Saturday, 11 October 2014

Bit's of this and that.

We never seem to catch up at the farm, as  the first few days we are there we just seem to play catch up on all the chores that we get behind in when we aren't there like lawns and gardens  and refilling all our small 1000 litre tanks up again that we drip feed the trees and shrubs from. It all takes time, and sometimes we feel that we just are not getting ahead at all, even though we know we are.
it's that old problem also too, when you have the time you have no money and when  you finally have money you are too busy working to find the time. !!!
This time we took up the new citrus Trees we bought and got them planted them out straight away  and by the time we headed home they were full of beautiful  sweet scented blossoms.

The next jobs  that we  tackled was to lift one of those 1000 litre water tanks up onto posts a couple of feet high to make it less likely to be a snake hiding place, as we can now mow and whipper snip underneath and keep the area cleaner.
we also spent some time walking around  deciding where we thought would be the best location for our new bee box and we finally decided on an area under the trees, with some protection from the southerly winds by the  rock face behind, not far from the chicken yard where there will be permanent water in in close vicinity of flowering trees and gardens, hopefully  we have chosen wisely, time will tell.
One morning while sitting on our usual perches on the front verandah having our early morning coffees we were watching the pine trees down in the front paddock "puffing" in the gentle breeze to release all the pollen or spores to the wind, it is really an amazing thing to watch.
The next major job that Hubby got onto was installing our  new larger power inverter up into our system up in the power room, This new larger inverter now has taken over running the  house and the smaller existing inverter will now be used to run our cool room on a separate smaller grid, independent from the will usually be shutdown when we are away and will be  there as a backup in case of lightening strikes or such.
We also took a little road trip to Parkes while we were up at the farm to visit our daughter and her family, we took a drive out to visit the Parkes Radio Telescope, which was highlighted in the movie "The Dish", the radio telescope was an integral part of the transmission of live  images along with others  from the  Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.
We had a lovely visit and spent some special  time with our beautiful little 17 month old granddaughter, she and her Poppy had a wonderful time playing together.
We  decided to bring our daughter's Kelpie dog back to the farm with us for a short holiday, he and our old blue girl get along real well, even to the point of sharing a bed together in the car on the way home(even though there are two beds on the seat.
He had a lovely time with us, helping the man of the house with some sheep work(even though he is a town dog, instinct kicks in and he has a rough idea of what is expected of him), and after all that hard work all dogs need to have a cool off in the stock  trough, many, many times a day !!!!
Our sheep have been doing well this year, we have  had a few lambs(we only selected a small number of ewes this season to breed) and we got them in to tag and tail the other day, we had 7 lambs this year( One  didn't make it as the mother rejected it) and all 7 were females. there is an old tale that if you have majority  ewes born the following season will be a bad one), time will tell. !!
On the morning we were leaving the farm we had  half a dozen early morning visitors, they have just realized that the apricot tree has perfect little green apricots on it,just how they like it.
We are really torn between the beauty of the king parrots and the decimation of the apricots each year, that is why we have planted a new apricot tree in the new orchard which we intend to net as soon as possible. This tree is in a position that netting just isn't  an option.
Some of the other fruit trees  were  starting to  bloom, so wonderful to see as we only planted them this season.The quince,apricot,plumcot,nectarine and apples are all in bloom.
Hopefully if we get rain and with the added dip watering we do we may start to produce our own lovely stone fruit  for eating and canning, I can hardly wait.
Before we know it we will be loading up the car and trailer again and heading west for another  stay at the farm to get a few more things sorted.
We may actually be living there  within a few months, I just can't believe that the time is finally approaching, SO EXCITED !!!!
So until we catch up again,
Take care everyone,
Jane. :-)  :-)  :-)

Friday, 10 October 2014

Progress on the new laundry room and Pantry.

