My Pins

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Value per Square Inch

Everyone loves to grow tomatoes in the yard or on the balcony, no matter how small a plot you have a tomato bush is voted number one every time. For value for square inch though, its got to be beans! We've been harvesting the varieties Butter Bean (bush bean)and Blue Lake (climber) for weeks now and as they are nearing their end I have Scarlet Runner and Purple King coming on. They are economical as they readily grow from seed and easily from saved seed at that and the yield is so incredibly high. The climbing varieties only require a small patch of soil and all their growth is vertical. The photo above shows some Blue Lake growing on the fence (that clever Craig made from discarded stair railings thrown to the tip/refuse).

They are a great vegetable for children to grow as they are; fast, easy to grow and fun to harvest and they can be eaten raw right in the garden which is how kids prefer their veggies. When the girls were little we had a bean growing competition. We took the pole from a hangglider and planted it with strings attached. Those strings (one for each of us and our Scarlett Runner beans) must have been at least 14ft and it was so exciting. Everyone planted their own bean and tended to them and watered them lovingly/competitively, but no way we did we expcet them to grow that tall! Those Scarlet Runners with their gorgeous lush leaves and striking red flowers climbed all the way to the top! I can't remember if the bees found those blooms all the way up there for pollination but it sure made a wonderful family memory.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Emerging Boys and Girls

The chicks are three weeks old now and are growing daily and eating lots more. They really love the chick crumble made into a mash with water. I have at times added some leaves of kale with green grubs cleverly camoflaged and its great stimulation for the chicks as they peck and explore and then, oh! is that movement they see, oh! a prize and then round and round they run trying to steal the grubs from each other.

Their feet are large now much the same as puppies get at this stage. They look a bit gangly and look like they will trip over their own feet. There is some mock battles going on too, a bit of flying up in rudimentary challenges. There are some other subtle signs too differentiating the sexes. The males are slightly bigger now and have the beginnings of head combs looking a little bit like juvenile terradactils. Another feature distinctive to the males is their boldness and curiosity. Any unusual or loud noise has the males craning their necks and standing very erect, while the females tend to bob down a bit and keep their bodies more tucked up.

Craig has opened the circle of the pen several times now to accommodate the growing chicks and they are enjoying a base of first cut lucern straw and we will upscale their drinking containers within the next couple of days also as they are really having to bend low to drink now. Primary feathers are plentiful at the ends of the wings and in the tail and starting to sprout elsewhere and will start their
ugly duckling
stage next.

It's really hard not to get wrapped up in emotional love for baby anythings especially when you are their care givers but it's important to remember; this is about meat and eggs for the table at the end of the day. Having said that, I have a much deeper respect for the animals that we slaughter and a sense of gratefulness and honour for their part they play in the cycle of life. Their energy becomes my energy. Snicker if you want to but its a lot more real than buying a piece of disembodied meat fillet on a foam tray wrapped in plastic. You'ld have to ask yourself,
How much energy would there be in that?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Summer Flowers

I'm loving Hydrangeas, purple Dahlias and tender tendrils of grape vines in a pottery jug for a "come in from the heat and drink in the cool" kind of arrangement.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

China Collecting

Another of my passions is china. It started for me when I was about 13 years old, or maybe even before that when I think about the love affair I had with my maternal grandmother's flatware growing up. I was lucky enough to work for Royal Doulton for 10 years and also Villeroy and Boch and Wedgwood, so my passion is firmly entrenched and well founded. If I had the room, I would go on collecting indefinitely.

So whats the point having all that china if it just sits in a cupboard? How do you enjoy it or use it's all piled up and stacked in storage? Rotate it! A kitchen dresser is a great way to display and enjoy your china. I change mine seasonally, usually with autumn and then in spring/summer and usually to co-ordinate with the colours we are using for Christmas. I like to mix it up a little so that it freshens the way I look at my collection and brings new pieces within handy reach for entertaining.

In the photo above the predominant pattern is my grandmother's "Envoy" by Royal Doulton. This is the china she used everyday and it has a wonderful art deco design and even better...and here is where my passion goes has a wonderful texture over the decal design under glaze. I not only like to look at china but LOVE to feel china, the design, the quality of the glaze, even the body ingredients I can feel through my fingertips; the amount of kaolin, bone ash, feldspar, quartz...I even know from the feel of the body how it will break. But I digress....

