Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Another Crazy Exhausting Week.

As I concluded  my last post we had been experiencing  extreme weather conditions  and there had been  terrible fires about 40 minutes away.
I had a medical  appointment in Sydney  and so the day after the fires we travelled down and were diverted because of the fires.
We  passed  near them and could see smoke  on the horizon  clearly visible
And then as we progressed along the roads we passed many, many fire trucks on their way to help out.
We  found our way to Sydney and to our Motel  and then I booked into the Hospital.
I was there to have an overnight sleep study followed up by a daytime sleep study as I have had some issues lately  with falling asleep whilst   driving. I have  been  treated for  sleep Apnea for several  years now and this was   also a revision of that treatment.
I had been bitten by a  red paper wasp the day before and had a really painful and itchy arm, but was advised not to  take an  antihistamine as it could affect the sleep  study results.
So they wired me up ,
(Not such a pretty picture)
And connected all the cables and  belts,
An even more  not so  pretty picture  :-)  :-)
And monitored me overnight.
Next morning I was  woken at 5.30 am and  allowed some free time to go downstairs ( along with all my electrical monitoring equipment attached)  to get some breakfast.
I had several "sleep  Opportunities" throughout the day and was released later that afternoon.
We had a lovely dinner at the motel to celebrate Valentines day and very early  the next morning headed  north out of Sydney towards Newcastle.
We had forgotten how much we hate the traffic  and it was good to leave early as all the cars were heading the opposite way to us.
We called past our old house on the coast, now earmarked for demolition or removal and had a coffee with our old neighbours. It was great to catch up. They gave me a few bromiliads to   bring up to the farm .

It was sad to see our old  home in such condition. Apparently it has now been vacant for many months awaiting council  approval for the planned unit development application.
We  visited the bee  keeping supplier  and purchased some more frames for our bee hive, then headed to Medowie to purchase 60 kgs of tomatoes that we had pre -ordered.

Our next stop was to a  jar and bottle supplier  at Rutherford  to  restock my supply of sauce bottles, jelly jars and  a new line of jars for me  to try a few new things.
 With the car loaded to the hilt we headed home up  the Golden Highway.
What a total  shock to us as we travelled up through the   area of the recent fires. The absolute blackness and starkness of the landscape where the fires had passed through only days before.

These fires were devastating , taking homes, properties, stock and  sadly we have also heard  a  precious life of a person working  on this fire.
We saw  many trucks of hay brought in to feed the surviving stock and saw many  groups of stock sitting and standing lost in their blackened paddocks.
My heart goes out to all the people  that lost so much in that horrible fire, it has been truly tragic.
After  returning home, we got busy and started to  sort out the tomatoes that I had brought home with us.
I started with  doing
  tall jars of crushed tomatoes, I use this for the base for many meals  here and also  the base for when I do some of  my sauces.

Next I decided to make up a good batch of tomato salsa. My supply of this in the pantry had completely run out .
I used this recipe from the Ball blue Book of preserving.
We  eat a lot of salsa, it makes a quick low fat, low cal dip with veggie sticks and is great to add to other dishes for a quick hit of flavour. I tend to make  a mild salsa so that all the family  and guests can eat it.
With the tomatoes I had left I did another 14 smaller jars of crushed tomatoes and  a double batch of Quetta ( a spicy tomato style  relish/chutney. It is an old recipe from the "Coronation Cook book" compiled many years ago by the CWA.
This should keep  the pantry well stocked for the next 12 months as well as allowing me to sell a little bit at a market stall at a  100 year  railway  celebration  that our town is having in April.
Our neighbour had lost a few ducks and the other night Brian found this fellow slinking around our turkey yard thinking he was going to pick up another tasty feed.
But he was mistaken,  he won't be  hanging around here again.
Sadly this is a necessary  part of our life, Brian doesn't like to  kill needlessly, but our poultry flock are very important to us.
We have had  a really extreme summer, very hot extended periods with little or no rain. Our poor farm is truly suffering.
Hopefully  it will turn around soon and all will be well again.
Take care of you and yours until we meet again,

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.