The new laundry room/meat room and pantry have never really been a high priority on Hubby's list, but as the time for us to make the big move to the farm gets closer, he has started to get in and get a bit more sorted for me. The photo below is the shed up the back how it used to look before we started lining the walls to begin to make a proper room. He and my brother got in one weekend and put a few sheets of  hardiflex up , I got all excited, and then work stalled as other things took precedence.
The next photograph shows my original laundry, a small room directly off the kitchen where I had a freezer,tubs,washing machine, shelving and two old cupboards where I used to keep my full canning jars( empties were squirreled away all over the place.)
So a few weeks ago  we  roamed through Bunnings and purchased some basic plumbing fittings that were needed and sorted out what we were able to recycle.
We decided on a location for the tub(closest point to the pressure pump and water supply as possible) and started work.
We then ran the hot and cold pipes outside on the back wall of the shed(freezing is not an issue in our location), we used the recycled copper piping from our old  replaced rooftop hot water service. They aren't particularly pretty but serve the purpose.
Next we brought it back through the wall and connected the pipes to the pressure pump( the pump is necessary as we  only have gravity feed water  pressure)

Next hubby fixed some brackets on the wall to install the tankless instant gas hot water system that will service the laundry and later the attached yet to be completed outdoor extra shower,basin and toilet, it's about 3/4 done)
The next step was to get some electrical cable fed through  for later electrical work to be completed,when we can organize an electrician friend to come and help. Then we put up a couple of lots of sheeting.
We have ran out of what sheeting we had so we will do another trip to the supplier and hopefully purchase enough to complete the room. My brother has offered to come back soon and help hubby complete it,but we just needed to get these other jobs done first.
Much to my delight at this point we now had running hot and cold water over the laundry tub and to hubby's delight minimal leaks and drips that he had to sort out.

We ran a cord to the machine and did a test  load of laundry and all works like a dream, so hopefully  the rest will soon be completed and I can show you all a final photo.
The second half of the project is also progressing extremely well too. The photo below shows my original small  laundry room off the kitchen, with an external door to the back verandah.
In the first stage we had removed my two old storage cupboards and erected two sets of steel shelving
and had  re organized my full canning jars onto these.
So, this week we decided it was time to remove the old wash tub from the laundry, this created a load of work as we had to unload one complete set of shelving to access the tub and pipes underneath it.
After the tub came out, What a mess,horrible filth and old colours.
We then cleaned up the mess and capped off the water pipes  and placed the empty shelves onto the back wall where the tub had been.
I quickly repacked all the jars onto the  empty shelves and hubby got busy erecting a third set of shelves to go in the empty space.
As soon as we put in a new back door in a different location, the external door from this pantry will be permanently closed and a fourth  set of shelves will go in also, mainly to be used for my large canners, and big pots and kitchen appliances. We will also have a large chest freezer in there.
We will fill most all of the room up with storage, but it will be a wonderful handy, practical walk in pantry.
The last two photographs show the pantry in two light, one with the external door open,just  so that I could take a  lighter photo, and the last with the door shut as it will be full time in the future,but with a light on. It also shows  it's location just off the kitchen.This is the darkest,coolest room in the house, especially in our hot summers, so is the best room for the canning jars to be stored.
I can hardly wait for it all to be completed and now at least it all seems to be getting closer.
So everyone,
Until we meet again,
 Please take care,

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

That Crazy Canning Curse

We have just spent an wonderful but ,busy two and a half weeks up at the farm. I took up lots of supplies  with the intention on getting in and  getting a fair bit of canning accomplished. Before we left we made the decision to dig about 3/4 of our potato plants, not wanting to risk failure with remaining crop.
We  got a lot more potatoes than we expected to. these were "Nicola" brand that we bought as seed potatoes from Bunnings.

We kept enough to eat fresh while were were at the farm and decided to can the rest of them into chunks ready for mash or potato salad, and we also did a few jars of tiny new potatoes in their skins for a trial as I hadn't processed them that way before.We soaked  the chopped potatoes in several lots of water  before canning, as I have been told that  this helps to reduce the starch release from them after processing.

