Friday, 10 November 2017

The Rest Of The Week.

What a full week this was, when I look back over the photographs I can barely believe all  that was squashed into seven very short days.
On Thursday , we had a lovely storm pass over,
A wonderful 4 mm of rain fell, not a lot, but enough to keep things hanging in. We really need to get the new rain water tank up, there have just been so many things going on, we haven't got there yet, but soon we hope.This  overflow of water is only off the new verandah roof, the rest of the house  run off is collected.

We had visitors arrive last Friday morning, two old friends from down on the coast. It was lovely to see them again. Pat and Fay are now semi- regular visitors to the farm.
We went out for dinner to our local  bowling club on Friday night which was a lovely break from cooking, they do a wonderful menu there at quite reasonable prices.
The next morning, my Sister in law and myself had volunteered to  do  the  Devonshire Teas at the local Anglican Church  market/boot sale as a fundraiser for the Rail  Barracks group we  volunteer for.
It was a lovely day, but sadly not patronized  well by the local towns people at all. We still made a small profit for the day, but it just annoys me that the bulk of the town people just don't seem to have that community spirit anymore.
The next morning when we were sitting having coffee on the back verandah Brian spotted a very unwelcome visitor on our front lawn,

It was a goanna or Lace Monitor, he was about a metre long , they are known to regularly raid the nests for chicken eggs and will also take small  poultry.
After the obligitory photo session, he was very quickly hunted away up into the bush. These are a protected reptile and we are not allowed to kill them.
The next  morning, a delivery came that we have been waiting three  very long months for,
Our brand  new Tractor !!!
The old blue 1954 Fordson had become dangerous and  Brian was only using it for absolute  urgent jobs and we  had spotted this one at the Mudgee Small Farm Field Day back in July and ordered one, being told it would be 5 weeks delivery at the most.....well three months later and lots of stories, lies ,excuses, and a threat by us to cancel the order if it was not delivered that arrived !!!
Brian is loving it, the old Blue Girl never had a FEL  so he is out there digging and scraping and all those fun jobs that he has been saving, and on our sloping block the fact that it has brakes is a definite  added bonus.
That night we had  invited the neighbours over to share a big baked turkey dinner in  honour of Pat who will turn 70 in a few weeks and we won't be able to be with her.
Speaking of turkeys, our babies down in the orchard run are growing quickly, they don't  stay still long enough for a decent photo, so I apologize for the quality. We have about  20 young turkeys altogether.
Our visitors left on Monday morning to head back to the coast.
Brian picked me a  lovely washing basket full of rhubarb from the garden.
So I decided to can it  up,
The fruit is chopped into about inch sized pieces and  sugar added,
The rhubarb is coated in the sugar and sits for about 5 to 6 hours until it creates it's own juice.It is then brought to simmer point and immediately turned off and bottled into hot jars, capped and water bathed  for 15 minutes to process and seal.
Our apricot tree fruited much earlier this year, we think due to the warmer drier winter conditions we had, It normally is ready about the end of November,
The apricots were much smaller this year, so it made processing them much slower than usual.
They were halved ,seeds removed and packed into the jars. I used an extra light sugar syrup over them and capped and water bathed 20  minutes.
Brian was away when I processed them and I was unsure whether to use the electric water bath preserver on the battery system, so I opted to use my old Fowlers stove top water bath this time. Under the new rules of totally covering the jars with water, this old girl can only be used with the smaller jars, as water would escape out the top of the thermometer hole.
I canned up one box of fruit and decided to share the smaller box with the BIL next door who also loves to preserve.
The days work  is well worth the result of all those lovely jars of rhubarb and apricots.
Because of all the canning  that I have done this week, I needed to do some re-organizing in the pantry to make it all fit.
At least it keeps everything reasonably rotated in there, and keeps me aware of what's in need of using up or replacing .
One decision we made this year was regarding  tomatoes,corn kernels and beetroot.
As these are  big time, and water consuming crops and we are in drought conditions here, we have forgone the luxury of purchasing seeds or seedlings for these crops and will only plant out a very minimal garden( no  canning crops ).
The last two years we  ended up buying bulk tomatoes  from quite a distance away as what crops we planted failed, so this year we decided to watch for sales in the supermarket of those 3  items and purchase when the price was right.

The cost of these  are way lower than what it costs me to buy in bulk, and then I still have to spend time and money processing them. I will continue to watch the prices throughout the year.
Another job I undertook this last two weeks was to print up this blog so that I would always have a hard copy, like a diary so that if ever  the internet crashes  world wide for some reason, I would still have have it . I would hate to see it all lost forever.
When I go to Office works next time I will have to purchase some folders to  store it all in.
It is surprising how much I have written over the four year period that I have been writing down my ramblings  of our life here on the farm.
I hope you all are well and happy
and until we meet again,
take care of you and yours,
Jane and Brian.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Curry, Sweet Mango Chili Sauce and More Stock.

