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Monday, February 19, 2018

Around The Block...

It all started with a couple of buckets of Greengage plums that were given to me as the strong winds gripped Campbell Town yet again. 
"I'm just returning these buckets" I called out to the shearer 
"I'll see you in a minute"
Well Greengage gardener wasn't home so I left the buckets and spied another neighbour on his front veranda, so I stopped for a bit of a netter and next minute...

I had a bag of delicious juicy pears!

Around the next street I saw another keen fellow gardener mowing his lawn and he waved me in...

Next minute....

Ripe perfect plums all golden inside with a halo of red.

Well if I've got this many plums I'm going to need some apples to make sauce and chutney,

So around the corner....

To my next dear and generous neighbour.
We had a delightful time wandering the garden from apple tree to apple tree, sampling and selecting and 

Next minute....
"Don't go without some of these golden cherry plums, they're perfect for chutney!"

My car smelt like the most divine fruit shop and it was certainly more than a couple of minutes later. I had the best time dwelling with my neighbours over small talk and basking in their gardens. I find that the most amusing thing about living in the country, everything is small scale and so close I could walk everywhere but even a trip to the shop,the library and the petrol station takes at least a couple of hours!

The stove has been going full pelt all day and I've bottled pears and tomatoes, made a double batch of plum chutney and a double batch of Worcestershire style plum sauce, all with the help of a 3 year old and thankfully a "Poppy" as well!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Hummus and Seed Cake - But Not Together

Our singing group meet up coincided with Valentines Day this week and with a plethora of love songs in our books I set the mood with hummus and beetroot dips. To create the heart motifs in the centres, choose a wide shallow dish, like these small fluted flans. Place an oiled cookie cutter in the middle and fill the outer being careful not to disturb the position of the cutter. Next spoon in the contrast dip and gentle slide the cutter straight up.

I kept these really simple as one of our group is multiple food intolerant and I really don't think the internet needs yet another hummus recipe but I will say that a point of difference in this batch is that I make my own tahini in the thermomix - easy peasy, Beetroot is ready now in our garden and again, there are multiple recipes you could use. This one is without dairy or cashews. The beet was roasted in the oven, cooled, peeled and wizzed with lemon juice, tahini, cumin, salt and garlic. Just a simple puree really.

The Shearer will come home to a custardy carroway seed cake and I have adapted the recipe for the Thermomix and you'll find it here.
I had a little mixture left over and made a few small heart shaped cakes for my work colleagues too.

I offer love to you 
it is limitless
please spread it

Monday, February 12, 2018

Original Owners

I've been doing some research on the house here and there, in fits and starts but I've recently had a great find that has helped. We acquired a map of Campbell Town in an antique store and it has original names, lot numbers and block sizes penned which has provided valuable leads for research.

I can see "Daniel O'Meara on our block of land and others in the near area also. Using that information I have been able to find that the land was purchased prior to 1845.

A record of the Census in 1843 reveals that he was living in High St but we cannot be sure that it was in this particular house as street numbers were not in common use then. Also note that Campbell Town is spelt "Campbelltown" and also "Campbellton" in earlier times which makes the research a bit laborious when using search engines of specific words.

Also from the same Census document we learn that the house he was living in was also "unfinished" and that the proprietor was "Mr. Joseph Solomon". I have found Joseph Solomon has purchased land also close by. Was Daniel O'Meara renting from Solomon at this time somewhere in High St? I suspect so as he lists the house as being made from brick and wood, whereas this house is made of stone and brick. This is also prior to the birth of his children.

Daniel O'Meara was born in 1825 and I have been able to find that he married Bridget Mary Jordan and they had five children, two dying in infancy and possibly a third. Daniel died in 1859 and the above image is of his Will. Bridget re-married in 1861 to Charles Blake and seems to have moved to the Deloraine area. I believe their son, William Morgan O'Meara is the gentleman mentioned in the below advertisement placed in the Launceston Examiner newspaper 05.10.1878, almost 20years after Daniel's death.