This "Envoy" has been displayed as classic blue and white combos but look at the difference just 8 pieces of yellow flatware/accessories make. It can change the whole look. I like to poke other unexpected pieces in too like animal figurines, or bunnykins figures and co-ordinating glasses. Even by adding in a metal theme like; pewter/silver, brass, copper, changes the whole look and play. The main thing to remember is balance from top to bottom, keep things roughly within a triangle group as it is how the eye is most comfortable seeing things. This has been a fresh look for summer and co-ordinated with our yellow Christmas theme.

So mix it up a little and rotate your china (it's good for it to be touched to prevent stress fractures) and use different pieces for putting out biscuits or anti pasto. It gives your family and friends something to talk about and look forward too as well. It seems to me people like change more than they realise.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

See How they Grow

The little ones have sprouted lots of primary feathers on their wings. Hmmm we have a suspicion that these are NOT the pure Australorp they were promised to be! White feathers amongst the black???

They are becoming more aware of their environment and you can see a long branch of seed head from tatsoi in the vegie garden hanging down in the enclosure. This is more for their amusement than as a food source. I change it every couple of days for some other seed head. When poultry are in numbers and a confined space, boredom may lead to unwanted pecking and injuries.

It is interesting to see that even at 10 days there is already a social order emerging. Also we are seeing some male and female behaviour traits emerging. The males are more upright and enquiring, especially at unusual noises, whereas the females have a ducking down posture.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Designing Tea Towels

I tried a new design on my tea towels last night and listed one to test the waters but it has sold within hours so have got to work and drawn up some more.

I freehand draw a design in pencil and then go over this with a simple running stem stitch in black embroidery thread, add some trim and very simply a plain tea towel becomes an accessory for the kitchen. It takes time of course but I usually do it in front of TV at night with a good light behind me. I believe it's important to do these things while I can and enjoy them because it's no use saying "when I retire..." or "later when I'm..." because who knows what my eyes will be like or if my hands will be able to hold a needle. So don't put off now those crafts you could be enjoying. Do it today. I have also made a dish cloth to co-ordinate with the tea towels and will talk about that tomorrow and share the crotchet pattern.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Summer Sunday

Today was so perfect that with the barest of housework essentials achieved I found much in the garden to pleasantly distract me and keep from more mundane chores. While I value and esteem domesticity and relish a harmonious home, sometimes the day is too fine to dally indoors.

We have a ute load of stable manure...can I use the word lovely?...well I will anyway because it is so nicely broken down and hot with microbial action that the plants are sitting up begging for it! I was very excited to plant out my own blackcurrant bush today and have relocated some strawberry runners also to a garden bed in the front. It's interesting how priorities change, more and more space in the garden is being converted to food production. I still have flowers in amongst the veggies, as I like to encourage the bees to our garden and ensure good pollination for all. A couple of the zucchinis got away from us and ended up nearly marrow sized so they made a beautiful soup for our lunch today.

Simply an onion and the two zucchini chopped and simmered in stock then blended smooth, nothing more, delicious! Dinner was a mixed vegetable (dry-alu) curry from the garden; onion, potato, beans, broccoli, corn, squash and zucchini. Simply divine.

Tonight I have finished another couple of baby singlets for the Made It shop. Fish are becoming quite popular for baby mofifs. People like the bright colours and can buy before baby is born as they suit for boys or girls.

These singlets have now sold, but other similar items are available in the shop. Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cherry Season

This week we travelled to a very old property called Somercotes for some wonderful cherries that they grow on the property. Driving down the tree lined road to this property is like stepping back in time. Fine Merino rams hang their heads in the shade close to the wire fence escaping the midday heat. Coming round the last bend, the old home built in the 1820s reveals itself in Georgian style. Beyond the home is a number of cottages and outbuildings that once was a community of 22 people. We had a wonderful lunch of smoked ham and a fragrant salad of mixed greens, herbs and flowers. Well worth the 50 min drive and we left with a 5kg box of cherries.

I had a very juicy time pitting the cherries for bottling and I calculated that about 95% of the cherries were perfect and blemish free, so really economical buying for the quality at $10/kg. The cherries with minor imperfections I used to make a beautiful lush cherry slice using the recipe from the raspberry slice and if you wanted to go the whole hog, you could top it with chocolate icing. This time the fruit is firmer and a beautiful fleshy bite in the soft crumb of the slice. Naturally we have been having handfuls of cherries and enjoying them fresh too but I have bottled the equivalent of 18 cans of cherries and will enjoy them throughout the year, especially in winter when we are dreary and longing for summer again.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Farewell to a Good Layer

No pictures today, they would have been too graphic I'm afraid.

