Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Summer done, Autumn break is here!

If you have been a regular reader of this haphazard blog over the past few years, my sincere apologies for abandoning my blogging duties! Sometimes there are just not enough hours in the day, what with planting and harvesting our own organically grown veggies, turning them into award winning preserves, being secretary of the Otway Harvest Trail, being President of the Birregurra CWA branch, chambermaid duties for the cabin and occasionally I turn into a washerwoman and make an attempt at getting some clothes laundered; I tend to get a little side tracked!
We have been busy the past few months. There is always something happening on our little patch. It has been a dry season. Not much rain. This means that many days have been taken up with watering the garden to keep the plants alive. One of our 'list jobs' is to sort our our watering system so that I don't have to stand at the end of a hose! Maybe this winter.... 
I can't make up for lost time, but here is a quick trip through the past season!
According to local folklore, if you count three months after a thick morning fog, you'll get heavy rain. Well, we have had a few foggy mornings this summer. So we're looking forward to a little bit of the wet stuff this winter. Our dam is very low! It needs topping up.
There are some parts of the garden that have given us blooms no matter how much I have neglected them. I love this garden bed. It holds some of my all time favourite blooms. Zinnias, dahlias, borage, cosmos, geraniums and rocket flowers.
It was a slow start for the toms. But they've come belting in! We're picking every couple of days. Each time we pick, we chop chop chop. These lovely tomatoes go into the freezer and come out when we need them for sauces, relish and our famous kasoundi!
I'm always amazed how quickly a vegetable bed fills with greenery. At the beginning of the season it's hard to imagine tiny seedlings growing straight and tall and producing buckets of food!
Ahhh..... the first of the nectarines announced their readiness in January. These are the white variety. Soooo incredibly sweet. Sucking on a warm piece of fruit whilst standing next to the tree, juice running down your arm.... that is one of life's all time pleasures!
What is more delightful than a basket of goodness?! Zucchinis that will be blitzed for relish and flowers to put in a vase for the kitchen table.
The bees have been busy! Frans was asked by Steve Robinson from Otway Pasta  to rob his hive. This is one Frans has not encountered before. It is an African Top Box Hive, a little different to the hives we have on our farm. A couple of hours later and Steve had a big bucket of oozing liquid gold. 
Meanwhile back at our farm, Frans harvested honey not once, but four times in one season. We were truly blessed this year with the honey harvest.  He lashed out and bought a bright, shiny, Italian-made honey extractor to make the job a little easier. We've bottled around 100kgs of wonderful raw honey.
The first drop!
Our honey is available in local stores around the district, at local markets and from our porch pantry. It is delicious! We are about 1km from the forest where the bees gather nectar for the many tea trees and leptospermum trees. Our very own version of Manuka honey??!! Want some? Try Jo's Pantry in Colac, Gosling Creek Winery and from our porch pantry.
This is the best way of celebrating a morning of honey extraction! Drizzle some honey on a warm loaf of freshly baked bread!
Besides making jams, chutney and cordials, we've been fermenting vegetables to make Kimchi and Sauerkraut. Fermented foods are good for your gut health! We always have something 'cooking' on the fermenting table beside the window.
Kimchi & Sauerkraut. Not for sale. We make this because we feel that eating fermented foods is an essential ingredient in our daily food intake. Maybe I'll play around with some of my recipes and bottle them for sale... 
We've had a small product development collaboration with friends and neighbours Paul and Wendy Troughton from Forrest Foods  They grow amazing Shiitake mushrooms and supply top restaurants around the region, including Brae and Bespoke Harvest. Paul supplied the mushrooms and I turned them into sensational pickles. Each batch we make sells out very quickly. 
It is usually all hands on deck when we're processing the pickles.
I combined shiitakes and our black garlic to create an antioxidant rich vegetarian broth! Delicious as a base to a lovely risotto.
You can find our delicious Shiitake Pickles at: The Forrest General Store, Jo's Pantry in Colac, Dinny Goonan Wines and from us directly.

Yes, we're rather silly sometimes.... Here are a couple of crazy Birregurra CWA girls and myself getting all stupid in a pic with legendary country music star, James Blundell. James kindly signed a jar of our luscious CWA Berry jam. We auctioned it and raised $55 for the jar! 
Our two new baby calves born in November are doing well. Young Lucky on the right is now going to be a mum. Her first time! 

Frans and I 'dog sat' our friend Norma's spaniel, Thompson, for a while. He became part of the furniture very quickly. We actually miss him! And no... I'm not thinking of getting a dog soon. Maybe....
A recent collage of some of our kitchen experiments! Let me tell you that picking dandelions for dandelion jelly is a total nut job. It took my lovely neighbour Lorraine and I ages to pick the right number of flowers. THEN we had to strip them to prepare them for the jelly. Let's just say this is not going to be a regular product line!

We looked after Sara and Stephen's lovely dog, Tilly for a couple of weeks. She's so fast! She will catch her 'ball' all day long if you have the energy to toss it or kick it to her!
Our neighbour Graham ploughed our garlic patch for us. Our mate Paul (Shiitake Paul) then dropped off a lovely load of compost which Frans and Ted (brother in law) spread over the beds. Then a week later it has started to rain. What fabulous timing! The worms are going nuts, wriggling about the beds and creating a wonderful rich environment for our garlic cloves! 
It's great getting help from our friends and neighbours who have the right equipment! Thanks Graham & Paul! 
Apples! Loads of them. We've made three batches of our own apple cider this season. We look forward to trying it out in a few months. 
Frans' Mum, Maria, who is 95 this year, came to visit for just under 2 weeks. She happy chopped apples for the cider! And a few dishes of Dutch apple sauce! 
The autumn leaves are turning yellow and gold. This is the old mulberry tree. Soon it will be bare. 
On a clear evening, you'll find us beside the old shed, sipping a glass of red beside the fire pit. 
And just because I haven't put a pic of us up for ages, you can see how the 'good life' is treating us! Fit, fat and flourishing!
Till next time, look after yourselves.
Frans & Ami.

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