Tuesday, February 10, 2015

We've only just begun.... to have Summer!

 After a slow start to Summer, the weather finally seems to be warming up! We had a cold day a couple of weeks ago where we actually lit the fire one evening. Crazy! We should have toughened up and put on a jumper, but it's rather comforting sitting in front of a fire with a warm cup of tea in the middle of summer!
Although the tomatoes have still to grace our table, we are picking zucchinis and squashes by the basketful! We're blitzing them for soups this winter. They've making their way into bread and butter pickles, and we're enjoying them in salads and our favourite way, stuffed!
 The berries have been lush and juicy this season. The blackberries leave purple stains on fingers and lips! We savor these fruits as there aren't too many of them. We have some wild blackberries growing near our dam. It's a mission to collect a even a small bowl. Walking through a cow paddock and trying not to break your neck by treading in a pug hole and then fighting the thorns on the bushes, makes picking the wild blackberries a chore not suited to the faint hearted! Once made, the almost black conserve is tested on fresh bread. Yep, we'll keep picking these beauties!
This time of year most of my time is spent in the kitchen. Jams, sauces and chutneys are all getting made with the seasonal pickings. It's all about preserving the harvest. We added a couple of new lines for our Summer market season. Raspberry Syrup got it's first outing and was snapped up by ice-cream loving customers. A marriage made in heaven! I made a monster batch of Asian plum sauce. This stuff is delicious as a dipping sauce with little dumplings or spring rolls. But my favourite way of using it is to pour it over a whole duck and cook it slowly in the slow cooker. Simply delicious. We have nine ducks ready to make their transition into the freezer. It's a good thing that I made lots of this sauce!
 Summer time is cool drink time when cordials come into their own. Frans likes to keep a bottle of raspberry vinegar cordial on the bench in the kitchen so he can grab it quickly to add to a big jug of water when he's working in the yard. It annoys me no end to see it out of place, but this way it gets used. And fast! He swears by it as a thirst quencher. My personal favourite is the Lime-lemongrass and ginger cordial. A glass of this and you're transported to somewhere exotic!
I made my first attempt and making an Indian achar or salty lemon pickle. I pickled a large jar of lemons for a couple of weeks before the fun bit of mixing the ingredients was had. It has been resting and we're looking forward to getting stuck into it soon.

We are having a go at making Mead. It's an ancient drink, based on honey. It was popular in the middle ages. After extracting the honey from the frames (see last blog post), I mixed the wax bits with water and sat the jar on the table to start its fermentation process. It has been there for about a month and it is very close to being bottled. There is still plenty of fermentation going on inside that jar.  
I also tried my hand at making plum brandy. This process requires the plums and sugar to be sealed off from the outside air. I've used a bag with water to seal the top of the plum ferment. After 12 days, the bubbling stopped and the fruit was ready for straining. 
I lined a sieve with muslin and poured the sticky plummy gloop into the sieve. It took a while to strain through. The filtered 'wine' was thick and a lovely rose colour. Then the wine was mixed with equal portions of brandy. 
The result... delicious! This will be lovely on a hot day with a little mineral water, or with a block of ice. It is however, just perfect the way it is.
Plums have featured heavily in the kitchen this summer. I preserved a few jars in Fowlers jars. These will be used for desserts. 
We've been picking nectarines too. This batch has just been bottled. Scrumptious nectarine conserve. Roll on breakfast!
One of our most exciting and innovative products to date has to be our Black Garlic Salt. We picked the best bulbs hanging in the shed and gave them the 'black garlic treatment'. We then turned these smokey, liquorice, malty cloves into the most amazing garlic salt. 

This was our first trial batch and they went in a flash. So it's back to the kitchen for another round of this interesting gourmet product. It is delicious used in garlic butter and smeared under the skin of a chicken, then baked. It is also fabulous mixed in a little mayo and used in potato salad. There are so many options! Chef Simon Stewart from Bespoke Harvest is using it in his pickled celery and shiitake mushroom dish. It is simply sublime....

Half way through January we had a rain event! No other way to describe it. Down came the wet stuff. All 48mm's of it in about half an hour. Every gutter overflowed. Joints leaked inside the house. Puddles gathered everywhere. Frans was out in his rain gear trying to open gutters and clear the way for the deluge. Dinner was late!
After the storm we took a drive down our boundary and we saw our dam as we've never seen it before. It was full. Very full! The jetty had very little space underneath it.
The rain was very welcome to the farmers in the district. It has delayed them having to feed hay out to their stock for about 3 weeks. That makes a big difference to a farm's bottom line. The paddocks are still fairly green, although they are now starting to dry off to their summer beige quite quickly since that last bit of rain.

Somewhere during the last week in January, the young bull Buzz, and his half sister Lucky had a date with Frans and Graham in the cattle crush. We moved all the cows up to the cattle yard. (They like to go in a group. Cows get nervous when they're alone as they are herd animals). That's Thursday, mother to Buzz looking at me.
Some farm jobs still require a certain amount of agility! Seems like this bloke still knows how to climb a gate!
It was then down to the serious business of tying off Buzz's dangly bits. Poor bugger.. Frans performed this procedure himself for the first time. Go Frans!
Poor Buzz had treatment at both ends. Not only did he get his gonads tied off, he got an ear pierced too! Lucky was lucky. She only got a nice new ear piece.
Who would think that managing a couple of calves would be such hard work! Graham and Frans took a moment to admire their handiwork!

And a week later it was my turn to get ready for the annual event of the visiting bull. My job was to run the electric line and open and close a series of gates at the appropriate times. Let's just say, I'm not as confident when facing a huge bellowing beast as Graham is. That comes with years of practice. I was quite happy hiding behind Graham's red ute!
Here he is. What a specimen. And boy can he bellow! We hope he likes his new harem. There are four cows that will be mothers again if this bloke does what we need him to!
We have a couple of young French blokes Wwoofing for us. (Willing workers on organic farms). They're helping us tick a few projects off our very long list of things to do. Last week we put together a 'no dig' garden bed. First we laid a row of cardboard boxes and wet them thoroughly. Then a decent load of good soil was heaped on the cardboard. After that we mulched the mound and watered it all in. 

With three people doing the job, it was completed a lot quicker if it was just me or Frans doing it.
All that was left to do was plant a row of lavender and a couple of edging rows. Instant garden. 
Here are two photos I took of the cabin at different times of the day. The first one was taken just after a rain shower. We really are at the end of the rainbow!
This pic was taken around 8.15pm. It's the golden hour. My favourite time of the day.
Did I mention that January has been action packed? We had Graham plough a couple of new beds for our next garlic crop. We've pinched a piece of the top paddock. It needed fencing off to keep the cows out of course.
Now we need to add many wheelbarrows of compost, chook and cow poo to the newly made beds.
Frans gave the French boys a lesson in fencing. Big tip: do not touch a live fence!
I'm going to end this post with a few pics I took when watering the veggies a few evenings ago. The was starting to go down. The cows were quietly grazing next door. Before I knew it, I'd been outside for a couple of hours. The sun had almost slipped behind the horizon. What a beautiful sky.
This is how we enjoy 'happy hour' on the farm. The day is not done till everything is done. No more good rain is forecast for the next couple of months. So it will be a morning and evening routine... water water water.
Till next time...