As a rule here at the farm we combine  butchering day with the Brother in Law  and Sister in Law's next door. We find that  it's easier with help, and there is only need for 1 cool room and 1 meat saw to be used at a time. Also less  cleaning  up afterwards.
Last week the boys got together and killed 3 of the Brother in Law's  sheep.
One was to be used on a birthday party  spit that they were having and the others were one each for our freezers.
Brian is getting pretty handy at cutting up the meat these days.
It filled our freezer well,
We  have been trying to eat  a little healthier and so have many meals like this of grilled lamb chops and  salad or vegetables.

As freezer space is often  at a premium around here  I pulled out a few items to use up in other ways to conserve some space.
I decided to make up some chicken curry to flat pack into 2 person   portion sized bags .
I roasted 5 of our roosters from the freezer, then made up my curry minus the meat, pulled the meat off the carcasses and added to the curry.( I did temporarily freeze the carcasses)
These are great for us, 1 bag does both of us with a little rice, pasta or naan bread, and they fit flat  perfectly in our small caravan freezer compartment for quick meals when we are travelling.
My son had taken some of my Mango Habanero Chilli Sauce to work with him and there have been a chorus of requests by his workmates  to be able to  purchase some, so I got in and made up a new batch.
I love making  these sauces as they are so simple to put together and cook.
This is the process roughly,
While wearing protective gloves I chop the required amount of Habanero chilies( I freeze mine and chop and de- seed whilst frozen as it reduces the chili fumes).
I use tinned mangoes as they are much more affordable here than fresh.
Chopped and de- seeded yellow capsicums(  sweet bell peppers)

White vinegar and crushed garlic,
This is then all blended bit by bit in the food processor.
I then add white sugar,
The mix is then cooked  until it reduces slightly and reaches the desired  consistency. It will  thicken slightly on cooling.
I fill the bottles with the hot sauce , these are 250 ml bottles( 1 cup approx).

 These bottles were then capped   and water bathed  15 minutes to seal.
This sauce is a winner, sweet and tasty with a hit of chilli, definately our favourite here.
I still had to deal with those frozen  chicken carcasses, so I pulled them out along with two turkey carcasses that  I had frozen as well and as we had  enough( more than enough) soup on the pantry shelves I opted to once again make stock( you can never have too much stock) .
So,  another two big pots of stock bubbled away and gave me another  lot of gorgeous golden chicken/turkey stock.
It really has been a full on week, the preserving didn't stop there, There was just too much to put into one post so, I decided to break it up into two posts.
The weather is still dry, we have had a couple of short small showers about 4 mm in each, but just enough to hopefully survive until a bit more comes our way.
Take care until we meet again,
Jane and Brian.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

A Busy Week Or So In Review

It never ceases to amaze me when I start to sort out photographs for the blog  all the things that we get up to over the period of a few weeks.  It's not always productive , sometimes it shows what  we have  finished, but sometimes we just hop from one activity or project to another day after day.
This fortnight was no exception. !
Firstly we travelled to Dubbo to  celebrate my wonderful  Mother's 93rd birthday. Mum is doing very well !, she is as sharp as a tack and reasonably healthy for her age but mobility is becoming her biggest enemy.
We  met up with my brother and sister in law and we had a lovely lunch at a local hotel  which allows  easier access for Mum. We had a lovely get together and hopefully all being well, Mum will be around  to celebrate many  more birthdays in the future.
We had been watching two turkey hens that were sitting on eggs, one in a pot plant out the back under a shelter,
And the other out  beside the vegie patch under a temporary shelter Brian erected over her.
They hatched a day apart. We ended up with  21 very sweet  baby turkeys.
We decided to relocate them all down to the orchard yard, now renamed "The Nursery",
They are now happy down there and the  poults are growing really fast. Their Mum's  are doing a great job of caring for them.
A new load of hay was purchased and Brian stored  it in a covered area near the shed. This time he  misjudged  the distance from the fence and the sneaky cheeky sheep soon discovered that they could stretch their necks through the fence and help themselves to the hay whenever they liked.
I claimed a covered area up the back and named it "Plumbers Rest" named because the  plumbing items were used to grow plants and the property  was owned by a plumber before we bought it and he has since passed away.
Slowly  it became the dumping ground, lawn mowers and whipper snipper, old wood heater ,old gas stove, old doors, timber offcuts ect, you get my drift.
It was such a mess, reminded me of one of those hoarder shows on television, so I decided to claim it back. Slowly I relocated or  threw the  lot of it, and eventually it was mine again.
I repotted succulents into the basins and toilet bowls and the old copper  pot.
I am happy with the results, this will be a nice area to sit and read or have a cuppa or just relax and I am determined that it will remain  "Plumber's Rest"  from now on. I now need to add a few more things and decide what to do with the ground  underfoot, whether to leave as it is or lay pavers, pebbles ect.
The old gas stove was in good working order , it had just been removed when we renovated the kitchen, so I have decided that I will place it on the back verandah and it will be handy for outdoor preserving in the summer and  also will be useful when we are entertaining out there in the bbq area.