Sadly we lost one of our girls today because of vent prolapse. I noticed one of the girls looking pale...that is to say her comb was light salmon and flopped and her eyes instead of being bright and alert seemed all black with no colour. Alarm bells sounded straight away. Upon closer inspection she had a lot of blood coming from her vent. We have been getting some enormous eggs from these girls and I suspect this fowl's vent was too small. She is a crossbreed (Australorp, Whyandotte, and something else)and I think she got the genetic imprint for a smaller vent than her egg size.
We cleaned her up with tepid water to have a good look but it was clear she was still bleeding. Maybe she had another egg impacted in the oviduct causing hemorrhage. Prolapses can be cleaned and smeared with lubrication and pushed back in but more than likely pop out again with the next lay. For a valued breeder, some would put the bird in a confined dark place on a subsistence diet to allay egg production and keep this way for a couple of months. For a plain old layer, the kindest thing is to euthanise. If left in the coop with this complaint there is a risk of infection, fly irritation and cannibalisation from fellow fowl.
In general the story is not good. So we thank her for all she provided us with and bid her a fond farewell. While this is a respectful nod to our good layer, it is also a story of reality for anyone wanting to keep fowl in the backyard. There is a lot of cute names for the chickens etc but owners must also be prepared for the reality of culling birds. The number of dumped roosters in suburbia is on the rise and that's not fair to anyone. If you have a sick or injured bird, you must be prepared to euthanise.
On a happier note, all 21 chickens (pure bred Australorp)in the nursery are doing well and are now 10 days old and sprouting significant primary feathers. There was a bit of diarrhea in the pen so I have added some raspberry juice to their water and mixed some raspberries into their mash and they are right as rain now. Gave the rest of the raspberries to the older chooks for good measure, they love them anyway.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Raspberry Slice

I bought a kilo (2lb) of raspberries from the Evandale market on Sunday with the intention of making jam but couldn't resist using some in a slice. I modified a date slice recipe I had which is SOooo simple and although it is a little on the crumbly side, it tastes devine and has kept it's yummy berry colours.

In a bowl mix 1 cup of Self Raising flour (all purpose flour with baking powder added), 1 cup of coconut and 1/2 cup sugar. Then fold through 1 cup of fresh raspberries so that they are dusted and evenly distributed. You don't want to go crazy here and smash them, otherwise you loose the lovely colour and raspberry lumps exploding in your mouth.
Next melt 125g of butter (1/4 pound) and add 2 tabs of milk. Mix this gently into the dry ingredients to get it evenly moist and then place into a shallow slice tin pressing it gently. My favourite tin is a wavy-edged rectangular tin 33cm x 10cm x 2.5cm with it's removable base. It looks beautiful to present, is easy to remove and cuts into really neat fingers for serving. Bake in a moderate oven for about 20-25mins. till it is lightly golden.
It's worth having a go with frozen berries too.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Slow Life Lived Fast

It's been a HUGE weekend, emotionally and physically.

Friday morning one of Craig's workers went missing in the bush in the North-East area of the State. The gang searched for several hours in terrible heat and trudged many miles. Craig came home bone weary, leaving the police in charge. We were all very tense and anxious for 24 hours and a bit teary too. Thankfully he was found wandering 24hours later.

Tegan came up from Hobart for the weekend and we went to the handmade market in Launceston on Saturday where it is great to see talented people using their skills and doing a lot of recycling. In the afternoon we held a Tupperware party with everyone enjoying long drinks of homemade blackcurrant cordial in air conditioned comfort. Outside the temperature climbed to 31 degrees.

Sunday market again for some fresh produce, this time some long beetroot and raspberries for jam. I also found some vintage curtain fabric from 1957 and some buttons to match and it could become a skirt or a magazine swap bag....or both! Then it was off to the racing stables at Longford for a ute load of horse manure for the vegie patch. On the way home we decided to have an impromptu picnic at the river in Longford.

After some gardening and of course shovelling the manure, it was time for a clean up and a beautiful three course dinner at a friend's place. Whew, I'll be glad to get back to work tomorrow!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Additions

I am very sore from three days gardening at my daughter's house in Hobart but have a real sense of accomplishment. I took my mother with me and boy can she put in a hard day of yakka, she is so inspiring, hope I am as good at her age.

