Thursday, June 30, 2011

Holly Hobbie and some very warm hands

Remember the Holly Hobbie/Laura Ingalls inspired hat from a while ago? Well! We were finally able to put it to use today when the 11yo went off for her "Goldfields Day" at school.

She was a trifle shy about the whole hat wearing thing and stuffed it into her bag as we were heading out the door. I like it! I think it is very Holly Hobbie-esque and I make absolutely no apologies for sewing it, even if it was just to indulge my youthful memories of crisp bed linen and sweet matching bedroom co-ordinates!

The skirt was made with the same sheet and I must thank Brydie for her generous package of trimmings which were rummaged through with anticipation as I selected the one most fitting for the purpose...

Of course, the 11yo went off to school with leggings on under the skirt and her jacket on top ....but I suppose this is what shy, 11yo girls do!  I hope she had fun and pulled out the hat at least for a little while, even if she only draped it around her neck to show that yes, she was in costume!

Do you wear fingerless gloves?

I came across a particularly easy and cosy crochet pattern recently and am excited to share it with you.

Unlike the first pair I made, this pattern works the gloves sideways which makes them easy to fit them as they are worked. Probably next time I will err on the side of tightness as they do tend to stretch with repeated on-ings and off-ings (and children stretching them up their arms as they just so love to do!).

The pattern from JR Crochet Designs can be found here.

You will find the gloves raveled here.

PS. Thanks for your replies to the Rosemary Hair Rinse post. I have updated the post with a pic of my *ahem* freshly washed hair in case there were some skeptics lurking out there. It's not the best pic, but at least it's out there *gulp*. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Rosemary hair rinse


Today I have something exciting and easy for you to make at home.

First of all, do you shampoo? And then condition?

Maybe not?


I'll let you in on a little secret...........


I haven't shampood my hair for over a year.

Now I know that suddenly you are getting visions of a greasy haired lout but this is not the case. Notice I said "shampoo". Not cleaned. No sir, no overpackaged, petro-chemical filled solutions for this humble head.

I wash my hair with homemade soap bars that lather up really well so it's just like washing my hair with the aforementioned product, except without all the harmful effects and health worries.

So what happens when it's time to condition, you ask?

It's true, washing (wash-oo-ing?) with just cleansing bars can leave your hair in quite a tangle, especially if it's shoulder length like mine.

The solution? A homemade rinse, with deliciously smelling rosemary that de-tangles, nourishes the skin and adds shine all in one go.

Homemade rosemary infusion

I have been using my little homemade rinse here for several months now and am 100% pleased with it. Wouldn't go back to bottle products, no sir!

Homemade Rosemary Hair Rinse
for use after hair has been cleaned

6-8 good size fresh rosemary sprigs
boiling water

Place the rosemary into a large glass, jar or small jug (again, hubby's beer drinking glass was called into action). Pour enough boiling water over the sprigs to immerse them and then leave to cool and infuse overnight.

The next morning, remove the rosemary (no need to strain, just pluck them out), and into a squeezy bottle (the sauce kind from the discount shop), place:
- a small amount of apple cider vinegar - approximately one tenth the volume of the bottle.

Top up with the rosemary water and give it a good shake.

To use the rinse, it's just a simple matter of squirting it through your hair after washing. Let it sit for a few minutes (I use this rinse in the shower), then rinse off for smooth, easy to comb hair.

The rosemary is wonderfully beneficial for itchy, dry scalp sufferers, improving the condition of the skin immediately and with each use.

The faint vinegary smell will disappear once the hair is dry. This quantity (a small squeezy bottle), should do at least 3 applications. Store it in the fridge between uses if your bathroom is on the warm side.

If it's freezing cold and the middle of winter, go ahead and warm the rinse a little before use. No point in yelping in the shower waking up the whole house, your skin will very much appreciate this small action.

Your pocket will also thank you for not purchasing those over-marketed products and the land will thank you for not filling it with plastic packaging, week after week.

