Thursday, June 25, 2015

Winter Catch up!

Yes it's been a while! Life has been busy on the farm. Just when I think we're going to slow down, we just seem to get busier!
Autumn has been and gone. We've even passed the longest night of the year. We've yet to experience the really cold days of winter. 
Pour a cuppa and I'll take you through our activities for the last couple of months!

The Autumn vines outside our lounge room window.

The same vines from the inside. The colours were glorious. The leaves have all fallen now. 

The little garden bed we built and planted in front of the cabin is looking good. The smell of sweet alyssum and lavender is lovely as you walk along the pathways.

Autumn is a busy time in the garden, harvesting all the summer veggies.

Some tomatoes were kept to eat as is. Some were turned into Passata.

I dried a few in the Rayburn. What a wonderful piece of equipment! Drying fruits and vegetables adds another dimension to preserving our harvest.

These dried tomatoes were popped into olive oil and a little vegetable oil, then kept in the fridge. The vegetable oil stops the whole lot solidifying.

The green tomatoes I couldn't bear to throw onto the compost heap, I hung up in the old shed. We're still picking ripening tomatoes, and it's almost July!

Autumn also heralds apple picking season. We picked many kilograms of apples. Some we gave away in bags and baskets. Then we juiced around 700 apples to turn into our first cider. Our young friend Michael, who helped Frans build the cabin, came down for a weekend. He didn't think he was coming to chop fruit, but he did a splendid job! His big hands are a pair of machines. He could squeeze every last drop of juice from the pulp!

A few weeks later friends John and Jan Verouden from Gellibrand came over to help us bottle our brew. John is the cider expert. Under his guidance we have hopefully created a ripper of a little drop!

John knows all the little tricks to make bottling easy.

While John poured, Frans added the sugar and tapped the tops onto the bottles. 

Then a gentle shake to make sure there was no hiss!

Of course once the apples are picked, the nets have to come down. Let's just say this is not a job for the faint hearted. That ladder is very high. It also helps to make sure the clips are in place. Just saying...

Besides being busy about the farm, I also attended a 6 week course with the Master Tree Growers Association. Each week we visited various properties about the district. We learned much about tree growing. Time well spent. 

Yep, those are my old boots sticking out from the back of a ute (utility vehicle, or bakkie if you're South African!)

Course participants piled onto vehicles and be bounced around paddocks inspecting shelter belts and tree plantations.

With garlic planting coming up in Autumn, our very obliging neighbour Graham brought around his old tractor and ploughed our new garlic beds for us. We picked a new spot at the top end of the cow paddock. Of course we had to take the fence down so the tractor could get in to spread the compost we'd had delivered. It was a job we could not do by hand. We'd still be there!

We'd ploughed these rows way back in February and had added organic material to them and let them rest. We added a last topping of good quality compost and then the fun began!

Those rows are very long! We will need a lot of seed!

For the few days before we planted, anyone who entered the door got put in front of a pile of garlic! Here's the lovely Lorraine peeling away. 

Sara and Stephen didn't escape the chore either. Neither did the neighbour from across the road!

Then it was all systems go. Or rather, down on bended knees and hands in the dirt!
Frans plants on his knees. I like to bend over. Whatever works...

The beds are mounded up to help with drainage.

Each variety of garlic is planted in it's own section. Sometime we forget where we planted what. So I usually draw a mud map and list what we've planted where.

It's done. Now we wait till December!

In the mean time, I have taken some of the last harvest and had a play with creating Black Garlic. Let's just say that the first time you try something and it fails, don't give up. I have now worked out how to do this and have created a by product along the way. It's called Black Garlic Salt!

Black garlic is the result of taking regular white garlic (our organically grown produce in this instance) and applying heat to it in a very controlled environment for a long time. Up to 40 days in fact. It is a Korean 'invention' and is heralded as one of those 'super foods'. Black garlic is loaded with antioxidants and is now finding its way onto many fancy menus around the world. 

The newly processed black garlic can be used in sauces and is delicious in Asian dishes. It tastes a little like sweet balsamic vinegar crossed with liquorice. It is that 5th taste, known as Umami. 

