Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Goats, technology and connections

Hello friends.  I would like to start this post by firstly apologising for the ugly Photobucket messages that have stealthily found their way into my photos.  In all of the years I have been blogging I have never knowingly used Photobucket yet suddenly these messages are holding my blog to ransom.  Can anyone help?   If you don’t hover over the photos you can pretend it isn’t happening.

Back in the real world, away from this infuriating photo situation, mustering feral goats seems relatively simple.  There is no internet trickery here, just dust, dogs, goats of all shapes and sizes, a mustering team on motorbikes and a helicopter buzzing in the air.  Working with large mobs of wild animals requires team work, communication, timing and a sound knowledge of the bush.  I feel proud of these real life skills that as a family we are passing onto our children.

We took our place at the back of the mob in the support vehicle with a friend, fuel, food and a variety of supplies.   We spent most of our time negotiating scrub, assisting where we could and of course, taking the odd photo.   

Meanwhile, in the kitchen I have been reading the blog Local is Lovely for years.  I use Sophie’s cookbook regularly and I listen to every one of her podcasts immediately after they go to air. Recently I was lucky enough spend some time with Sophie in real life.  We chatted about the meaning of smoko, educating children in remote locations, social media, bread and many other things that are dear to my heart.  Thank you Sophie, it was so special to meet you.

In a month of meeting people in real life, on Thursday Edwina Robertson and her faithful dog rolled into our property in their 1979 Toyota.  Edwina is travelling through some extremely remote parts of Australia capturing the essence of the outback and its characters in her photos.  We were lucky enough to have Edwina take some family photos for us in the low winter light.  But, more importantly than the photos we had a great chat, a few laughs and we shared a home cooked meal.  If you aren’t already following Edwina’s journey through social media you should!  Edwina is going places, quite literally.

So, while internet things have frustrated me lately, the real life connections really are the most important aren’t they?

I hope your week is full of opportunities, conversations and possibilities. 

Or goats perhaps?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Please step into my studio

At the end of a shady row of olive trees there is a studio with a sunny verandah and a big old door that was rescued from a long forgotten farm shed.  The abundant natural light bounces off the white walls that are slightly textured and chalky.

One wall is lined with sturdy shelving that is home to photography props, books and haphazardly arranged jars of flowers and foliage. 

There is a long bench made from roughly textured timber, perfectly positioned for food styling and photography.  In one corner sits a pot-bellied stove, just right for cold days and a warm teapot.

If you are still with me you may have guessed that this studio actually only exists in my imagination.

These days I am lucky enough to have a regular food styling and photography assignment and in reality this is what my studio looks like.  Two recycled doors, positioned to catch the morning light in my vegetable garden.  The doors are sturdy enough to support all kinds of backgrounds, props and food as well as providing an interesting surface in their natural state.

Having this set up in the vegetable garden means that I can quickly pick fresh herbs, tiny flowers and greens as I need them. 

Half the fun of creating photos on a seasonal basis is finding suitable locations.  I do like to include the occasional landscape in my photos but for close up shots my garden studio is working surprising well. 

While a purpose built studio would be the ultimate luxury setting up temporary locations and carting around all the necessary paraphernalia adds to the overall experience and keeps me constantly thinking and planning.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry by Lee Tran Lam is one of my favourite podcasts and this episode with food photographer Nikki To provides a fascinating insight into the world of big time food photography.  Nikki's photos and subjects are a dream! 

Do you have a favourite photography spot?

Abundant natural light in a gorgeous studio perhaps?  

Wishing you a lovely Sunday, friends x

Sunday, July 16, 2017


As I sit here at my computer with one day left of the July school holidays I can hardly believe where the time has gone.  But, when I look back through the photos on my camera I realise we have actually crammed a lot into the last two weeks, including hosting Fire and Flour Day

We have cooked sourdough pizzas in our wood oven and washed them down with ginger beer for the youngsters and a hearty bottle of stout for the grownups.

There has been frost on the broccoli, but it hasn’t been as heavy this year as we have seen it in the past.

My pear trees are now bare but their spindly branches still look pretty in the afternoon light.

The Shady Farmer has done many hours of work in his light plane; I love the peaceful early morning atmosphere at our airstrip.  No queues or security in site.

George has had time to create many things with his hands, including this wire toast cooker for the campfire.  All great engineering has to start somewhere I say.

The sheep dogs have been keeping a watchful eye on everything as we drive around checking tanks, troughs and stock.

The leafy Asian greens are growing happily in the vegetable garden, providing something fresh to pick whenever a stir fry is on the menu.

There has been sheep, mustering, shearing and plenty of beautiful wool. 

