Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Spring has sprung!

The last time I posted something on this page, it was to announce how excited we were to receive a SILVER award from the Royal Melbourne Fine Foods Awards. Sara and I headed to the gala dinner which happened to be in the Masterchef building. We were like star struck teenagers! We were not alone. Everyone there was taking the odd 'selfie'. It was such a vibrant atmosphere, with so many amazing producers all in one room!
Sara outside the entrance. We entered via a red carpet! 
We're in the book of 2015!

Around the farm, the fruit trees are blossoming at last. This is our plum. It is looking beautiful.  
In the polytunnel, the broad beans flowered and we picked the first pods a week ago. They made their way down to Forrest to Bespoke Harvest and appeared on their dinner menu last weakend.  
Everywhere we look, there is colour! I love this gnarled Rhododendron that somehow survives along the old shed wall. I never water it. Its saving grace is that the tree sits on the south facing wall.  
During the month Frans got some jobs finished that have been on his list for a long time. A big tick went beside the 'underfloor insulation' of the cabin. As you well know, Frans is not fond of small crawl spaces. I was tasked with handing tools to him, cutting insulation sheets and generally keep him from panicking! 
Finally we have some lovely signs up. This one is down on the corner of the Crabb farm. 
And this big sign is now at the front gate. We think they look pretty good. I planted some flowers that need watering in the flower bed. Silly mistake. It's a mission to drag a water bucket down to the gate. I will forget that idea and think of something else. In the mean time the bulbs have been lovely, and we wait for the Aggies to grow. No, they're not self seeding. They're infertile. So not a weed!
Another big chore was to check the bee hives. Frans was fortunate to have a local bee keeper and berry grower come and give him a hand and some pointers. 
We have tasted our first honey for a year! It is delicious. More to come we hope! 
Frans did a pretty good job of getting the mower bogged in some soggy ground. It required a four wheel drive and a snatch strap. No damage done. 
They I had a minor altercation with a tree. This incident also required a four wheel drive and a snatch strap. Damage...?? Hopefully not.  
It is a delight to dig up a garden bed and find a load of hidden gems! Aprons are essential for gathering produce when a basket is not at hand! 
Not a straight, perfect carrot among these fine specimens! 
We're picking fennel too! I cooked this delicious Yotam Ottolenghi dish. It was fabulous! If you love vegetables, then this book is excellent. I recommend it highly. It is called Plenty More. 
I continue to experiment in the kitchen. There is always something 'brewing'. In this pic is a jar of honey fermenting into mead. There's a pot of kefir. And under the wax cloth is a big ball of sourdough rising. Nothing in the round clay pot. It's just there because I love it, and it reminds me of our amazing journey to India. 
Still experimenting.... We're using our black garlic papery skins to smoke foods. Delicious with chicken or fish. 
And still on the subject of fermentation, we took our large Kombucha jar to two markets. We wanted folks to try it and see what all the fuss is about. We have come home both times with an empty vessel. It's exciting to see how positive the reactions are to this delicious probiotic drink! 
We've had a few visitors enjoying the Spring weather. The cabin is a little haven away from the crazy world of the city! Sit on the verandah and you can see all the way to the Otways. 
The little garden around the cabin is beginning to look more settled. We have a few more ideas yet. 
We had a delightful couple stay with us a few weeks ago. This is what they left us. What a delightful 'thank you'. 
Sunrise is always a lovely time of the day. Now that daylight savings has arrived, we get to enjoy the mornings that little bit earlier! 
There's been much digging, preparing garden beds for Spring planting. 
The soil is healthy and full of good worm action. Just look at this monster! 
I'm thrilled to see we have our first almonds ripening on the trees.  
These orange poppies are like weeds. I can't get rid of them. But at the same time I do love their cheeriness.  
The strawberry flowers have started. And that means one thing..... Strawberries. Soon! 
It was the Birregurra Festival last weekend. Sara and Stephen entered Tilly the wonder dog into the jumping competition. Here they are waiting their turn. 
And here Stephen is encouraging Tilly to jump 6 feet, up and over the boards. Sara is standing on the back of a ute, encouraging her up. 
And she did it! She didn't come first. But she certainly gave city dogs some kudos! 
If you're still with me... this is pretty exciting....
We have been nominated for the Agribusiness category of the Colac Otway Business Awards. The announcement is on the 17th of October. Being finalists is already a great buzz. 
And for the bird lovers, this baby magpie has just left the next. He allowed me to stroke his feathers, and watched me as I worked in the garden bed beside him. 
My favourite tree on the farm is the willow tree. The empty fronds have started growing leaves again. Soon it will be time to place a comfortable chair in the shade and read a book for a while. This is what spring and summer is about! 
And last but not least, the view from our farm is just glorious. At sundown we're treated to a few minutes where the light turns gold. This is known as the golden hour. 

