored big future mother in law points with this little bit of paper!
A good bloke and good sport. That's my CWA badge getting it's first outing on his apron!
Part of this advert and the whole cook off activity was that our group would provide the Racing Victoria Club with 600 jars filled with country goodness for a fundraising dinner to be held this week. This was an excellent fund raising activity for our little group. 
I filled 48 jars. This is what around 500 Anzac biscuits looks like. Some were rejects, (too big to fit through the hole in the jar!) Frans is not complaining!
They look very pretty all lined up!

Once a month I go sewing with a lovely group of ladies at my friend Norma's place. We usually work on whatever we have going at the time. Sometimes we just sit and chat. It's more about getting together than the sewing! However, last week we were very productive. We basted a quilt for one of our girls, Jo. It was all hands on deck to attach the quilt back to the frame, layer it with batting (oops... doesn't fit.. hang on.. Norma has some spare!) and then positioning the top. Then out came the needles and thread and we all sandwiched the three layers together. Many hands do indeed make it easier!
Wendy, Jo, Norma and Sandra getting into the swing of it. Oh, that's Sue's hand on the far right!

Our neighbours Graham and Lorraine went away for a few days and Frans became 'farmer Frans' for real! He had a few tractor driving lessons before they left. His job was to roll out a few bales of hay every couple of days and feed the birds. Graham loves his birds. There are ducks, turkeys, chooks, doves and three peacocks. (Yes, they have taken up residence at our place during the day) On day two or three of looking after the animals, Frans thought he'd lost a duck. We went back after dark with torches to see if we could find it. We trudged around the bird cages, looked around the dam and drove around the property. No sign of the duck. We resigned ourselves to the fact that a fox must have got it. We did also notice that Bobby (the border collie) didn't come out to greet us. There were also three sheep that didn't seem to be where they should be. So we were doing well. So far we'd lost a duck, a dog and three sheep. We had a restless night wondering about the animals. Frans went over very early and there they all were. Safe and sound. The duck had found it's way into a chook pen, Bobby was sitting on the verandah, and the sheep were back in the paddock they were supposed to be in!
All that lovely mud! 

The cows come running!
Chasing the tractor!

Did I mention mud? Our little patch around the garlic is sodden at the moment. A couple of days ago our friend John brought us a big trailer load of wood. Of course he got bogged right there on the grass! Snatch strap to the rescue!
Large ruts digging into the grass. We can't even get the mower in here at the moment. By the time the ground is hard enough we'll need a harvester to cut through the grass!
Free stuff is good stuff. A decent load of wood. This gets stacked and will dry over the next year or so. This will last about a week as we use our Rayburn 24/7 over winter and the combustion heater in the lounge in the evenings. Keeping the house warm is all about gathering wood whenever the opportunity comes along.
Frans stacking the wood beside his shed.
The wet weather has caused a number of trees to come down on our place. This tree below lost a huge branch. I was inside when I heard a very strange almost scratching noise, then a thud. 
Nothing to do but get the chain saw out and cut up the fallen limbs.

Another tree fell down over our fence along the road. This time it took quite a bit of effort for Frans to clear it.
It may not look too big, but it is!
Fortunately the fence wires didn't break.
I gathered the leafy bits and hoisted them over the fence to the cows. They love the soft green leaves. It's like getting a gourmet pizza home delivered to them! Makes a change from the usual grass and hay.
Some weeks our plans are hijacked. Wood cutting and gather was not on the agenda for this week. We've learned to just roll with what is urgent. There's always tomorrow....

There's more action happening in the cabin. Stephen came down last weekend and wired this baby up. The surveyor has approved all the framing and now it's a charge to the finish line. 

I'm glad Stephen knows what all those wires are for!
When Frans started taking down the wall between the bedroom and the living area, he found newspapers dating back to 1953 pasted on the boards. Insulation was very basic back then! In later years, the cabin was lined with hardwood. A neighbour who lives down the road from us remembers helping putting the boards up about 30 years ago. We hope to retain some of the character of the cabin, but at the same time drag it into the 21st century. Frans will use some of the hardwood boards to make some furniture. When he has time!

I'm very pleased that I have finally mulched all the garlic. It's been a mission to get it all done. The weather has not been conducive to working outdoors!

