Sunday, June 27, 2010

Warm Heads = Happy Heads (crochet fun)

I've been spending some time lately practicing my crochet skills, or rather lack of. It really does take quite some getting used to, but I think I am at a stage now, where I am finally figuring out my own unique way to hold the yarn to produce an even tension. (To be honest, I would've been happy with any tension!).

Anyhow, I thought I'd share a couple of pics of what I've been up to. I'm really liking hats at the moment..either knitted or crocheted, maybe because they are fairly quick to finish (compared to say, a blanket!), and I am finding it fun working in the round.

This hat was made for my 6 year old, who was absolutely taken with it, mistakes and all!


It must be the colours I think...



She wore it to bed last night and I had to request for it to come off today so that I could take a picture of it. For more details and pattern info, see my Ravelry Link.


I also found some time to practice some more, this time for myself. Yes, another beanie to add to my (rapidly growing) collection. I'm really happy with this one, and once I got the hang of the trebles and skipping business, it was very enjoyable seeing it grow...actually bigger rather than smaller, which was the case last week! Note the wonky flower on the front...am really loving the flowers at the moment too!

Ladies Flower Beanie
Ladies Flower Beanie
I ended up using some leftover yarn from another project (err..hat!). I would suspect that there would be quite a bit left over from a ball of 100g dk/8 ply yarn. The hat was crocheted using a 5.5mm hook and fits my (standard women's size?) head.

Make 3ch, join with sl st to 1st ch to form ring.

Rnd 1: 1 ch, 8dc in ring, sl st to 1st dc (8dc).
Rnd 2: 3 ch, 1tr in same sp as sl st, 2tr in ea dc to end, sl st to 3rd chain of starting ch (16tr)
Rnd 3: 3 ch, 1tr in same sp as sl st, 2tr in each tr to end, sl st to 3rd ch of starting ch (32tr)
Rnd 4: sl st to next st, sl st into sp before next st, 3ch, 1tr in same sp as sl st, *miss 2 tr, 2tr in next sp, rep from * to end, sl st to 3rd ch of starting ch (16 x 3tr)
Rnd 5: sl st to next st, sl st into sp before next st, 3ch, 1tr in same sp as sl st, *miss2 tr, 3 tr in next sp, rep from * to end, sl st to 3rd ch of starting ch (16 x 3tr)
Rnd 6: sl st to next st, sl st into sp before next st, 3 ch, 2 tr in same sp as sl st, *1ch, miss 3tr, 3tr in next sp, rep from * to end, sl st to 3rd ch of starting ch (16 x 3tr).
Rnd 7-15: rep rnd 6
Rnd 16: 1 ch, 1dc in every st and sp to end, sl st to 1st dc.
Rnd 17-20: Rep rnd 16. Fasten off and weave in ends.

Flower
Make 2 ch.
Rnd 1: 6dc in 2nd chain from hook, sl st to 1st dc
Rnd 2: (1dc in next dc, 2 ch) 5 times, 2ch, sl st to 1st dc
Rnd 3: Change to main colour (if using), (1dc, 1htr, 3tr, 1htr, 1dc) in each 2-ch sp, sl st to 1st dc.
Fasten off. Sew in ends.

Source: Spotlight Essentials Pattern Book 2008


It even has holes to let the fresh air in, as my daughter told me!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pumpkin & Feta Pies

Aah, pumpkin. The fruit (or vegetable as we like to call it) of winter. This was the last of my homegrown buttercup pumpkins, and I couldn't think of a better way to have used it up. It's flavour is very sweet and the flesh is creamy, almost turning to a mash when roasted. I have scooped out some of the seeds which are now drying in the kitchen, to save for next years crop.


Pumpkin & Feta Pies

You will need:
1 small to medium sized buttercup pumpkin (butternut can be substituted), cut into 1-2cm cubes
3-4 small homegrown leeks ...or...1 large leek if store bought, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3-4 spring onions, sliced
a couple of leaves of silverbeet, chopped
a few sprigs of thyme and sage, chopped finely
a handful of fresh, flatleaf parsley, chopped
2 sheets frozen puff pastry
100ml pouring cream
2 eggs
100g greek feta, crumbled
olive oil, salt and pepper



To make the filling:
Preheat the oven to 200c. Place the diced pumpkin onto a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes or so, until tender and crisping on the edges. Remove from oven and allow to cool.