Before leaving the coast I had also taken advantage of some great sales at Harris Farm Market and purchased  about 6kgs of carrots and the same of sweet potatoes.

In all we ended up with 19 pints of white potatoes,plus 14 quarts of white potatoes,19 pints of carrots and 19 pints of sweet potato. I think I cut the sweet potato too small and will make them much bigger next time as I feel personally they are a little soft after pressure canning.

We also  bought a bulk lot of turkey wings  from our local poultry processing factory outlet at $1.25 per kg  before we went to the farm and half processed them on the coast(chopping into sections,Drummy ends,mid wing pieces and tips) and freezing into zip lock bags.
The first half of the drummy ends I skinned ,boned and chopped and set about preparing other chopped vegetables,potatoes,carrots,onion,celery, along with a pint of pre canned corn kernels.

I then packed all this in layers into quart jars,(there is no required order), added herbs and garlic,salt and pepper, covered with some pre-canned turkey stock,( but other times have used water and chicken stock powder.) and pressured canned for 90 minutes at 10lbs pressure.
These become really handy ready quick meals to heat and serve in minutes,we find them great as winter lunches.
With the other half of the  turkey drummy ends we also skinned and boned and then minced the turkey meat and made  the meat sauce recipe from the Ball Blue Book substituting the chicken with the turkey.I already have many,many jars of tomatoes canned from last season so it all goes in to make a rich tasty meat sauce for quickly pouring over cooked pasta and a yummy instant meal.

Normally I would use the bones from the drummy ends to make more stock, but we had our daughter's Kelpie dog visiting and our own old blue girl, so we decided to keep them along with the wing tips as treats for them which they loved.
the next thing we did was to can the turkey mid wing pieces,

We choose to pressure can these in our Fowlers Vacola No. 31  jars as we find it is the perfect size to stand 3 larger or 4 smaller wing pieces vertically in the jar. We raw pack these, add desired flavourings, but , no extra liquid as it produces it's own liquid under pressure.
We can fit 10 of these jars per load and on the second load I only had 5 turkey jars so filled up the remaining jars with chick peas  as they require the same processing time (90 min) as the turkey, and I prefer to run the canner full if possible for better efficiency.
Our rhubarb has been flourishing so we picked another bunch, this time I decided to chop it up and roast it in the oven with sugar and a little water, instead of in a pot on the stove top as I usually do. This worked well and after about an hour it broke down and I added some natural red food colouring and canned it up
We ended up with 7 yummy  crimson pints of  sweet rhubarb. I will probably take these over to my mum when I see her next as this is a really good size for her living alone, and I already have a great supply of my own. We love this for crumbles and pies with canned apple and also with ice cream and yoghurt. I also make homemade rhubarb ice cream which is beautiful.
My final canning job for the fortnight was a spur of the moment decision to use up some  canned plums I did last year that were way over ripe and went terribly mushy.
I decided to  dump a dozen jars in a pot, then blitzed them with my stick blender and strained through muslin to extract the  most liquid I could. I deiscarded the small amount of pulp and to the liquid in the pot I added  lemon juice, 2 pints of canned orange juice, and about 4 cups of sugar the original syrup in the plums already contained sugar)
I then boiled this mix for about 30 minutes and then poured into hot pints, sealed and water bathed at boiling point for 15 minutes.

I ended up with 12 pints of lovely fruity plum flavoured cordial.  I have been enjoying this  everyday with soda water and ice, a lovely refreshing drink, but would be equally lovely as a punch base or with white wine or sparkling mineral water.
I still have another 12 bottles of plums in the pantry so I will certainly be  turning them into more cordial to use at my leisure,well worth the effort.
We had a really busy canning schedule fitting it all in between all the other activities that we managed to accomplish on this visit. I have broken it all up into areas, and will post a few more times this week detailing  all these things we did.
So until then,
Take Care everyone,