Saturday, 13 January 2018

Christmas Is Over And Another Year Begins.

 2017  came to a busy close, we  attended many gatherings   for the groups that we belong to  around town including Progress, Rifle club, and the Rail Barracks.
The photo below is  the Rail Barracks volunteers, minus a few that had been unable to attend.
I made up a huge pile of rum balls for Christmas( Christmas just isn't Christmas without rum balls, liqorice, gherkins and pickled onions)..weird I know, but that's me.
 We packed up our trusty little caravan,
And we  travelled to Parkes to our eldest daughter's home for Christmas, we had decided to meet there for Christmas as our daughter was due on Christmas day  with her third child. The house was decorated, the tree was  pretty, and I especially loved the little village she is establishing in the wood fire box.

I cooked the roast pork leg, that we had swapped our neighbour lamb for,ready for cold meat on Christmas Day.

Our daughter and her husband have 2 sweet little girls aged 4 and 2  and on Christmas eve their family was completed by the arrival of a sweet little baby boy that they named Dexter.
He is an absolute sweetheart, and we adore him already.
We had a wonderful Christmas with all the family together including  our son in laws  parents and brother as well.
We brought the little girls home for a few days to allow Mum, Dad and Bub a bit of time together.
 We also then had our old friends Pat and Fay arrive to spend a week over new years.
They are great guests as they jump straight  in and help in the kitchen, which lightens the load a lot. We  also made up a big batch of Turkey/chicken bolognaise sauce for the freezer

Brian got in and  finished off the bulk of the kitchen corner adjustment that needed doing.
I unloaded the fridge so we could relocate it,
And Brian  got busy and sorted out the cabinets to surround the fridge and the pantry next to it.
I am very happy with it, all that is needed now is a little finishing of trims and a  painting job and all will be done finally. It works so much better now that I can access  the fridge and pantry properly.
We dug all our elephant garlic  and decided to  mince and can them.
I pressure canned these, but on hindsight  next time would  pickle the cloves whole and water bath as we lost too much of the product during processing. I believe it may have been because of the aeration  caused to the garlic while mincing in the food processor.
These will be great, and will get used  through the year on all my various cooking and canning projects, but I was just a bit disappointed with the look of the final product.
Brian began work on laying a base for a new water tank to connect up the house to( including the new verandah area). Currently we only collect the water off the main house roof.

The bees have been hard at work, but they  don't like the heat and we see them outside the hive much more  while we have been having these terribly hot weather conditions.
The chooks have slowed down a bit on the egg laying, and we now only get between 6 and 10 aggs a day, I suspect the heat has been affecting them as well.
We did collect one huge egg, it turned out to be a triple yolker( my first ever)
Brian's brother and his wife from next door travelled up to Queensland for Christmas to another brother's home and brought us back this great box full of mangoes, we had great pleasure I must say in devouring them  in a very short space of time.
We then travelled to Newcastle to meet our youngest daughter who was attending a family wedding on her husbands side and picked up the other two grandkids aged 7 and 3 and brought them back to the farm for 10 days while Mum and Dad were working.
We met at my daughter's friend Julia's home and she had these two very cute Indian Runner ducklings, they were just adorable and the grandkids loved them.
We returned home and unfortunately we have had a week of 40  deg c plus temperatures and we have been cooped up inside a fair bit with the air conditioning.
We have had a few outings  to the local swimming pool,  a couple of picnics in the park, one of which had these beautiful geese that the kids were able to feed by hand
and yesterday we drenched the sheep,
The kids enjoyed  watching and patting the sheep.
We wandered next door and watered their garden for them , even though they had thought it uneccessary, but with the unexpected heat we thought that we should.
The very small vegetable garden we planted this year is producing well, we are eating an abundance of zuchini and spinach and we have picked a good crop of jalapenos.
This year is the first time we have grown jalapenos( we normally grow only habaneros) and I decided to make some jalapeno pepper jelly.
I cut the jalapenos in halve and deseeded them and removed stems.
The  jalapenos were then processed until smooth in the food processor, added to sugar,vinegar,water and boiled for 10 minutes,
I then added the liquid pectin and boiled rapidly for exacttly 1 minute, added a few drops of green food colouring, skimmed off any foam and poured into the jars.
The lids and rings are placed on the jars and they are water bathed for 10 minutes to seal.
This jelly is beautiful, equally as lovely as the habanero gold pepper jelly, and I will definately make heaps more.
With the extra jalapenos, Brian decided to slice them,
We just added a brine of water salt and vinegar  plus garlic and pickling spices to these and sealed them by water bathing 10 minutes. Brian says that they are beautiful( but I will take his word for that.)
We have been having lots of easy meals with the kids, concentrating my kitchen efforts to things I know they will  eat,
Pizza, both ham and pineapple and spinach and fetta.
Homemade chicken nuggets,
Grilled salmon and fish fingers, along with frankfurts, sausages, corned beef, and the old favourite of spaghetti bolognaise.
On the whole they have happily eaten quite well.
This month we had a glorious full moon, The colour of it was stunning.
I often try and photograph the moon without much success, but this time I struck it lucky,
It has been a very hectic few weeks, we are really tired, the children will return home soon and we will spend some time with them in their home before having a few days R &R in Sydney and Newcastle to attend our god daughter's wedding.
Please stay safe  and if you are in Aus, stay cool and in the northern hemisphere stay warm,  Mother Nature  has us firmly in her grip and doesn't seem to be letting go any time soon.
Take care
Until next time
Jane and Brian.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Rain, Clean-Ups, Apricots, some New Acquisitions and meat( warning ! butchered animal photo.)

