Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Marching on....

March has to been the month of getting major tasks done! We've had to engage in super sized equipment to get some of the jobs tackled around the farm. Our lovely neighbour Graham has come to our rescue a couple of times with his tractor. We'd be lost without him.
The first big job we had was to move a little hill of soil. It didn't look like a big job, but it turned out to be a little more challenging than we first thought it would be. Up came a few cables. Nope, nothing serious. Fortunately. We're planning to put a small section of paving down alongside the old shed, next to the cabin. We'll pop a BBQ here, some chairs and a table so our cabin guests can enjoy an outdoor cooking set up.
Backwards, forwards, backwards, forwards! A small spot for paving soon became a big messy patch of dirt! 
Finally we decided that we'd made a big enough spot and we got busy levelling some of the newly mounded soil back to ground level. The project has stalled as other more urgent jobs have taken priority. 
Frans spent a few days down at our boundary line putting in a new fence with our neighbour Peter the potato man. It was hard slog. I was a good farm wife and took down sandwiches and jugs of cordial. The Anzac biscuits didn't last long. (that's the tin under Frans' arm!) There was a slight mishap of the telephone line being cut, but we won't go there! 
Next Frans started the great water tank repair of 2015! Both our concrete water tanks have started leaking. It has taken a lot of phone calls, research and finally a decision on what to do about these great big lumps of concrete! Frans will empty them and put new liners inside them. One was empty already from all the leaks. He pumped the water out of the second tank and topped up the swimming pool. The then ferried a few loads of water down to our neighbours as their tank had had an accident! So no water was lost in the process! 
Fixing a water tank is like painting a house. The preparation takes the longest! And the only way to do it is to do it on the inside! 
Frans drilled new holes where the new liner would be secured.  
Yes, our Son in law Stephen is correct. A concrete drill would have been much easier and quicker to use!
There was much debating on the best method of inserting the liner and also how to install the inlet out outlet pipes. I earned my stripes as a Water Tank Installation Apprentice. Once the new liner was in, Frans opened a tap from the second tank and water was transferred to the newly repaired tank. One down! One to go. Watch this space!

I took myself off to Melbourne to attend a Joel Salatin Workshop for a day. I was inspired and learned a whole bunch of new farming ideas. The day was organised by Milkwood. It was well done, professional and the sound system even worked! Don't you find it odd that you can go to an event where the microphones are always giving problems, or the laptop and overhead projector doesn't work properly? Organise yourselves people! This didn't happen here I'm happy to say. Well done Milkwood team! 
Joel spoke with no notes. Pure passion and inspiration. 
I picked up his new book and he kindly signed it for me. 
Lunch was really interesting. And good. The catering was done by Joost Bakker. He is very clever when it comes to recycling. He even recycles bones from Neil Perry's restaurant to create delicious Bone Broth served in jam jars. The bread was delicious sourdough with mountains of butter if you wanted it. 
Fresh vegetables were dropped into a jar and the hot broth poured onto them. There was also a delicious barley salad where the barley had been fermented in rain water for 48 hours. I must try that... we have rain water :-) 
I loved morning tea. So simple. Grapes served with sour cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon. 

Back home the next morning early I got busy in the kitchen preparing lunch for our good friends Jim and Debbie and their overseas guests Bernard and Linda. We met the lovely Bernard and Linda last year when they visited from Scotland. Bernard, I hope you're reading this blog... this one is for you :-)
I usually put flowers on the table, but after seeing the wonderful vegetable displays the day before that Joost Bakker put on the buffet tables, I thought I would do the same. It is amazing how effective spinach and lettuce leaves can be in a tall vase! There are dill flowers, kale as well as just a few blue cornflowers for a zap of colour.  
Lunch was a farm affair. Two bunnies that Frans sent to heaven a couple of weeks before made it onto the menu. The pie was delicious.  
The potatoes came from next door. I hate growing potatoes. Once you have them, you can't get rid of them. So I'm happy to swap produce for potatoes from our surrounding neighbours. The purple ones are just amazing. They look like dark beetroot, but taste just like a spud should taste! 
Farm lunch. Jim and Deb, Bernard, Linda and Frans. We started lunch with freshly baked bread, farm cheese and farm honey.  We finished with pears (from next door) in caramel sauce with Inglenook Dairy cream. We sampled my plum brandy at the end, and the wine aficionados said it was 'more than ok'!
We look forward to seeing Jim and Debbie again soon, and the Scots when they come back again!

We've been busy in the kitchen all month. There is always something to prepare, preserve or cook. The cucumbers have been prolific this year. I love the wonky ones. They seem to thrive in my garden. These are definitely 100% organic. 
The cucumbers have made it into our Otway Fields range this year. The pickles are delicious. We've also added pickled garlic to compliment the Black Garlic Salt. (now that was a hit! We're down to our last few jars. I'm planning on making a lot more next season) 
As the summer has drawn to a close, we're now into the wonderful time of harvesting. At the last Birregurra market a Harvest theme was celebrated. I have to claim some fame with the photo on the front page of the Birre Mail the week before the market. I was determined to enter the competition too! 
Early on Sunday morning, whilst it was still dark mind you... I went out to pick the zucchini I had been nurturing all week. I was convinced it would be the winner. Hah! It was the SMALLEST on the table! That's mine, right up the front! Don't know what the others were fed! 
It was such a fun day. I was asked to judge the Best Tomato competion along with Rosie from the Birregurra General Store. We took our job very seriously. Who knew how many different flavours you'd get from a few tomatoes! The winner was a fabulously big red number. It was sweet, had great texture and I came home with the rest of it to keep the seeds! There has to be a perk right? 
This was the winning tomato. And yes, thanks Frans for the 'soft filter' lens! 
I love taking our lovely preserves to the market. I'm so lucky that my gorgeous neighbour Lorraine comes with me. Between us we can put up the tent, set up the display and be ready for our breakfast egg and mayo sandwich in less than an hour. She is such a gem.  
Our range is flexible. We're alway experimenting with new flavours as the produce ripens.  
We had some help from a young Belgian Wwoofer (willing workers on organic farms) for a week. Her name is Elodie. She is a delight. She helped in the garden, is a whizz at chopping veggies and learned to plait garlic! 
While she was with us she also learned how to make Anzac biscuits, make sourdough bread as well as lamb pie. Her aim is to have her own restaurant one day.
In turn she taught us to enjoy our 'aperitif' a little more in the afternoons. 

Last weekend we had a big burn off in the forest just close to our farm. This was a planned event. The DEPI had let us know that the burn was imminent, and they were waiting for the right weather conditions. Well, the conditions turned green on Thursday afternoon and the burn began. Friday was a little smokey but  nothing serious. Saturday morning we woke up to another world. We were shrouded in smoke. Walking down the hallway in the house we could see a smokey haze. Breathing became a little more difficult and we were coughing like heavy smokers. The smoke hung about all day. Finally in the afternoon it became windy. With that a feeling of unease. 
The cabin was somewhere past those bushes. 
When the smoke started to clear we took a drive down to the main road. That's our place on the hill. 
We're please the burn has happened and that it was well controlled. Hats off to the DEPI folks who patrolled the area for three days straight. 

Look at the amazing complexity in this sunflower. It will bloom in a few more days. The bees will come to feast.
Till next time,
Stay safe.