The garden is doing okay, existing plants are doing well with the additional watering Brian has been able to do without having a vegetable garden, and we have had a few small amounts of rain including another 4mm over night.
The rhubarb is flourishing,
The spring  onions   have really picked up their game,
My white pigface has put on a lovely display,
About a week ago we were having coffee on the verandah and Brian noticed a bearded dragon lizard running across the paddock  near the orchard. We went down there and he caught it.
After he posed for a few photos we released him to run wild again. Funny how I absolutley love lizards but loathe snakes of every kind.
We have been trying to eat reasonably healthy,  and find that quick grills  with a salad are our go to meal. We as you would  assume  have a lot of lamb meals and this is an example of what we regularly eat.
This week I tried a new experimental recipe that I saw somewhere on Facebook.
It was a spinach and feta quiche, but instead of the tradittional pastry base it used a sweet potato base.
The  sweet potato base had to bee booked 20 minutes( I would recoment covering with foil and not having bits sticking up like mine had).
I then added the  sauteed spinach,onion,capsicum and mushroom  filling( I only had frozen spinach, but reckon fresh would be better)
I then added  the grated cheese( had no feta ,so I used low fat grated cheddar)..then added the egg , and low fat milk mix.
It was then baked in a moderate oven until the egg mix was set.
This was a really tasty quiche and I will certainly make it again using the instructed ingredients next time.
This weekend just gone Brian and I had to divide up to be able to do all the required activities, He took me to Dubbo so that I could
 travel by bus and train 9 hours to Wollongong to attend "Grandparent's Day" at our granddaughter's school.
We were treated to a lovely concert  in the hall, seeing our granddaughter dance and sing along with the other students, a lovely tour around her classroom to look at her work she has been doing and all followed up by a delicious morning tea.
I then had a lovely lunch with her  other grandmother in a pretty outdoor cafe,
My daughter and I also got to spend a few hours together, shopping and hanging out, which was nice.
Next morning I made the return journey home, taking 12 hours as I had a 2 hour break at  the beautiful old Central Train Station in Sydney.I love sitting with a coffee just watching the world go by and you meet so many interesting people from all over the world.
I was collected at Dubbo  on Friday evening  as Brian came back through from his trip.
He had been to our other daughter's home to attend a field day to chase up the  tractor we are purchasing as it was well past it's due delivery date and phone calls  were not in the least productive.
Hopefully we will be taking delivery in the next week, otherwise we will be cancelling our order and  shopping elsewhere.
When he travelled over he took 2 new young hens for our daughter as  they think a fox stole 2 of their girls leaving 1 all alone, and on the return trip he brought back a young ram( one of twins born to a semi retired sheep from the farm) His is only about 6 months old and his name is Ellroy.
We got in and sorted the sheep out as we only want him  being with a selected number of ewes as we are trying to keep sheep numbers under control.
and he very quickly got to know them up close and personal.
We also found a well hidden Guinea Fowls nest, so hopefully we will get some babies this season, depending  if they are fertile or not as we only have 2 males..
Yesterday morning I decided it was time to make stock out of all the vegetable peelings and bones that I have been saving up in zip bags in the freezer.( we have butchered sheep again and need to make room for some more lamb in there).
One pot was chicken and the other pot was lamb. I added some more meat and the liquids and flavourings after this was taken.( I also used red wine for the lamb and white wine for the chicken)
After several hours of simmering away, I then let it sit  covered for about an hour , then strained it  firstly through a colander , then a wire strainer and then finally through a double layer of muslin.
IT then goes into containers in the refrigerator overnight to  set  any remaining fat for removal.

This is the chicken stock , the lamb is in containers in the cool room outside.
Normally  I would now can this up but as I am making  some other  dishes  to can and freeze over the next few days I will just refrigerate until that's done then can  or freeze any left over stock, rather than double handling and processing.
It has been a busy week or so,  and there have been quite a few other activities along the way.
We attended a dinner for a friend's 70th, a trivia fund raiser night hosted by the local school P & C, campground cleaning roster, Rail Barracks cleaning, local free newspaper compiling( the last three along with other people)   shopping, doctors appointments, load of rubbish to the dump,  and the usual chores around the place...
Life is never dull here on our little farm.
Take care until we meet again,
Jane and Brian.