Sunday, 12 February 2017

A busy Summer here on the farm and eleswhere.

We have had  a busy  few weeks  since we attended the Elvis festival and I just haven't got around to  catching up with the blog.
After Elvis we brought our  6 year  old granddaughter back to the farm for about 5 days to have some special time with her.
Unfortunately the weather was unkind to us and  we had some horrible hot days which kept us indoors a lot. We set up the paddling pool which offered some relief.
We returned  her to  Wollongong and had a couple of days visiting our youngest daughter's family .
After leaving there we visited Brian's sister in Goulburn, they have purchased a beautiful 1930 home and are restoring it with so many  original touches as well as some modern  work, it truly is a credit to them.
They showed us  around their lovely city which was originally established to service the  rich local pastoral/ sheep industry.  It has some truly gorgeous old buildings and homes dating back to before the turn of the century, it was easy to see that there was a lot of money  around  there in those days.
We visited the war memorial lookout,
And took in the amazing view of the city and surrounds.
We visited "The Big Ram" celebrating the  wool industry.
We had a coffee at the Paragon cafe, a traditional 50's/60's Greek style cafe still operating in its  full glory, it seemed to be  a very popular spot for locals and tourists alike as it was packed to the rafters.
The  coffees and eats were delicious.
 We returned back to the farm  just in time to help with the  Australia Day celebrations in town.
Our local town celebrates with "Breakfast in The Park", after setting up the evening before, we assemble at the park around 6.30 am,
The  ceremony is always attended by local council members and an Australia Day Ambassador attends each year to  give a talk on their  life and  present local community service awards.
This year the Ambassador was Warwick Nowland a renowned  dirt motor cycle racing champion.
The local Men's shed then cook us all a sumptious  BBQ breakfast and we all sit to catch up and chat.
 Later that day after  the celebrations we got together next door at the BIL & SIL  home and  had a good old BBQ get together with a few others as well, A great day was had.
Our next batch of chickens were due to hatch  and right on  schedule they started appearing, we ended up with 14 in all.
The day after Australia day  our friends, Pat and Fay  from the coast  arrived to spend a few days with us.
Fay had just finished a rigorous  round of Chemo followed up by 6 weeks  of daily radiation, her last radiation was  the morning that they traveled up to the farm.
While they were here, I put them to work canning ( something they love doing). Hubby brought me up the peaches  from our new peach tree in the orchard( about a bucketful) and we got busy and canned them up.
While we were on a roll I also decided to can  a batch of chickpeas as my pantry supply was getting down a bit. Please note:  when I can chick peas I do not follow  the  safe canning guidelines. I use a method called "Ben's Beans" where  I wash the dried peas, pack the  correct amount per jar, cover with hot water and Pressure can for the  correct time and pressure for chick peas. ( I do not soak them or pre-cook them)
We use chick peas a lot, in dips (hummus), salads and soups and casseroles.
The  heat has been terrible, and our friend and neighbor  came down and helped Brian install some  ceiling fans out under the back verandah.

It makes a huge difference  out there, now making it bearable to sit out there and have a meal.
I then headed back to Parkes, Brian stayed here to keep an eye on  the farm, the conditions were just too serious  here for us both to leave.
I went to help out  our older daughter  for a few days as her work schedule clashed with the care arrangements in place.
The girls and I  had  a lovely time together, once again  the heat was  horrible and we did early morning activities and then laid low in the air conditioning in the  heat.
We  did lot's of  activities,
had a few outings, and played with the  sweet Kelpie dogs Doug and Desmo.
I returned home to find that our vegetable  garden  really had reached the point of no return.
We picked the last of the zucchini, cucumbers and green tomatoes,
So, I chopped it all upand  soaked it in salt and water overnight.
The next morning  the contents were dumped into a  big pot, brought to the boil, cooked 10 minutes and drained.
I then added  white vinegar and sugar and brought back to the boil for 3 minutes.