We have had so much rain this month. Everything is sodden. The bright daffodils are a delight. They remind us that Spring is coming and that soon this wet weather will end too.
Nala loves her picture being taken!

Remember the tractor driving and hay roll out? Well, when our neighbours Graham and Lorraine returned, we were presented with not one, but two of these beautifully dressed turkeys. It's a good thing that we're having a big celebration soon! Roast turkey, turkey pie, terrine, pate..... All coming up!
Last season I planted a few asparagus plants. The first year I let them grow and send up beautiful fernlike leaves. I cut those back at the end of summer. And look! My first spears of the season. I'm planning on making a rustic frittata. The ferny leaves behind the spears are fennel plants. 
Even though the veggie garden seems rather lean at the moment, there are still plenty of winter treasures to be enjoyed. Fennel, turnips, swedes, bok choy, spinach, leeks, parsley, rosemary and rocket. 

I've organised my seed planting for Spring. Last week a bunch of beetroots, peas and sunflowers went into the ground. Next I'll get the tomatoes, capsicum and eggplants started in the greenhouse. Roll on Summer!
Some people like to collect things. I'm rather partial to seeds! 

Have a lovely weekend!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Moving right along....

In the local paper today, there is a report that we have had the warmest July for 12 years. I'm not too sure about that... There have been quite a few mornings where the grass was crispy white from the frost. The paddocks are green, but the grass is not growing much. It is still too cold. Many farmers in the district are struggling to feed their cattle. We did not get any rain last Summer, and when it did start raining in Autumn, we didn't get much growth on the pastures. The garden is at it's barest right now. There are a few determined shrubs showing a little bit of colour. 
I'm not sure what this purple flower is. I got a few cuttings from the local co-op. They had a row of these lovely bushes growing along the edge of the car park. Yes, I did ask!  
The magnolia is starting to put on buds. Soon it will be covered in beautiful pink flowers. In the background you can see the calves and one of the mothers. On the far left is Thursday II. In the centre is Sunday. On the right is Thursday, who is Sunday's mother. Confused? Missing from the pic is the boss cow, Eileen.

We had a little burn off a few evenings ago. Frans has been piling dead branches and debris on the fire pile for a few weeks. We had a few dry days in a row which meant that the stack would hopefully burn when lit! 
When preparing for a burn, there are important steps to be taken. Wine must be poured and music must be selected. 

A few sprinkles of diesel and the fire is lit. Note: Never use petrol!

Work on the cabin is progressing. Last week we had a friend, Martyn, down from Melbourne for a few days. He and Frans finished off the deck and started on the roof beams.

Then on Sunday, the cavalry arrived. Michael our chippy mate and his very capable friend Adrian came to help. 
An idea of what the view will be like from inside the cabin. I could handle that for a weekend!
My job was to keep the men fed and watered. Morning tea was homemade scones and farm jam.  
A much nicer building site than what they're used to in the city!
When you know what you're doing, things go really quickly! 

By lunch time on Monday the deck roof beams were up and the sliding door was in place.
After lunch the side weather boards started coming off. 
Michael checking the plans.  
This is the bedroom. Airy....

After the boys left on Tuesday, Frans and I attached the blue stuff (there's a special name for it... ) to keep the weather out. Next week we have a framing inspection. Then it's on to removing the old roof and replacing it with a new one. 

And meanwhile in the kitchen....

Another batch of our every popular Worcestershire Sauce being bottled. 
And there was a day of cheese making. I'm trying a new recipe here. This is Normandy Style Camembert. I'll let you know how it turns out!

Time is marching on and Sara and Stephen's wedding is drawing closer by the day. So I decided to made a big batch of Vin d' Orange. In other words.. Orange Wine. I made some last summer and it is rather moreish! It's delicious on ice, on its own served chilled, mixed with mineral water or splashed into a glass of bubbles. I bought inexpensive white wine from Aldi and got cracking.

 Once all the ingredients are cut up, mixed and added to the large jars, all that is left is to put them in a dark cupboard for 6 weeks then bottle them. (Keep the wine bottles for this!)
In six weeks we'll enjoy a new batch of this lovely French style aperitif.
Here's to a great weekend!