The stable mentioned in the above advertisement is long gone and only a rough outline of the building with stones in the back yard remains. Using an inflation rate of 3.8/annum, I work the rate of rent out to be the equivalent of $8720.00/year or $162/week in today's money. I haven't been able to ascertain yet what it sold for or who bought it.

It is around this time that there is a record of a William O'Meara holding a liquor licence for the Red Hills hotel at Deloraine and his sister Jane O'Meara held a liquor licence for the Formby Hotel in East Devonport and later in 1898 for O'Meara's Hotel in Ulverstone. The O'Meara families grew and became very well known in the Westbury, Deloraine and Devonport areas. I am speculating that after Daniel's death and the subsequent re-marriage of Bridget, the family seems to have re-located to the central/north west area of Tasmania.

Locals say this is a picture of the house, now ruins. in the bottom of our paddock. This land according to the map originally belonged to W H Fitzgerald. It is now the grandson's "archaeological dig site".

And this is the cottage next to that one, now also demolished. This land was owned by William Pears and I believe it stayed in the same family for all that time. These two latter cottages were obviously built by the same builder sharing many similar features. William Pears was a brick maker according to the Census of 1843 and I have no doubt he was a very busy man and employed full time with all the building booming around Campbell Town in those decades.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Happy Chickens, Curious Calf

You've possibly seen photos of our fowl yard before but there are some particular features that we find are working well. For instance, the foliar spread from two elder trees at the rear of the fowl shed. In summer this provides relief from a fierce western sun belting on the back of the tin shed. In winter it looses its leaves and allows that same sun to warm instead. The shed itself can be divided at times to create two separate areas, particularly useful for the injured or the brooding hens and their chicks in the first few weeks.

Similarly, the yard can also be penned off into two. At this time the mothers are taking their young chicks into the greater yard and we have three new pullets of a new blood line in the smaller yard till they are assimilated into the flock.

The curious calf was very interested in what I was doing as I photographed and he and the chooks were delighted with a couple of dropped elderberry bunches.

Key to the flocks comfort and safety is the quince thicket, providing shade in the summer and overhead shelter from predators winter and summer. 

We have trimmed the area to enable us to move around for maintenance but there are lots of quiet nooks and tunnels. In the background here can be seen the trap door in the outer fence that allows access to the paddock. Most of the time the girls are free to come and go but there are times when they need to be penned so this also gives us greater control.

Curious calf again! At nearly four months he is becoming a very big baby. Naturally attached to us as we got him as a say old but not so enamoured of the hens who are basically food competitors in his patch. They are very happy to scratch and spread his manure though. It's a very good relationship.

The trees provide an easy spot to tie the hanging greens of silverbeet and kale. Should we need to restrict their access to the paddock at anytime, their yard environment still provides lots of mental stimulation and comfort. Most trees will not like the high acidity that arise from fowl droppings so an application of lime every six months may be needed to keep the trees happy. Planting a food tree ensures not only a crop for you but also windfall for the hens and the associated insect population that goes with it.

Curious calf again. He is enjoying windfall apples and crab-apples at the moment and the last leaves of the brassicas gone to seed. Unfortunately he is also trimming anything close to the fence which happens to be a pear tree and my pumpkin vines!

Happy Neil

Happy chickens.

Saturday, February 3, 2018


One of the best past times for a young boy, a grandmother and a curious cow is treasure hunting in an old 1840's rubbish trench. As you would imagine, there is lots of old china, eathernware and glass but there are bones too. Old mate is convinced he is digging up a Muttaburrasaurus. I initially tried to have a meaningful conversation about food and times but he started talking about "primary predators" and "dinosaurs of the eastern sea board" with such conviction that I decided his version was waaaayy cooler and exciting.

As for me, I get ridiculously excited when I find marbles and usually that's just the 20th Century kind but a couple of days ago I found this beautiful Bennington clay marble made in Germany in the mid 1800's.

About this time last year I found a bowl of a tragedy/comedy pipe
Since then I have found some pipe stem fragments in beautiful smooth kaolin clay. On one side is impressed the name "Glasgow" and on the other "Murray" (befitting don't you think, wink wink) and I'm guessing this is a Murray Pipe manufactured 1830-1861.