There has been winter sunshine, hearty meals, fires, errands in town, early mornings,cooking, photo shoots, driving, tidying, gardening, planning and talking. I am just not quite sure how we are going to fit school back into our schedule but I am sure I say that every holidays. 

Happy Sunday friends, I hope you schedule is full of good things today x

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Fire and Flour Day, 2017

We have been hosting Fire and Flour Day on our property every winter since 2013.  What started as an amateur sourdough workshop at our wood oven has slowly transformed into more of a long table lunch in the paddock. 

We still have an epic swap table and there is still plenty of flour, mixing, resting, dividing, cooking and fire.  Affogatos are always served mid-afternoon and there is always something crafty for the younger folk or anyone else who might like mixing craft with a glass of red at the fire.  There is no financial contribution from participants, instead everyone shares either a skill or food or other resources on the day. 

As the years have progressed our day has become more about winter sunshine, talking and sharing and less about learning a particular skill, although sharing ideas is something that happens naturally. 

When I look around at our participants I think about the children that have arrived, other children who have grown considerably, relationships that have been adjusted, dear friends that have left us,  friends that have joined us and so the natural flow of life continues.

Every year as we all take on more commitments we could quietly end this day and put the memories into the archives.  However, standing around a table making pastries, pasta and bread with friends is something very special.  It gives us all a reason to stop and talk and listen and observe.  It makes us all step away from our everyday lives and sit down together to share lunch on a table that my husband built specifically for this day. The swap table gives everyone a chance to unleash some creativity, depending on individual strengths and interests. 

It gives everyone an excuse to take a manageable road trip in the sunshine and who doesn’t love a road trip?

Gathering people together is surely something we should all do more of, when we can.

Are you seeing people and talking?

Are you continuing something you started years ago, even though it might have changed? 

Are you enjoying the school holidays?  I know we are.  Thank you for calling in! 

If you are interested, this is what we ate on the day: 

Morning tea: quince and almond tart, cheese platter, freshly made pastissi headed by Summa

Lunch: locally sourced goat chops, sourdough pita bread, hand cut pasta with a slow cooked vegetable sauce, all cooked on an open fire.  Chunky homemade dips. Local olives. 

Afternoon grazing: affogatos, homemade sweet treats and more cheese! 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Winter memories

In the last month we have been up early every single morning.  We have taken note of the sunrise, the frost and the occasional fog.

We have joined our local horse community in all the dust and grit of campdrafting and gymkhana events.

We have ambled along behind mobs of sheep at a pace just right for observing our world and discovering treasure, such as an emu nest.

We have eaten no nonsense food in the paddock, washed down with warm drinks while everyone takes a break from the sheep work.

I have picked green things from my garden and rescued chillies from frosted chilli bushes.

On the evening of the winter solstice, Annabelle skilfully manoeuvred a mob of sheep, all the while singing and talking to her horse while the final rays of light filtered through the dust.

After school George has cleaned troughs and worked alongside the men on his small motorbike.

We have laughed, cried, talked, planned and possibly had a few too many drinks with friends on Friday nights. 

Last Sunday we tragically lost a mate who will never get the chance to do any of these things again.  I have not mentioned this to ask for sympathy, quite the opposite.  I have written this post to remind myself that life is out there to be lived to the fullest.

Ride the horses, listen to the music, take the photos, keep in contact with your friends, make that wood stack, wear pretty things, renovate the caravan and share what you can with anyone who appreciates it.

Happy Sunday, friends x

Friday, June 9, 2017

Winter, taking stock

Winter has arrived with a sudden drop in temperatures, frosty mornings and a full program of farming, schooling and family commitments.  The days are short, the nights are long and quiet and it seems like a good time to take stock.  Thanks Pip.   

Making : endless meals
Cooking : sourdough pizza bases and old school crunchy chocolate slice

Drinking : tea, followed by one coffee at 9am and then back to tea
Reading: Frankie Spaces and I even found a very creative ex-Broken Hill local amongst the pages
Trawling: the second hand shops for cheap but sturdy timber chairs
Looking: at new beds
Deciding: on a new bed
Wishing: my little pear tree had produced more than one pear this year.  There is always next year. 