Gently saute the leeks, spring onions, thyme, sage and garlic in a little butter and olive oil until tender but not coloured.. Add the parsley and silverbeet off the heat....


...and mix into the roast pumpkin. Season well with salt and pepper. Mixture can be covered and refrigerated at this point for 1-2 days, or frozen, if need be.


To make the pies, grease two twelve-hole muffin tins and line with squares of puff pastry (each square made nine pies). Fill with the pumpkin mixture. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and cream together and pour small amounts of this into the muffin cases, just to enclose the pumpkin filling. Sprinkle the tops of the pies with the crumbled feta


...and bake for 20-25 minutes on 180c until golden. Cool slightly before removing from pan.



Great to eat on their own or to accompany a selection of appetisors.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Duck Rescue

About a week ago, a friend mentioned that she knew of a duck that was having a rough time. It was being kept among some chickens and was suffering from a quite a bit of pecking attack. The owners couldn't keep the duck as they had nowhere else to house her and were worried that it wouldn't survive if left in the brutal environment that can be a chicken run.

My friend only mentioned it in passing, but I happened to be on the lookout for a duck, that is, a female. As we have two drakes and one duck already (peking), I am concerned that come breeding season, the two males will be too much for our lovely duck to handle. The poor hen-pecked bird happened to be a female, so we are now the new keepers of her.


I have never been exposed to any pecking wounds, our girls only just giving the 'token peck' when someone pushes in first for the food bowl or the juiciest worm. It was actually quite a shock to see the damage on our poor bird and evidence to just how cannibalistic chooks can be. It's not their fault, it's in built into their genes. They're just behaving the only way they know how, but it wasn't pretty for our new duck. The feathers had been plucked out from her tail region and two sections on either side of the tail feathers had raw flesh exposed, which hadn't had a chance to heal because of the constant pecking from the chooks. Apparently, once raw flesh is exposed, chickens just keep pecking and pecking at it....ugh!


So. Our little friend has been in the 'hospital' all week - a sectioned off area at the end of our chook pen that has a cat carrier for a bed/nesting box, and her supply of food and water. We believe she is a Muscovy around 12 weeks old. The pink colouring on her tail is the antibacterial spray that I have been using to treat her wound. She is eating well and getting plenty of rest, so fingers crossed she will make an exit from the hospital in the next week or so, once I am satisfied with her progess.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Apple-icious!

What do you get when you combine two friends, a sizeable amount of beautiful, fresh apples and an uninterrupted day of kitchen activity?

Quite a lot, as it turns out!

My friend Kirsty had picked up two boxes of Pink Lady apples at the local market and was looking to preserve some of them. Easily persuaded to join her, I managed to also pick up some apples, although mine were Granny Smiths from the local fruit shop. Both great apples!


We got to work yesterday, peeling and chopping the apples and by the afternoon, Kirsty's kitchen had produced:

Homemade apple pies, made by Kirsty
Three of her delicious smelling apple pies (the other one is still baking). She plans to put these in her freezer for easy winter desserts. That is, if they don't get eaten first!

...around a dozen bottled jars of apples (size 20 -600ml and 27 -900ml Fowlers jars). I'm looking forward to using these in fruit crumbles over winter.

A huge supply of peelings and cores that were made into homemade pectin stock, for future jams and jellies.

The pectin stock was made by following these directions from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. I took around half of the peelings home with me and put them in the slow cooker with some water for about 6 hours, they were then hung to drain overnight and the stock bottled this morning. The peelings I had produced 9 x 300ml jars. I wonder how Kirsty went with hers...


Homemade pectin stock for jam making
The pectin stock produced an impressive set test before bottling. I'm curious to see how it compares to the commercial pecin.

Kirsty also put a full load of sliced apples (soaked in lemon juice first), into her dehydrator. She mentioned her kids have been munching on them already!

Not having a dehydrator myself, I strung some apples up on string and hung them in my kitchen, just to get in on the action!

Drying apples, the old fasioned way.
I'm not sure how long they'll take to dry out, but I'm happy to wait. I just love looking at them though, as does my 10 year old, who thought they should be strung up on a Christmas tree!

Cooking with friends is a such fun way to work your way through a bulk supply of produce, which would otherwise be quite a chore if done alone. I'm really looking forward to more days like this!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy Winter Solstice!