We were only home a  day and had cleaned up the big mess from the storm that had passed through  when out of the blue another hard  storm hit us. before we had a chance to  create any storm  run off   diversions up the back
We had 51 mm in a very short time and once again  the silt,sand and mud washed everywhere.
It made quite a mess and once again  we went into clean up mode.
That afternoon Brian got the tractor out and  made some tracks for the water to run away from the house  when it  storms like that again. Sadly  we lost a clutch of day old chickens which unbeknown to us drowned in the orchard chicken coop.Mum was able to get up high , but the chicks couldn't.
When I was up  watching  and photographing  Brian on the tractor I slipped over in the mud and re skinned my knee ( the same one I had injured in Wollongong.
It has taken quite a while to heal.
That night we had a quick dinner of some of my canned lamb curry.
We have really been enjoying the curries, nice and spicy and portioned controlled.
We had ordered a new lounge and it had taken four months to  arrive at the shop and they rang to arrange delivery after the weekend.
Our old lounge had been made of split leather and that's exactly what it did  just as soon as the warranty was up.
We dismantled  it and took it to the tip,
and sat on our cane chairs with our tv tables for a couple of nights,
We cleaned up ready for the delivery of our new lounge,
And at last it was here.
We love our beautiful new leather lounge( no split leather this time).
Another  event we had been patiently waiting for was  the evaporative air conditioning.
As we have a flat roof, our installation was  basic, with  one dropped vent into the loungeroom .
A hole was cut into the ceiling, and the unit was   installed up onto the roof.
The appropriate electrical wiring and plumbing  was completed and the inside vent was installed.

It is HEAVEN !!,  that's all I can say, with  strategic opening of windows in various rooms of the house the cool air travels everywhere we want it.  It runs extremely well on our battery system with no issues what so ever so far.
Our neighbour has pigs and in return for a butchered  lamb from our place and a few jobs Brian did for him, he gave us a pig to butcher. Hope no one is offended by this !
That night we also held an impromptu 65 th birthday dinner for Brian's brother from next door. A great night was had by all.
Our turkeys are growing fast, wandering around the farm with the older birds, and starting to roost  up on the roof of the chicken coop like the big birds.
Our  Early Moorepark apricot tree down in the new orchard  started to  ripen and Brian picked a bucket .
t  gave  me 14 bottles of beautiful preserved apricots. They  look a bit green , but bottle up  well at this point.
The next day I travelled to Dubbo to meet up with my big sister, we had a quick coffee before hitting the shops for a bit of retail therapy.
We then surprised our mother who was  at a club  enjoying the Christmas raffles,
We had 2 nights with Mum and had a great catch up, eating pizza for dinner , and  my sister and I  sharing Mum's pull out couch and chatting away and giggling like school girls  until the wee small hours.It was fun.
We got a picture of us together .
 Mum lives independently  in a small  unit in a retirement village.
I headed home on Sunday morning,  and Brian had picked another two buckets of apricots off the tree.

We got in and  processed them into jars.
One batch out of the Water bath preserver and another ready to go in. We ended up with 42 jars of apricots in all from the 3 loads.
A few days later we returned to Dubbo  and entertained  two of our grand daughters at the park while mum had a doctor's visit. She is expecting baby Number 3 on Christmas Day. This will be our 5th grandchild.
This time we stayed the night with my brother and sister in law and we decided to have an Indian Banquet for dinner which was amazing. I love Indian food.
After dinner we took a drive around their neighborhood and checked out all the homes lit up with gorgeous Christmas lights and decorations.
The last one is my Brother's house.  There were many beautifully  lit up homes and this is just a few.
We had a great  night and returned home to the farm the next morning.
On the drive home I spotted this Christmas tree at a farmers gate, I thought it was a clever use of old tyres, an idea I may copy next year.
Just in case I don't get time to catch up again before  Santa arrives, I want to wish each and every one of you a very merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy  2018.
Take care, travel safe, be nice to your fellow man.
Jane and Brian.