Saturday, December 21, 2013

Summer colour

1. Capsicums from the garden, coincidentally in Christmas colours 
2. Dusk in the creek with the sunset behind me and the moon rising in front of me
3. A red, dusty track behind our house
4. Our first tomatoes for the summer
5. Tasty shades of brown, coffee and homemade fruit mince pies
6. A snowy white star made by my generous and creative friend, Jodie.

Merry Christmas blog friends, stay cool.  I hope you have a restful and happy holiday season.

Jane xx

Friday, December 13, 2013

Country Style, Harvest Table Awards, 2013

I am fairly certain that many of you read Country Style magazine.  If you are flicking through the beautiful pages of the December issue you may see our little gardeners, Annabelle and George.  Annabelle is the proud winner of the Individual Home Harvest Journal as part of the Harvest Table Awards for 2013.

Throughout autumn and winter Annabelle kept a journal of our gardening activities.  Her journal included photos, weather observations, seed packets, dried leaves, recipes and plenty of notes on everything from worms to cooking vegetables from the garden.

This is an exercise that we could have done individually as family but being involved in the Harvest Table Awards gave Annabelle some extra incentive and a feeling of being involved in something rather exciting.

Congratulations to the Wendouree Primary School who were the winners of the Best School Harvest Table award.  Congratulations also to the other finalists, it is so exciting to see children growing food.

If your family has a vegetable garden I would recommend getting involved in this next year,it is a lot of fun.  

Happy Friday friends, I hope the school year is winding down for you.  For us, the end is almost in sight!  

Saturday, December 7, 2013

In My Kitchen, December 2013

Welcome to another tour of my kitchen where it is starting to feel a little bit like Christmas.

Happily, I have been baking bread.  A sourdough olive loaf with some of our own olives and a piece of cheese that was a gift from my mother in law. 

Sticky sourdough fruit buns made with currants that I had previously soaked in Valdespino Pedro Ximenez El Candado sherry.  I don’t know much about sherry but this particular drop tastes like heavenly, liquid Christmas cake.  The fruit buns tasted good too.

Are these pebbles or little eggs?  This was actually part of 150 tiny sourdough bread rolls that I recently made for my friend Paula, who served them at a local wedding.  For my baking friends, each roll weighed in at a whopping 20 grams.

Our first ever tiny crop of apricots.  Even with a few blemishes home grown fruit is something special. 

I really do love making small gingerbread men.   Every Christmas I make a big batch using a recipe from the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook. 

My first attempt at a gingerbread house.   Every time I look at this sugary little home I feel calm.  Life is tranquil in gingerbread land. 

A basket of freshly harvested garlic.  I feel very happy to have my own garlic supply and some lucky people may even receive a piece as a Christmas gift. 

Would you give garlic as a Christmas gift?
Is it feeling like Christmas at your place?
What are you cooking or making?

I am linking up with Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.  Please call in and visit other vibrant kitchens from all around the world.  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Growing vegetables in December

Here we are in December.  Since September we have measured a meagre 12mm of rain.  Our property is dry and I just know my vegetables would get such a boost from a decent drop of rain.  We will continue to wait patiently.  Thankfully we have a reasonable supply of water in our house dam and plenty of that water is being pumped onto my garden. 

The only vegetables I am planting out now are a few lettuce seedlings.  My summer vegetables are mostly established and growing steadily.

tiny quinces
Harvesting now
My first tiny crop of apricots
Summer squash

Almost harvesting

Watching, growing and waiting

Ongoing tasks
Mulching with straw.
Cleaning irrigation filters and drippers.
All vegetables are receiving a fortnightly dose of liquid seaweed fertiliser.
A regular dose of worm tea and castings on my tomatoes.  
Keeping my worm farm cool and damp.

rockmelon, Minnesota Midget

Kipfler potatoes

summer squash starting to tangle with the asparagus and celery

Each summer I make plans to devise a way of trellising and supporting my tomato plants that is neat, functional and attractive.  Somehow I always seem to end up with a jumble of wire, posts, netting, shade cloth, ties and even a few old steel beds from our shearer’s quarters.  Luckily, productivity is not always linked to aesthetics.

watermelon, Moon and Stars

zucchini, Long Florence

Do you have a neat, tidy tomato trellis system?
What is happening in your patch? 