Winter Solstice takes place when the Earth's axial tilt is furthest away from the sun. Even though it lasts only a moment, many cultures throughout the ages have chosen to celebrate this event which falls around the shortest day and the longest night. Occurring at the darkest time of the year (and for many, the most depressing), celebrations generally called for feasting, bright illumination, large fires, gathering with close friends, dancing and singing to combat the winter blues and reinvigorate the body and the spirit.

I'm lucky to have a good group of people to celebrate the solstices with. We meet for both the Winter and Summer Solstices, at someone's home who is prepared to brave the assault that is our group (plus significant others and children). Winter Solstice sees people bringing along hearty pots of soup & bread and warm winter puddings to share. We gather around fire and enjoy the company of those around us. The kids are off exploring, climbing trees, chasing sheep or getting up to mischief.

The celebration starts early..usually around 4:00pm-ish because it gets dark so early and wraps up around 8-9pm, as small people are getting tired (and grumpy) by this time. Some people bring drums or other instruments to play. Others love to stoke the fire. Lots of talking goes on too, along with the odd small injury on a child from a travelling sparkler or flying ember.



Tonight's weather was perfect..clear and cold, with stars easily spotted. Perfect for a Winter Solstice celebration. And for gathering with friends!

Happy Winter Solstice!

Do you celebrate the solstices? How?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Easy homemade birdfeeder

Where did the weekend go this week? One minute it was Thursday afternoon and the next..it's Sunday night! Rainy days, a new duck, a trivia night, the daughter's netball game and a drive to the girls' grandparents house made up the bulk of the weekend.

I wanted to share this cute little bird feeder made by our six year old at "Joeys" (a pre cub/scout group for younger kids). It was really simple for them to make, requiring only a pine cone, some softened 'Copha" (coconut fat), birdseed and string.

The crevices of the pine cone were filled with the softened copha then the cone was rolled in the birdseed. Finally the sting was attached. She hung it up on our birdfeeder which is right near our kitchen door and have been greeted with the most lovely visitors - tiny finch-like birds that sit on the cone and peck at the seeds. Sometimes three or four come at once and if we are sitting at the table, it's a real treat to watch them.


I also managed to fit in a little bit more crochet practice before the weekend. Using a book from the library, I followed the directions and created my first actual hat! The book is called "To Cute Crochet for Babies and Toddlers" and the pattern is the Busy Bumble Bee hat on page 85. It was slightly too small for the person who I had it in mind for, but it didn't seem to matter, it soon was squished on and worn without protest.


So now I'm back to the pattern of the hat that seemed to grow smaller not bigger.....and actually trying to make it go the other way around.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Learning a new skill - Crochet

I've been spending a bit of time this week trying to get my head around the skill (and trust me when I say the word 'skill'), of crochet.

It is something I have always wanted to know how to do and just love the look of. I can remember my nana crocheting granny squares when I was a young girl. My mum is also a keen crocheter, whipping together all sorts of beautiful garments for little girls to wear. Why didn't I ever learn? Good question. I have no idea!

It's been really weird changing from knitting on two needles to using one crochet hook. And finding a way to hold the yarn, the work AND the hook has been a real challenge! (How on earth do crocheters get their tension even?).



I have a few crafting books from my op shop travels and dug these out to see where to start. I know there is so much information online, but I really like using books as a starting point (although nothing beats a late night youtube for when you are really in a pickle!). Most of my books are from the 70's and 80's and although the photography and yarn colours are hideously retro, the instructions are still accurate and are (theoretically, at least!) easily followed.

After discovering that Australian crochet terminology is different to American, I finally got my head around some of the basic stitches: dc, half tr, tr, which would be sc, half dc and dc in US terms (I think!).

Maybe a little too ambitious to start with..a hat that seemed to grow smaller instead of bigger...

My journey then took me to crocheting flowers, which I just find so lovely! I like the look of them on a hat, a girls dress or a bag. If only I could figure out which 'spaces' to put the hook into! (And why I always seem to run out of one space right at the end....).

But at least they are recognisable as a flower, unlike my first few attempts. All the 'learning duds' go to the daughter who manages to get in quickest, they seem to love them as much as I do!

The Learning Duds. Great for young girls to play with.


And so begins my journey into the vast world of crochet. I do hope it's a good one.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Useful Tools for Warming Winter Lunchboxes

With winter making it's presence known, our girls have been asking for soup in their lunchboxes lately. Willing to indulge this request I set about finding a suitable vessel to contain the warming, liquid goodness.

