Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A wet wet Spring continues...

We were treated to a double rainbow this week. Huge black clouds rolled across the sky and then dumped bucket loads of rain and hail onto an already soggy farm! We stood under the carport and listened to the thundering bullets of ice move overhead. 
 Frans is very keen to get the roof finished on the cabin. The ridge capping still needs to be put on, as well as the gutters. We've made good progress the past few days as we have had no rain. Yay!
The South side of the cabin. This is the little extension where the bathroom will be and the window is where the kitchenette will be.  
 The straight pieces of tin are relatively easy to put up. It's when cuts need to be made that it gets more tricky. 
This is back breaking work! The most daunting piece of tin to cut was 7m long.  
If you know Frans, you will know that is rather pedantic, or rather, a painful perfectionist. We have spent a lot of time measuring, again and again, before putting up sheets. Every beam is marked and a level used to make sure all the screws are lined up neatly. 
This was the last side that needed to be done. We drew pictures, discussed, schemed and then just had to bite the bullet and try all our theories out! A long sheet had to have the window cut outs made before sliding this same long sheet up and under the middle sheet you see here. We couldn't do this bit alone, so our neighbour Graham came to lend a hand. We thought this would be a difficult task fraught with problems, but it all went up quite smoothly.  
All the while Nala is the site dog. Ever on her guard.... Not. More often than not she's under our feet, just wanting to be in on the action! 
Around 5.45pm last night, Frans put the last screw into the metal sheeting. While he did the last bit of fiddling about, I cleared all the scrap metal sheets from the grassy area in front of the cabin. The sheets have been lying on the grass for a few weeks and have caused the grass to yellow off and die in some spots. However, a week or two and it will turn green again.
Ahhhh... Doesn't it look cute? Still lots more to do, but this is a major milestone for us. Next Frans needs to put cement sheeting around the bottom of the tin. This is a fire protection requirement. So much ridiculous red tape. The flashing and gutters need to go up and then we move on to the inside. 
I'm really looking forward to doing the inside. We have purchased most of the bathroom and kitchen bits and pieces. I had intended to create a very plain and conservative kitchenette and lounge area. But at the very last minute I changed my mind and have decided to make a colour statement! I'll keep you guessing for a bit longer...  
In the real world of free range happy chickens, there is no 'one size fits all'.  
A sudden glut of eggs over the past few days has had me rushing for the big jars, vinegar and spices! We loved our pickled eggs last Summer. They're great when you serve them on a salad platter for lunch. I've made two sorts here. One is a brown vinegar base, and the one on the right is a white vinegar base with beetroot juice. The eggs will turn a lovely pink! 
One of my mid winter jobs is to cut back the ornamental grape vines that shade the North side of the house in Summer. It rained so much in August (wettest August on record!), that I didn't get to the cutting till this week. Some of the vines are already sprouting new growth. I managed to pick a morning where there was no rain and started weaving the cuttings into wreaths. I didn't want to just mulch them. It's rather satisfying to make something pretty out of what would normally be garden waste. These wreaths are making their way to a little store in Geelong called Frank and Dollys . Last year the lovely owners Joel and Rachel Cooper saw my wreaths at the Birregurra Festival and asked me to make some to stock in their store.   
I made a big love heart to hang on the old shed when we have all the wedding festivities in a few weeks. 
Talking about sprouting... the apple trees seem to be doing things backwards this season. We've not had any blossoms yet, and some of the trees are showing signs of leaves first. So who knows if we're going to get any fruit this season! After the driest Summer on record, we have had the wettest August on record. The trees must be confused!
I haven't put up a pic of our cows for a while so I thought it was time again. I fed them a little hay this morning. The chooks love feeding time just as much as the cows do!
Will all the rain comes the problem of WEEDS! The Cape weed is running rampant! The only way to get rid of it is to spray it with a nasty chemical or to dig it out by hand! We don't want to spray. So when we can, we dig this pesky weed out with a sharp knife or garden fork. 
It's not all weedy... Standing tall in a messy garden bed, this beautiful variegated pink popped up this week. I only noticed the little spider after I downloaded the photo.  
Have a very happy week and weekend. It's Grand Final weekend! 
Go Hawthorn!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Bride to be!

Sara is getting married! Not long to go now, and all the excitement of a family wedding is starting to kick off. This past weekend we held a 'girly' Kitchen Tea for her. She wanted it to be held in her own house. So out came all the pretty plates, cups, tea pots and flowers. Towers of cup cakes, cake pops and Italian biscuits graced the tables. Smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches, cut into dainty triangles filled vintage plates. A 'gaggle' of ladies spent a few hours sipping bubbles, playing games and having a good time.
Katie and Sara
Beautiful cup cakes & cake pops were made by a friend who Sara works with.
Unwrapping gifts was lots of fun. Everyone contributed favourite recipes and household hints.
Guests went home with a little 'thank you'. Hand made seed packets and farm grown seeds.
The seed packets were popped into terracotta pots that had bags of soil included. Ready to plant.
Pencils for the games!
No trip to Melbourne is complete without a trip to the shops! 
Or to Victoria Market. Emma came down from Brisbane for the weekend. We had a lovely day shopping. It was Em's first time away from her baby girls. It was lovely having her here.
Emma and I had a coffee at a very groovy Brazilian cafe' at the Vic Market. I loved the vintage touch of floral saucers. 