And here it is. Black Garlic Salt. It is delicious sprinkled on roast tomatoes for breakfast, on eggs, on roast potatoes, meat and anything you like! It is fabulous on smashed avocado on a piece of home baked toast, smeared with a fresh garlic clove, drizzeld with a little olive oil. I guess you'd call it "Smashed Avo & Black Garlic  Bruscetta". 

And because I like to see how far I can push a new product, we have smoked some of bulbs with our own apple wood. The smoked garlic cloves are sublime in pasta dishes. The Smoked Garlic Salt is great on fish, chicken and anything you want to add a 'smokey' hit to.

Both products are sold in 40g packets. Chefs can order bulk jars.
 I'm excited that a couple of great restaurants in the district are now using our salt. 
Message me via Facebook or email me if you're interested in trying any of these products.

We took our first offering to the Forrest SoupFest in June. We sold out!

Sara and I made it into the local paper. What fun.

In my never ending quest of reviving old skills, I had a go at preserving olives. Frans was lucky enough to get a few kilograms from a work mate. So I 'Googled' a number of methods and decided on  two. I bought a lovely olive preserving pot in Mildura a few years ago, so I really wanted to use it. I followed the instructions and I now have a batch of olives brining slowly in the spare bedroom cupboard for the next 4 months! Let's just not forget they're there.

I also took some of the olives and slit them and simply salted them with sea salt. They have been shrinking and getting more wrinkly and I think they're about ready to take to the next step. Google. 

I had a birthday a couple of weeks ago. Here is an absolutely awesome present from neighbours Graham and Lorraine. It is a freshly dressed turkey! I cooked it at the bottom of the Rayburn for 24 hours, using all sorts of delicious spices in the stuffing. It smelled like Christmas! 
We have since had turkey soup and there is a whole lot frozen to make turkey pie!

Friends Martyn and Eugenia came to visit and brought with them a bottle of 30 year old Grange. They celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary earlier this year, and it's our 30th in November. So they thought they'd share it with us. What lovely, unselfish friends! And yes, it was fabulous!
We celebrated my birthday lunch at Bespoke Harvest in Forrest. Sara and Stephen surprised us by coming down the night before.
My little brother Lionel came down from Brisbane too! What a treat! (love the photo bomber in the background! That's Emma)
Here we are with Emma Ashton, owner of Bespoke Harvest. It's our favourite restaurant. We're lucky to have such a great venue so close to home!

My 'cake'. A delicious dessert with a yoghurt custard, rhubarb and Persian fairy floss. 

And this is Chef Simon Stewart, the clever young chef who is doing amazing things with local produce. 

Are you still with me??? Sorry about all the pics of moi, but it was my birthday! 
Almost done, I promise!
It was also CWA Exhibition time again for our local Polwarth Group. Last year I was lucky enough to take out the craft and the home industries shields. This year I won the home industries award again. This time it was for my 'Pickled Figs'. I was given the figs by an elderly lady in Colac, and she also gave me a very old recipe to pickle them. 
The judges obviously loved them! They are meant to be eaten at Christmas with the ham or turkey. I've got some stashed away in the pantry for just that occasion!

Fellow branch member Prue Campbell won the shield for the craft section this year. 

Our branch moved from the bottom of the ladder to the very top! We're super proud of ourselves. In the photo from left:
Sara Cashman 1st prize for her Worcestershire Sauce. Mine came second. Damn! Prue Campbell hiding, Poppy Barry at the back. She won the Green Tomato Pickle prize for the THIRD year! She's the queen of pickles for sure! Monica Provan our lovely President. Then at the back we have the amazing Amanda Garner and front right my lovely neighbour Lorraine Seabrook who won 1st place for her wicket mint slice! Frans loves that slice. A well deserved win!

Then last weekend we passed the longest night of the year. 

We sat in front of the fire with a glass or two of red. Ahhh. Life is good.

The night was cold and clear. The moon and stars just rising.

And just when I start getting gloomy about the sad state of the garden, I notice the jonquils have started blooming. In a few weeks the yellow daffodils will be up and we'll feel more cheery on those grey days!

Till next time,
Be safe.