After a failed attempt with a plastic, tiffin style food carrier that could neither be opened (by my daughters or their teacher!), and which also left the food stone cold...not even the slightest bit lukewarm, I have found the perfect carrier. A Thermos brand stainless steel, vacuum insulated food transporter.

It keeps soup SO hot that little mouths have to blow on it to cool it down! It doesn't leak! It can be opened easily by small hands, AND it is easily cleaned, accommodating my adult sized hand.

Daughter #3 has been using hers for a couple of weeks, enjoying all manner of hot delights. The other two daughters, opting for a skinnier version were somewhat limited in their options...to pretty much soup. Daughter #1 had the bright idea of taking a sausage roll one day, but indeed could not get the tasty morsel out of the narrow necked opening on her vessel. She went without lunch that day.

Seeing how much they embraced the whole Lunchbox Thermos Revolution, I decided to put the two older girls out of their misery today and get them each a wide mouth thermos. ($23au).
The opening is large enough for any number of foods to enter and exit and the cup on top doubles up as a bowl. The capacity of the thermos is 750ml.


I'm excited! The food options are plentiful, and I'm thinking we can include but are not limited to:
-lasagne
-sausage or vegetable rolls
-soups (a whole other chapter here!)
-falafel
-noodles
-warm milo or hot chocolate
-meatballs
-quiche
-curries
-pasta (penne, macaroni, etc with sauces) and ravioli, which brings me to my next purchase.

A ravioli pressing device ($27au on sale, reg $39au).

This will make homemade ravioli SO much more time efficient! This little baby whips out 36 small squares in one hit, and is the same width as a sheet of pasta that is rolled out of a pasta machine. Of course, other shapes were available, but the squares are just so traditional, right?


I'm really looking forward to coming up with new ideas for their school lunches with our new carriers. And so are my girls! If you have an idea for something not listed, I would love to hear, it could be our next favourite thermos lunch!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Apron Fever?

Still on my weekend sewing bug, I got to work yesterday on some sheets that I had picked up at the op shop last week. They had hardly been used..the fabric was still starch-ily crisp! I don't know what size they are either, but they are absolutely HUGE. (I'm thinking..queen or king size).

We have a shortage of small aprons at home for the frequent helpers in the kitchen. The youngest really needed an apron to cover her clothes when baking. I traced a simple pattern from dd#1's apron on to some newspaper, and then pinned and cut the fabric as usual. It's a little on the large size for our 6 year old bakerette (fits the 10 year old much better!), but I'm sure she'll grow into it. This apron was actually cut from a pillowcase in the sheet set, as you can see with all of the trim thrown in... couldn't let it go to waste now, could I?


The Pillowcase Apron

So taken with her apron, I just couldn't resist sewing up one for myself in a different colour, because one can never have too many aprons, right? The pattern was made the same way - by tracing around my favourite kitchen apron on to newspaper and then sewing it as usual. They are super quick to whip up...under an hour, including cutting it out.


Even big girls need aprons

Last week I also picked up the cutest little red gingham apron on my travels....I just couldn't resist! I'm beginning to wonder if I am developing a slightly disturbing obsession with aprons...

But they just make me SO happy! Read this post to understand why I like them so much.

And with weather like this......


....who wouldn't want to be snug and cosy inside, sewing away to their heart's content?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Slow Saturday...

What are rainy days at home good for?

A little bit of cooking....

Steak, Guinness and Cheese Pie from Jamie at Home. Made with a little home brew stout.....


Oh, no! It looks like we have a gusher!!

Too bad mushrooming season is over...some Slippery Jacks would've been very tasty in this pie.

Also good weather for a little bit of sewing...

A vintage style top to wear over jeans....The Husband has named it the The Carol Brady Top. I like it. The material came from the op shop and so did the pattern.....


....which was opened but had never been used! Curious, I checked out when it was made...Published in 1972!


Don't you just love the diagrams in retro orange?
Instead of sleeves, I made a simple 'facing' to finish the armholes off.

...and also good weather for finding a cosy spot with a favourite read.

Hope your Saturday has been just as good.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Aww, shucks...

It seems I have been awarded my first blog award. Huh, who would've thought! Thanks, Tammy.

Tammy kept me motivated when I first started keeping this blog, by dropping by and saying hi, commenting on this and that, for which I'm really grateful. Thankyou!

I'll admit, I'm not much of an award minded person, but in the spirit of the award I will share ten things about me that make me happy.