Enjoying: My Open Kitchen e-course  
Waiting: for the school holidays
Liking: the jars full of seeds I have collected from my garden

Wondering: how to make the most of the limited family time we currently have 
Loving: that my children already think like practical farmers
Pondering: launching back into selling my sourdough, one of these days
Listening: to my local ABC radio, always
Considering: where I might start with my caravan renovation
Buying: a beautiful set of old but perfect children’s alphabetical animal stamps
Watching: the frost quickly kill off my basil and zucchinis

Hoping: my daughter never loses her love of chasing cows and dogs and riding horses

Marvelling: at The Shady Farmer and his clever use of Instagram, amongst other things. I love this man
Cringing: at the news, it is a crazy, frightening world out there
Needing: more scissors, sticky tape and glue in the house, where does it all go?
Questioning: small people about the above
Smelling: quinces, so many quinces
Wearing: snow socks and many layers
Noticing: the bubbles in my sourdough starter

Thinking: about something sweet I can bake quickly, before the weekend
Admiring: all the warm things from Icebreaker
Getting: ready for visitors on the long weekend
Bookmarking: Australian made ceramics on Etsy, it is a slippery slope let me tell you
Opening: doors and windows briefly        
Closing: them again when the cold afternoon air moves in
Feeling: grateful for the opportunities that working with Graziher has presented 
Hearing: a small motorbike buzzing and the occasional dog barking
Celebrating: two special family birthdays in June, our boy George and my mum
Pretending: not to notice that my windows need cleaning
Embracing: my woolly scarves that I had almost forgotten about over the summer 

I hope this weekend you are lighting a fire in the paddock or reading something beautiful.

Happy Friday friends x

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Community connections

Originally I was going to write this post about my community but I find my specific community difficult to pin point.  Instead I have been thinking about the small moments of contact that add up to make my life feel meaningful and happy. 

A friend who doesn’t question my craziness when I ask her to help with photo locations, autumn leaves and afternoon light.  She just quietly supports and listens to me ramble on about quinces and life. 

My visits to our local vintage and second-hand shops.  These trips aren’t about filling my car with material things; they are more about observing the social history of our town, chatting with the shop owners and sometimes coming away with a special piece. 

Occasionally we eat meat that we haven’t slaughtered ourselves and when we do it comes from a proper butcher shop.  The sort of shop where the hardworking man who owns the business is behind the counter chopping, cutting and slicing as he subtlety reveals a little of his butchering knowledge to the cooks who visit him. 

Speaking of shops, a new pop up shop in town has completely captured my imagination.  The creative lady behind this venture has put her heart and soul into this previously unused space and her enthusiasm is infectious.  Every empty shop front in every country town needs someone like this! 

Last Sunday a friend and orchardist generously gave us oranges, corn and seed potatoes because he knew they would be put to good use and appreciated.  Really, is there anything better?   

An early morning text message from a friend who had thought of an idea for our upcoming Fire and Flour Day while she was preparing quinces for her cafe.  Thank you Summa for always believing in all the crazy schemes. I love that nothing is ever too difficult for you! 

This week I also hugged and chatted with a neighbour in the sunshine when her mix of work, life and kids all started to spin. 

While my community is rather random, these moments fill me with gratitude. 

Do you have these moments?

I hope this Sunday you are chatting with a friend or swapping some vegetables or baking something that warms your heart. 

Jane x

Friday, May 12, 2017

Autumn thoughts

My mind drifts across many things as I go about my days parenting, schooling and farm watching.

Autumn isn’t all traditional carpets of crunchy orange leaves at our place because we just don’t have that many deciduous trees.  My fruit trees put on a little display but right now they are still looking quite green.

Fresh chocolate chip biscuits can solve almost everything. 

Our horse’s whiskers capture the light so nicely, making these big animals even warmer and nicer to touch and smell on a cold afternoon.

I need to learn some safer, more effective knot tying for when farm things need to be dragged, towed, hitched together or fixed up with rope.  Girl Guide friends, I know you are out there. 

The two men in my life melt my heart, particularly in tender, reassuring moments like this one.

At the end of a big social day in the outback, in amongst the big trucks and utes a grandmother and her precious granddaughter stepped in front of my camera at the right time. 

I wonder how many quinces I can cook this season.  With the branches dragging on the ground it is time to get busy peeling, chopping and processing.

I have noticed that an early dinner time during the week is the secret to our success, or not.  When I have dinner planned and on the table early our whole week flows better.  On my less organised days when dinner is late it means late cleaning up and late bed times which overflows into every other part of our lives.   Sometimes it is the small things.  Actually, often it is small the things that count the most.

I am reading and slowly experimenting with bread from this beautiful book.

This song is on my playlist.  It is unapologetically American but I have been listening to this music since my teenage years and I still love it.  It reminds me of road trips, wide open spaces and the good stuff.

What are thinking or wondering or pondering?

Dinner times, autumn leaves or warm horse hair?

I hope you might be cooking or creating or sitting in the sunshine somewhere in amongst the day to day routine.

Happy Friday, friends x