Then a paste made up of flour,curry powder, tumeric, cayenne pepper, mustard and vinegar,
This is then stirred into the vegetable mix and stirred and cooked until it all thickens and the flour cooks. Usually only a few more minutes.
I then filled my sterilized  jars with the boiling mix, capped them immediately with warm lids and sat on the bench to seal.
I do not water bath these as the flour may break down during the process and make the pickles to  runny, I have since been told that if  you use arrowroot instead of the flour they can be safely water bathed. Even not water bathed these keep beautifully on the shelf  for many years without any deterioration.
Brian has been working on closing in the small area where our cool room sits. Access into it was restricted and we also decided to move it back and too the right a bit to rectify that.
The  back wall will be finished next week after we  have  purchased a tin cutter  that he needs  to complete it. It is  going to be much better.
While Brian worked on that, I got in early and cleaned up what's left of our garden. The large garden in the orchard has now been opened to the smaller chickens and turkeys in the grower shed and they  have completely cleaned it up for us.
I pulled out the tomatoes and cucumbers and did a bit of weeding.
We had advertised our turkeys for sale on Gumtree and did sell four, another lady was to come this weekend but has failed to show. They are growing fast . We may take them to a local poultry auction  and see how they sell there, failing that  we  will  have a  butchering day and pop them in the freezer.
Our small farm is suffering terribly,  our water situation is the lowest it has ever been, we are by no means desperate, but we are lower than ever before. The paddocks are bare, and we are hand feeding our sheep. We recently sold 8 wethers at a sheep sale to reduce our numbers a bit.
We have had  atrocious weather, with heat wave temperatures  reaching record levels for the last few weeks. For the last few days it has reached  a scorching  47 deg C (116 deg F)
Today it has been accompanied by gale force winds that  are just so damaging and unbearable, we have been  sparaying the poultry down every few hours to keep them alive, but we are the lucky ones, less than an hour away  the firefighters are out in force fighting major fires that are out of control and threatening  farms and towns in it's path. We had been warned that todays fire level would be catasrophic and they were certainly right. We are watching reports on the TV as I write this post and hope and pray that they get it under control. The towns of Dunedoo, Coolah, Uarbury, Cassilis and  wauchope in another area are in great danger and there has already been great  tragedy. The one saving grace is that at this point no lives have been lost and I hope it stays that way.
So all my friends, stay safe if you are in any of the fire affected ares,
Take care
and I hope to catch up again soon.


  1. hope your water picks up soon, those are temps we are getting up here too, in qld, where they're common it was 55`c outside today & 41`c in my kitchen, i survived pretty well.
    hope it cools down for you soon
    thanx for sharing

    1. Ho Selina, we have family in Queensland, Brisbane area, Hervey Bay and Townsville..I don't think I could be a Queensland girl, the high temps and humidity would kill me. I hope you stay cool and I am sure that rain will come soon and all will be well.
      Take care

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  3. Jane I hope you are getting some cooler days ahead and some rain would certainly help....fingers crossed.
    I know that sort of heat, where your nose starts to bleed after 3pm and the vegies were cooking in the garden,don't ever want to deal with that again.
    The turkeys are getting big pretty fast, hope you can sell them soon.

    1. Hopefully the last of the heat this week Margaret, temps look like they might be a little cooler next week. I am really looking forward to summer's end this year( I must be getting old)

  4. Sydney has had the hottest days as well. Really quite unbearable to wander about outside. The catastrophic fire conditions are so worrisome. Seems your have had a busy summer but I guess that's how it is when you are being self-sufficient. My mum used to do a lot of food preserving and I can remember vividly the summer fruit bottling and jam making. Seems so long ago. Best wishes lillian.

    1. I remember the summer fruit bottling with my mum too Lillian, we always had a big orchard.
      The fires were devastating, we had to go to Sydney the day after I wtote that post as I had a hospital appointment at Royal North Shore and we were so worried about leaving. Thankfully all was ok here but not so for all those poor people that lost everything. We travelled back up through there a couple of days ago and my heart sank, so sad to see all that blackened earth... They now need rain to restore some pasture growth for the stock. People had been wonderful and there were bales of hay scattered everywhere to feed the surviving stock.
      Take care Lillian

  5. Hello Jane

    I very much enjoy reading your blog. You are so well organised in the task of preserving fruits and vegetables - it must be a real pleasure to be able to consume these foods over the months/years ahead.

    Despite the harsh summer weather you are always positive and active in your home duties and volunteer work and it is a pleasure to hear about your life. Thank you for sharing.


    Diane (from Bolwarra in the Lower Hunter Valley)

    1. Thank you Diane ,
      I really enjoy my preserving and organizing the pantry( a little issue I have with lining things up and balance) :-) :-)
      It's always wonderful to be able to have meals instantly with very little prep work on those days that you just don't feel like cooking.
      We also enjoy our volunteering, a great way to be social and meet like minded people in these small towns as well as hopefully adding to the improvement of the town.
      Take care

    2. Meant to add Diane, We came from Wallsend before we moved here to the farm. Love the Hunter Valley. Bolwarra is a beautiful area.