1. Happy kids laughing
2. Smooth, pudgy baby skin
3. My goaty cuddles as their prickly face hairs tickle my nose
4. Seeds sprouting out from damp earth
5. Warm, crusty bread straight from the oven
6. A roaring bonfire on a cold day
7. Successful op shop visits
8. Sleep
9. Taking a good photo (which is pretty rare)
10. Cooking for people I love - without it being expected

(a great hubby and happy kids aren't listed, because this goes without saying)

Oh, and just cause I'm me..I'm adding another:

11. Finding all of the fantastic blogs out there and the wonderful people behind them. So much to read and learn and many friendships to be formed as well!

I'm choosing not to forward this award on, because I believe the real value of keeping a blog is the knowledge that is shared in the 'community' and the comments we leave on each others space as confirmation that there are people out there that 'get' what we are on about....Awards are great, if that is your thing, but for me, they're not. I always was lowsy at chain mail as a kid....

Thankyou all the same, though, I really do appreciate the thought.

And speaking of successful op shop visits...I had a ripper today!

Here's a little sneak peak...

Still musing over what they're going to be...stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Nonna's Spaghetti & Meatballs - Slow Cooker Style

Have you got some really quirky cookbooks on your shelf?

I do, and I want to share my favourite. It was given to me a few years ago and is a compilation of 'Authentic Italian' recipes, submitted by real people...Italian even!, with the proceeds from the sales of the book going to charity. "Amici Nella Cucina" or Friends in the Kitchen, is right up there with my favourite cookbooks. It's been to hell and back and half the pages are soggy from splatters, but I would be lost without it!

My family isn't of immediate Italian background, so this little book is like having my own personal Nonna in the kitchen, helping me and offering advice about how to dry those tomatoes or roll that pasta. And any book with a  front cover that shows cooking over fire has got to be a keeper, right?


My favourite recipe from "Friends in the Kitchen", would have to be the spaghetti meatballs! I love, Love, LOVE them. And so does the family, which is great because it means I can cook up a big batch  of them and freeze them for quick, easy meals. They are actually referred to as "Merlino's Spaghetti Meatballs", but in my mind, they'll always be Nonna's ;o)......

Oh, and they cook up beautifully in the slow cooker too!



Not being content to leave the recipe as is, I have changed some quantities here and there and enjoy making them on cold, wintery days. These quantities are easily halved if a big pot of meatballs is not your thing.

Ingredients for the meatballs:
1kg minced beef (if preferred, subsitute 500g of the beef for ground pork)
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
4 fresh, free range eggs
a splash of olive oil
2 cups breadcrumbs
1-1 1/2 cups finely grated parmesan cheese (the real stuff, not the powdered packet affair). I know, it's a lot, but it's really worth it!
Fresh basil and parsely
salt and pepper

Ingredients for the sauce:
2 x 700ml passata bottles
3 x 400g cans of whole, peeled roma tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1-2 onions (2 if small, 1 if large)
Basil, salt and pepper

For the meatballs: mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Roll out into smallish balls (3cm-4cm-ish?) and place on a tray. If you have some time up your sleeve, refrigerate them for 30-60minutes. If not, heat a large frying pan over medium/med-high heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. Fry the meatballs in batches until sealed and browned, then place in preheating slow cooker.

For the sauce: Add the tinned tomatoes to the frying pan and break up with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic and onions and bring to a simmer. Season well with salt and pepper. Pour it into the slow cooker, adding the passata at this time as well. Stir the meatballs and sauce so that everything is evenly mixed. Add any dried herbs (if using) and set slow cooker on high for 1 hour, then on low for 5-6 hours, or alternatively on low for 8-10 hours.

Stir through some fresh basil and serve with a big bowl of spaghtetti and freshly grated parmesan, alongside some homemade garlic bread and a generous sized glass of red wine. This is wintery eating at it's best.



Do you have a favourite, quirky cookbook that lives on  your bookshelf?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Woodfired Oven Firing

When our woodfired oven was finally completed and our thoughts turned to actually cooking in it (imagine that!), one of the things I found so frustrating was not having anyone to talk to about how to go about it. There are plenty of websites and I even came across a good number of books, but nothing beats a real, live person to talk to, which I'm always on the lookout for! We are still getting the hang of this style of cooking and I find the whole lighting/firing procedure fascinating, so thought I'd take some pics...



The firing starts by lighting a small fire at the front of the door with newspaper and dry leaves/bark as kindling. I have found dry is very important! I've heard of some people using firelighters, but I chose not to, aside from my dislike of them, they may leave chemical residues in the oven where your delicious food is headed for...