This is the bucket of broken glass and rusty metal that curious cow keeps knocking over! Back then so many everyday things came in pottery and glass. We have quite a few fragments from 1840s gin bottles and bottles of shoe polish that was used commonly to polish and blacken the stoves.

 There's bits of door and window hardware, files and rasps, pieces of buckets and old shoe heels....

This is my "faces" collection.

It's very easy to get side tracked in the digging, especially after some rain and chicken scratchings have revealed new things on the surface. But enough of that...I have elderberries to strip and ready for tincturing.

Monday, January 29, 2018

An Australian Weekend

I think when most people look back on this Australia Day weekend they'll remember
stinkin' hot really. The sort when you get about 2 or 3 hours sleep and toss and turn the rest of the night moving around the mattress trying to find a bit of cold sheet.

Naturally, in this heat, we invited half the town round for roast lamb!
I exaggerate of course...we were 11 at table and sat in air conditioned comfort. 

As ever, I forgot the camera in the rush of food prep so you won't see the beautiful green and gold water jugs filled with tinkling ice or the beautiful contributions that made it a truly shared feast.

The Shearer dug some lovely fresh potatoes to roast and join with fresh garden salad and herb filled tangy, tabbouleh.

The next day, we headed to the river and sat in the gentle flow on pebbly shallows in dappled shade of an ancient pine with only a few curious sheep coming down to the waters edge. Even the birds were laying low in the glaring sun.

I'm a tad concerned that the harvested garlic will in fact dehydrate to a dried garlic in this shed heat. The girls have gone a bit off the lay and I don't blame them a bit!

We've got in 40 bales of pea straw and we are mulching madly.

The pasture has declined in the paddock also so Neil is munching on a large round bale of straw.
Tonight we are expecting 1-1.5 inches of rain and I can't wait.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Brambly Hedge Quilt

I've had a project in mind for decades and I am so thrilled to be finally seeing it come into being, and even better, it's coming together exactly how I imagined. I've been collecting fabric for the past 30 years!
I am calling it the Brambly Hedge quilt.
(Please be kind, it's my first ever quilt in fact)

Brambly Hedge is a series of stories about hedgerow mice by Jill Barklem. Royal Doulton acquired the rights to produce a china series based on the same. I've been fascinated by their tiny world and perfect snug interiors of the hollow log and long desired to have a quilt just like Wilfred's. I've studied their little clothes for an idea of what scraps they would have used in the quilt.

I only have an ordinary machine so I have decided to go with a quilt as you go method. I've sourced fabrics that I believe mice would own in a quaint hedgerow world with lots of country florals and checks and polka dots for the background fabric. I'm making the top squares 6.5" and the bottom squares I've cut at 8.5"

I've made a cardboard template for the pinning of the layers together so I don't have to measure the borders for every single one and so far it's been pretty accurate. I'm using a pure cotton batting and an embroidery foot to freestyle the quilting in what I call a "lazy bumblebee" stitch.

I then join the squares using a zipper foot and then fold over the backing fabric twice and stitch down with a walking foot. This You Tube tutorial explains closest to which technique I'm employing.

I've been able to source a couple of small pieces of actual Brambly Hedge fabric which I have made into random applique pieces for some of the squares. I plan to add lace and buttons randomly to perhaps on other squares.

So here is the work so far. It's random and cottagey and the collected mis-matched colours are coming together just fine. Thanks to Charlotte Scott from "The Slightly Mad Quilt Lady" blog who quite some years ago created a whole blog post about colour, hue and tonal values in answer to one of questions on colour choice. Bet you never thought I would finally do it hey Miss Lottie!

And here it is from the back.

So when it gets too hot to garden, this is my indoor retreat. I've wanted to decorate a bedroom Brambly Hedge style since my girls were little but unfortunately they wanted "something funky in strong citrus colours" Sigh.....
So finally, I have an attic bedroom that I used to dream about when I was 10 and I can do just what I want up there. So keep a watch out, in a couple of months there could be a cosy reveal upstairs.

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