There were some new members of the flock when I got home. Craig has ordered some Australorp day olds from Wynyard on the north-west coast and 21 of them arrived on the bus. The photo shows our last batch and I will have new photos soon but it is primarily to show how we set up for the chickens. The chickens in the photo were Austalorp cross and the very black one is indicative of how this flock of pure breds look. The group is not sexed so we expect roughly half to be male. These will be raised to about 14 weeks and then culled for meat (well before they start crowing)and the hens will be kept to booster the stock and we will also sell others on at point of lay stage.

We raise them in our very large garage. Craig has a sheet of flexible metal sheet about 2 metres long and about 75cm high with one end attached to a length of timber for stability. This is formed into a small round to accommodate the flock with holes drilled at intervals allowing the circle to be enlarged as the chicks grow. A light is suspended for warmth and newspaper, then sawdust is layered in the bottom. Old plastic milk containers are cut for feeders and water supply. These are cut in such a way so the chicks can feed but limit them from walking all over their food and fouling with poop etc. It is also important that their water is plentiful but stable and prevents them from getting wet. A wet chicken is a cold chicken! The lighting is raised or lowered to get the right temperature for the chickens. If they are clustered thickly under the light, they are probably too cold. If they are all round the edge of the enclosure, then they are probably too hot....somewhere in between is the ideal.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Fruit Abounds

Yesterday morning I went to the Evandale market with friends and there were farmers and producers galore with so much fresh produce. Cherries were everywhere followed closely by raspberries, but the real treat I found was some beautiful blackcurrants. I bought a kilo with thoughts of jam but by the time I headed for home I had resolved to make cordial. I have a very old Fowlers Vacola book and took my recipe from there; For every pond of fruit, add half a pround of sugar and a half pint of water. As I was "de-stalking" the blackcurrants they had a smell like mown hay almost. Once they were in the pot warming though they released their unmistakable blackcurrant smell and the colour released was a glossy red with fuscia pink foamy edges. Once the syrup had cooked a little I then decanted it into sterilised bottles but I'm sure it won't last long!
While I was on a role I also made a double batch of plum sauce using a recipe from Stephanie Alexander's Cook's Companion. I consider this book my bible for the kitchen (followed by Mrs Beeton's of course). So much wonderful fragrance in the kitchen, definitely signalling the start of summer for me!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Productive Leisure

Yesterday was bright and breezy with a continued strange calm of the holiday time when there are still so many people away and those left behind are in a more than relaxed mode. We had a couple of groups of visitors for coffee in the morning and then a "Christmas" with Craig's family later in the evening.

In between visitors there was some gardening and harvesting. I have harvested the last of the peas and this area is now sown with beetroot and khol rabbi seeds. I've also started a new garden near the house for some capsicum and chilli seedlings in the hope that the radiant heat from the brickwork will help. I've never been very successful growing these plants here in Tas. I'm also experimenting with a capsicum planted in an old car tyre, again, trying to create a warmer environment. There was also some more butter beans to harvest too. As a child I was really disapointed that butter beans didn't taste buttery at all, but I am more than happy now with their vigorous cropping and beautiful light yellow colour, giving us some lovely variety. I also have Blue Lake beans coming on and Scarlet Runners too, so we will be enjoying some lovely mixed bean salads. Some people think shelling fresh peas is too much work, but I think thats because they don't prepare for the job with a comfy position and a chair and a positive frame of mind. If you value the task, then whatever you do is a joy. Don't be stressful thinking about what else you should be doing etc etc. The job at hand is important and valid. There is nothing better than the months ahead, sitting down to dinner enjoying peas from the spring/summer. The ground was prepared, the seed sown, watering, weeding, harvesting and shelling. Slow food at its best grown with love and nuturing the same.

Wish you could smell the heady plum aroma coming from this mixed box of plums from my friend's garden. Such a summery smell. Even better was the fragrance (if a little boozy smelling because of the yeast) of Craig's homemade bread and rolls for dinner last night.

Too good to be true...almost

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Beginning

Today is the beginning of my blog but here in Tasmania, Australia, we are mid-summer and at the height of our brief growing season, for although it doesn't snow here, it certainly slows down to a crawl.

Today should be inspiring and auspicious with words of wisdom and encouragement like some of the other blogs I follow, but honestly, I'm no super woman hero thing and last night WAS New Years Eve. I'm not good at doing the "sleep in" so it was a couch day and a couple of movies. Ironically the first movie I watched was "Hangover". It was a gorgeous hot day and lent itself very well to a sloth indoors day.

A couple of my friends have spent the day pulling down Christmas but I am a traditionalist and keep Christmas in all its glory till the twelfth day and will bring it to a close on the 5th of January.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...