Small sticks are added to get the fire going, still close to the front of the oven, to allow the fire to breathe.



Larger sticks and small logs are now added, and the fire can be gradually pushed a little further inward.



Once the fire has some 'kick' in it, big logs, even slightly damp logs can be added. Dry is best though. The husband managed to whip up a useful little door with a bottom vent in it, and we usually place this on for the whole firing time. Unfortunately I don't have a pic, but it's main purpose is to draw the air in for the fire, while at the same time keeping much of the heat in the oven and directing the smoke up and out of the flu - instead of puffing all back in the fire-stokers face. That picture will have to wait until next time..


I love this stage! The carbon (or soot), has been burnt off the inside of the dome bricks (because the oven is SO eyebrow-burningly hot!!). This can take anywhere between 2 1/2 -4 hours in our oven, depending on the weather, when it was last used, what type of wood we are burning and how dry it is and how often logs are added. If making pizzas, they would be cooked now by creating a 'horseshoe' of coals around the edges and placing the pizzas in the center, See here.

If baking bread, any coals are now raked over the hearth to distribute the heat. Leaving them like this for around 15 minutes (usually!) works for us.



The coals are removed with the peel and placed into a (metal - very important!!) bin. The floor is swept clean of ashes and the heavy door wedged in position.



A spare brick holds the door in place nicely. The oven can be left like this for 15-30 minutes until the bread is ready to be put in.
I'm finding it still a tricky business knowing when the oven is just right for the bread, not too hot and not too cool and actually timing the rising of the loaves as well. And burning my little thermometer in the fire today didn't help, so it was back to the flour test and waiting to see how long it takes to brown. Now, how long again is it meant to be exactly?

The result? Maybe it was a leeeetle bit too hot today with a bit of knife-scraping action going on, on the ahh, slightly crispy crusts, but still a good load of 10 (completely edible!) loaves for the freezer.


I guess that's why I love using the oven...it's always a surprise! And there is always the challenge to improve on what happened the previous time...

Today's bread
(split into two, 2kg flour quantities for easier kneading):

2400g white flour (60%)
1400g wholemeal flour (35%)
200g rye flour (5%)
16 tsp (55g) instant yeast
8 tsp salt
8 tsp bread improver
generous drizzle of honey
2800mls liquid (2 litres milk, 800mls water)
Instructions here.


Oooh, yes... Recognise the bread bag?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Beneficial plants for the backyard flock

I spent some time over the weekend compiling a list of beneficial plants to include in our new chook run. Backyard Poultry Naturally by Alanna Moore is a wealth of information for the new or seasoned poultry keeper and it contains a great section on what to feed your birds.

After perusing the book with pen and paper in hand, I have shortlisted some plants to give me a starting point to work from. Apart from general greens that can be grown for food/foraging, there are also what Alanna describes as 'Tonic Herbs', which can act as poultry conditioners and egg-laying stimulants.

So, my shortlisted plants to include in the new run are:

For greens/forage:
-silverbeet, cabbages, mixed grasses and clovers.
- canola/millet (Alanna recommends using packets of bird seed for this, what a great idea!).
- Oats/barley can be grown in winter, while lucerne can be grown over summer. I like the sound of this, but will need to investigate further. I am thinking of making some type of 'cage' to grow these in, that will allow the girls access to peck, but to prevent them scratching up the ground..

Silverbeet - check!

The 'tonic herbs' that I am keen to grow (although not necessarily all at once), include:
(apart from garlic, onion, mint, parsley and oxalis(!), which we already grow): Wormwood, cress, marigold, (dried)nettles and fennel. Dandelion, and chickweed are also on the list, but I'll see how I go with the others first. Powdered seaweed is also mentioned, and I do have a bag of this in the shed that I can mix in with their feed.

Wormwood - check!

I managed to find some wormwood growing on my travels and sneakily took a few cuttings, that will hopefully produce some good, strong plants, which will be contained behind some mesh until established.

Comfrey is also on my list, but as I have just planted some of this, will wait until it can be harvested and divided to include in the run. Apparently it is a protein rich tonic food (which also has the advantage of turning the egg yolks a wonderful yellow), although it is stated as being mildly poisonous. Something to keep in mind when it comes to quantity...don't overdo it!

The Eden Seeds catalogue I have at the moment includes many of the seeds listed, so I'm thinking a little bit of order placing is in my near future...

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