Back on the farm I've been playing with lime cordial recipes. I made a plain version first. 
At my friend Michelle Steel's suggestion, I tried another version; lime ginger and lemon grass. It is delicious! These cordials are lovely served with sparkling mineral water. Pop in a few mint leaves or extra lime slices for a very refreshing summer drink. And as the sun goes down, I think it is perfectly appropriate to add a slosh of vodka!
We took our new cordials to the Bannockburn Farmers Market and had a great response.
Driving through the forest on the way to town we're seeing wattle flowers everywhere! Spring is finally here. 
Have a great week, what's left of it, and a good weekend!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A new season begins

Finally, we have turned the corner from cold, wet, miserable days to ones filled with glorious Spring sunshine. It probably won't last till next week, but in the mean time if you listen carefully, you can hear the grass grow! The daffodils are still putting on a fabulous show and they're now accompanied by upright little bluebells. 

The cabin is progressing. Slowly. Now that the rains have eased, we're able to do more each week. We had a delivery of all the roofing and side cladding about 10 days ago. The truck delivered all the iron and it was placed on the sodden grass.  

After the blokes from the factory were done with the delivery, they came inside and we had tea and Anzac biscuits and chatted about quilting. (they'd seen my work in progress!)
Our young friends Michael and Adrian came for the weekend and got stuck into more hammering and drilling. It was rainy all weekend, so most of the work was inside work. The day they left the skies cleared and the rain disappeared. 
Once the boys left, I got the job of 'builder's apprentice'. I cut all the insulation for the roof. I have to admit getting distracted every now and then by the view! Nala is every present, keeping me company wherever I am. 
Below Frans is removing the old tin. I really love the look of the weathered iron. I'd love to use it for something creative. 
A view from above where the insulation has been placed into the roof 

And then I picked up our local council's latest flyer of the calendar of events for the coming year. I looked at it and noticed the picture at the bottom. It looked very familiar. 
Yep, it's our stall. Rather flattering.
Speaking of garlic... here's our garlic patch. It is looking healthy and the garlic is growing well. In about 3 months we will pick it. I'll make garlic braids again for the summer markets. These are really popular. They serve as decoration for the kitchen and an easy storage mechanism. 
The sunny days have brought the bees out! The rocket flowers were abuzz this week. I wanted to pull all the overgrown plants out and give them to the chooks, but the bees are enjoying the blooms too much. I'll leave them for a few more days. In the mean time the rosemary bushes are all starting to flower, so the bees will have plenty of food then. Arn't these rocket flowers gorgeous? Such amazing detail in a tiny little bloom.
Last summer I planted a row of geraniums along the old shed wall. I loved the red flowers against the tin. I also planted a heap of Earlicheers and Jonquils. I cut the geraniums back at the beginning of winter and the bulbs have bloomed along the tin wall. In a few weeks the bulbs will fall over and die back and the geraniums will take over again. I love the change of colour scheme. 
The camellia bush is looking wonderfully pink! The lemon tree beside it has lemons which are developing nicely. Lime cordial is making an appearance at the the Bannockburn Farmers Market this coming week, along with lime and grapefruit marmalade. Yum! 
Besides working on the cabin and in the garden, there has been one unpleasant chore that needed doing this past week. We needed to despatch three roosters. It's not a pleasant job, but we see no purpose keeping birds that won't provide us with any benefit. Even though the chickens are free range, they still need feeding. The roosters were behaving badly and the poor hens were often being chased from one end of the yard to the other. It was definitely time to send them to 'chicken heaven'! Frans does the hard part, despatching the birds, and I do the plucking.  
I've worked out the best temperature the water needs to be to make the job easy. The feathers stink. It's the one thing I do not like about this job!  
Thank goodness for rubber gloves! 
After I have plucked the birds, Frans does the final bit. Gutting. We're getting quite good at this job. In a little under 2 hours I had 3 birds cleaned and placed in the freezer. As they're free range, they are not as fat as ones bought in the supermarket. Their taste is far superior though. I will probably make a stack of chicken pies and a few pots of soup with these guys. 
I threw some kale and cabbage over the gate a few days ago. The chickens love it. So do the ducks. And for good measure, the visiting peacocks have now joined the action. Only Nala was missing.
She didn't miss out completely. The next opportunity she had, she was right there with the chooks enjoying carrot peels and other veggie scraps. Weird dog! 
I'll leave you with a picture of a recent purchase this new 'farm chic' made. My favourite shop is now the farm co-op. I needed new work boots. So I was pleased to get some as well as a pair of excellent socks. And just because they were sitting there on the counter as an impulse buy... I picked up a pack of washing pegs made by the same people who make electric fences. As you do. They were about three times the price as the usual plastic pegs available at the supermarket. I'm expecting them to last much longer though! 
Have a great week. Enjoy the first flushes of Spring!