Linking up with Lizzie at Strayed from the Table.  Call in and take a tour of other productive gardens from many different parts of the world.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Handmade and home grown

We recently had an afternoon filled with bad tempers and frustration caused mostly by the malfunction of a certain piece of Apple technology.  I am not sure what was more frustrating, the actual malfunction or our inability to fix it.  Either way, after dinner Terry opened his leather working kit and made some horse equipment with his own hands.  

Sitting at our kitchen table, talking while a set of grass reins took shape, the irritations of the day seemed to melt.  Perhaps that is the difference between technology and making things by hand.

I am loving the bumpy surface on this Long Florence zucchini which has just started to produce in my veggie patch.  Each summer I find the first zucchini harvest so exciting and then as the summer progresses and the zucchinis start to clamber over the fence I start to fear them!

Flowers picked from the garden and a beeswax candle.  A peaceful display in amongst the chaos of school, paperwork, washing, toys and family life.

A brave little fig tree growing in the paddock near our house.  The lush foliage is very noticeable against the red dirt and dry grass.   The tree has been surrounded by a sturdy square of portable sheep handling yards to keep it safe from hungry horses, kangaroos and anyone else who feels the need for a green snack. 

Are you admiring your vegetables or making stuff with your hands?
I hope so.  
Have a lovely weekend!

*Grass reins are light reins used to prevent stubborn ponies from eating grass while being ridden, particularly useful for young riders.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Worm farming and food waste

We have been the proud owners of a worm farm for over a year now.   Sadly, last summer all of our worms died due to extreme heat, although at the time I thought I had taken all of the necessary precautions.

Mum kindly restocked our farm with worms during the winter and recently I have been working hard on reinvigorating our worm friends and their by-products for the garden.  This new interest has also made me reflect on our food waste generally.

We are in a position to have many options for recycling or disposing of food waste.  The most obvious solution is to cut down on waste in the first place.  I love the challenge of trying to use up all our leftover food and sometimes surprise myself with these solutions.  In our house it is rare for any food scraps to go into the actual rubbish bin.

Leftover roast lamb goes into lamb fritters, meat pies, shepherd’s pie, yiros and sandwiches.

Leftover cooked vegetables get squashed into sandwiches, used in salads or chopped and put into fritters or frittata.  

Leftover gravy also finds a home in meat pies or stews.

The small bits of pickles, sauces, mustard and marinades that get left in the bottom of jars are swished out with some water and use in stews, curries or gravy.

With leftover mashed vegetables, I make vegetable patties.

As a family, we are fortunate that most of us are home for lunch most days.  This often means parts of previous meals are eaten again the next day.

Occasionally we kill some chooks and their bones go into stock.  If I don’t have time to make stock immediately, I freeze the bones and make the stock at a later date.  The rest of the time I make vegetable stock, using celery leaves and any other vegetable bits and pieces I can find.

Our sheep dogs get any meat scraps or pieces of trimmed fat.

Our chooks get any other food scraps, such as corn cobs, vegetable and fruit peel, excess sourdough starter and miscellaneous bits and pieces from the fridge. 

Coming back to the worms.  They dine on a chopped mixture of vegetable and fruit peel, tea bags, tea leaves, coffee grounds, egg shells and a little shredded paper.  Once a week they also receive a shovel full of soil.  My vegetables have been enjoying a weekly dose of worm tea and occasionally I collect their castings, dilute the dark sludge with water and put it on any vegetables that need a boost.

Following Celia’s recommendation I have purchased Save with Jamie .  If you are interested in using up leftovers and cooking economically this book is attractive, fun and full of great recipes and information.  

How do you deal with food waste and leftovers?
Are you a worm farmers too?  
I hope you are having a lovely week blog friends!

Friday, November 1, 2013

In My Kitchen, November 2013

Welcome once again to my kitchen. 