One of our neighbour's sheep had twins. Aren't they too cute for words! 
Till next time,
Stay safe.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Mid Winter

I've been struggling to upload a new blog post for around a week. Our internet connection has spat the dummy. In fact, it's a problem being experienced right around the district. We don't have broadband. We don't have ADSL. We have to use a Telstra WiFi connection, which costs us dearly for minimal usage. Just one of the joys of living in the country! 

But here's something to be super excited about. This past month I sent two entries to the Royal Melbourne Fine Foods Awards. And what do you know... we won a SILVER medal! We're mightily pleased. I did do a little checking to see who had won gold, but there was no gold medal awarded. So my goal is to improve the intensity of the raspberry flavour and hit the judges right in the middle of their taste buds :-)
I was given this recipe by Anne Woods over in Birregurra. It's from Mrs Jekyll's recipes from 1922. Old things can be new again! Mrs Jekyll suggests that this cordial is an elixir that is perfect when taken after being exhausted by gardening, exasperated by church or tired by tennis. We agree.
We're waiting for our new little silver stickers to arrive so we can adorn our Rapsberry Vinegar Cordial bottles. 

And just a little thrill that came with the award... A retweet by Pip Courtney (Landline Presenter) on our award. Thanks Pip!

I'm still slow cooking garlic to turn it into Black Garlic. Our garlic salts are proving to be very popular. This reminds me that the garlic growing in the paddock needs weeding! Oh joy..

It was one of those days..
The only way I can get through the awful task of plucking feathers from dead birds is to set myself time challenges. I've managed to pluck a chook in 8 minutes. A duck still challenges my skills. The best is around 19 minutes. I do not like plucking ducks. Not at all.
I used to freeze the birds whole and then wait for an occasion when we had a few mouths to feed before cooking them. However, I now cut them up and freeze them in portions. So much easier. There's nothing quite like eating a free range farm bird. It is lean and tasty. Yes, it needs slow cooking, but it tastes pretty amazing.
July was a month that challenged us in many ways. The worst was that Frans and I both got sick. It took me over three weeks to get over it. I still bear the residual cough. It was lovely getting a drop in visit from Chef Simon Stewart from Bespoke Harvest one afternoon. His lovely partner Kara had told him we were sick and to bring soup! Which he did. Thank you Simon and Kara!
It's good to know you have friends!
Soup to make us better.
We've done a bit around the yard. Frans has shovelled loads of chook poo onto the asparagus bed.
We love asparagus. It has such a short window of production and we treasure every spear. Usually I'll made a duck egg frittata with two or three spears freshly cut from the garden. So you can imagine my pleasure when we were gifted three huge boxes of just lifted asparagus plants from a friend. This required immediate action. We cleared up one of our long vegetable beds, dug deep trenches and piled in the compost. The plants were evenly spaced along the trench and the soil put back on top. 
Then on top of that we spread a generous layer of cow poo. We are looking forward to Spring! I'm hoping we can eat from these new plants this year as they were already established when they were lift. Crossing fingers!

We've also added another 17 trees of all descriptions to our little 'food forest'. There are figs, pears, nectarines, cherry, almond (I've been told I say this word with a strange accent... I pronounce the 'l' in almond), grape vines and hazelnuts. There are also an number of citrus trees; grapefruit, cumquat, navel orange, lemon and lime.
Planting trees and mulching is thirsty work!
The garlic was netted to keep the rabbits out, not to mention the parrots!
I'm keeping track of our frosty mornings. So far we've had six. This was the heaviest. It was a winter wonderland! Beautiful to look at. Not that great for some of the soft herbs and leafy greens.
The perennial basil below took a beating.
And just because I love the cows, here's a photo of Eileen and her little heifer Lucky. This is afternoon tea.
Feeding out hay is a combined effort. The chickens love to assist too.
And we said goodbye to Michael Jackson a few weeks ago. So Spike is king pin once again. All is well in the chook yard!
Till next time,
Remember where your food comes from.
Eat well.