After a recent trip away the first thing I wanted to do once we had arrived home was refresh the sourdough starters and bake bread.  I set aside a Friday afternoon, lit the wood oven and made white loaves and pita bread. This really is my ideal afternoon and a perfect way to feel settled again after being away from home.

We have a big mulberry tree in our garden which usually produces far more fruit than we can use.  One way I put this soft and tasty fruit to use was in an easy mulberry frangipane recipe from Lizzie.  Perhaps it would have looked more attractive in a round tart or pie dish but I cooked this in the wood oven which required a heavier baking dish. As Lizzie said, any berries would work perfectly in this.

After waiting impatiently for the recommended two years I am finally harvesting asparagus.  I made this simple lunch with homemade sourdough, asparagus and salad from the garden accompanied by our own olive oil.  No matter how simple the meal is it always tastes better when it is entirely homemade or home grown, excluding a little black pepper. 

Our first little harvest of Kipfler potatoes.  Previously I have harvested all of my potatoes at once but this year I plan to dig them up as I need them.  I am hoping they will store better in the soil than they will in my pantry. 

Kind and generous Celia sent me this bread stamp which I am looking forward to testing soon.  The robust chopping board was a recent lucky find at our local Lifeline shop for $3.00.  The elderly volunteer lady behind the counter asked me who I was going to whack with it!

Years ago a generous aunt gave me the recipe for these Monte Carlo biscuits.  I don’t often make them as I find the icing a bit fiddly and it also adds an extra layer of sugar that we don’t really need.  However, recently I have been thinking about the strong women in my family and their unique and individual characters.  They all have a story to tell as they navigate farm life, town life, health issues and life in general.  The time seemed right to make a batch of these delicious biscuits.  Annabelle declared them the best biscuits ever, I couldn't argue with that.  

Do you cook sentimental recipes sometimes?
What is happening in your kitchen at the moment?

Joining in with Celia and her friends as we take a tour of some interesting kitchens from around the world.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Farm life lately

A well worn desk, a wire bird cage and a horse biscuit cutter, all picked up at a local clearing sale for a few dollars.

Horse related activities including Pony Club and an outback gymkhana have taken up a lot of our spare time in the last few weeks.  I think we are becoming a horsey family, who knew? 

Ice-cream on the verandah for two tired, grubby kids who had spent the afternoon helping to truck feral goats.  Growing up on a farm really is a wonderful thing.  Everyday our children are learning so much, including a strong work ethic and a sense of responsibility. 

I collected this tangle of rusty wire in the creek near our house.  With just a little tweaking I plan to transform it into a bird nest inspired piece of garden art.  Can you see it too? 

Thanks to Jodie's suggestion I blitzed a piece of elderly sourdough with some fresh sage leaves to make these chunky, fragrant breadcrumbs and later used them to crumb fish fillets.  I need to get more creative with my sage plant, this was a good place to start.

How is your weekend progressing?
Are you riding horses or cooking or eating ice-cream?

Jane x

Friday, October 11, 2013

Our beach shack, for a week

The morning we left for King Island started well before sunrise.  After two flights with our two young first time air travellers we had finally arrived at our holiday destination.  The first thing that struck me when we walked into our rented shack was just how warm it was.  We quickly discovered the fire had been lit prior to our arrival.  This was a magic touch.

We spent seven nights on the island and for this amount of time I wanted accommodation with enough space for everyone in close proximity to the beach.  I had secretly hoped it also had plenty of character as I had deliberately avoided booking generic cabin or motel style accommodation. 

I have always been fascinated by beach shacks and I couldn't help taking photos as the morning and afternoon light moved through the rooms. 

Located on the more protected, eastern side of the island the Naracoopa Beach Shack ticked all of the boxes for me.  It was warm and cosy with just enough room for a family of four.  With the beach literally just across the road and the jetty within walking distance, everyone was happy.  The fishing rods, buckets, bikes, surfboard and books added to the fun.  I especially enjoyed getting reacquainted with Enid Blyton and the Secret Seven!

Are you lucky enough to own a shack?

Do you love the idea of having a shack?

Do you love the big, flash, modern beach house or the old style shack?  It is the old style for me all the way!