Clean, fresh and natural (and yes, in need of a trim ;))

Happy combing :)

*See also: Nourishing Egg Yolk Hair Conditioning Treatment

Sunday, June 26, 2011

June garden round-up

Do you ever think there is absolutely nothing happening in your vegie patch, only to take a walk outside and find that in amongst the neglect things are still ticking over at their own pace?

Isn't it wonderful?

Plants really are so resiliant (usually!) and many tolerate oodles of neglect, at least in our garden, anyway...

The lemon tree I transplanted from a pot to the ground last year has a grand total of two lemons! Maybe I should've picked them off to let the tree settle in a bit although it looked like it was doing a fine job of this already, throwing out lots of new leafy growth that had been lost over the previous summer..

Lemon - Lisbon
The garlic that went in at my last vegie group day here  has all come up! I confess to tending this neglected patch last week by weeding and mulching. Horse manure is great for the soil but it sure does sprout out a lot of weeds..
Garlic, sprouted from last year's homegrown cloves
The raspberry walk also needed a good dose of TLC. As always with this area, I wish I had stopped and thought to take a 'before' pic as well..
Raspberries - a mixture of thornless and thornies
The rambling growth was pruned to remove dead wood and weak spindly growth. Each 'clump' (which are spaced around 30cm apart) was then tied together, holding half a dozen or so of the strongest new canes. Fingers crossed for a good season!

In the greenhouse I have been very slack at remembering to water, although the plants didn't seem to mind too much. It doesn't get as much sun as I'd like it to at this time of year, but with huge gum trees in the way there's not a lot I can do..
Broccoli, swede, beetroot, snow peas, radish, rocket, lettuce and spring onion
It's lovely to have radishes ready for picking! I have missed these..

After much internet searching I finally found a source to supply me with a madder plant, for which I payed a hefty fee for (plus delivery). Really, really fingers crossed here the little guy makes it!
Hopefully one day it will provide a little root material for some dye 'speriments..

Nothing to do with the garden, but who can resist a fire in this weather?
Mental note: Wet, cold ovens take soooo much longer to heat up than when they are dry and warm..
Perennial leeks. Yep, they have been as generous as always. This little patch held 16 lonely looking leeks a few months ago, now they have overpopulated and desperately need harvesting/thinning.
Perennial leeks - stirfries and soups here we come!
And a while back when I was moving the chook dome onto it's new bed I just had to dig this little lady up and re-plant her. I'm loving this light pink stemmed silverbeet at the moment (isn't it classy?), and I thought the move would cause it to go to seed, to which I would gleefully collect and re-sow for my own culinary pleasure...

Although it doesn't seem to be in any hurry to flower, which is just fine by me at the moment!

What's happening in your patch?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Reflections and focaccia

Thanks again for your comments this week on the loss of our chooks. Your kind words meant so much to me, I really appreciate each and every one of them :)

I think we may have a spell from keeping hens, at least for the winter and perhaps look at starting another flock again in spring. I'm just not feeling up to jumping back in straight away and the foxes are not going to go away now we are the number one stop on their food scavenging map. Reinforcements to the pen will also have to be made and at least this way there is no rush.

I also have to say thanks to my dear veggie group friend who provided us with Mr Green, I spotted her on our doorstep after school today- she had taken it upon herself to kind heartedly pop around with a carton of her own homegrown very thoughtful!
An altered reality; the top half is the reflection and the bottom half is the reality. This image is upside-down from the original. Go on, spin your screen around  to check, just like I've been doing!

Filled Focaccia
A good bread to take along where a savoury snack is needed, or a plate to accompany other foods. Prepare the dough the night before and allow it to rise in the fridge overnight. Easy to assemble the following morning using whatever ingredients you have to hand for the filling. Yummy, too!

Start by making a batch of your favourite bread dough. I used a basic 500g flour, 2tsp yeast, 1tsp salt, 330mls warm water dough, with a good few dollops of olive oil included as well. Mix to a dough and knead briefly until mixture is smooth and elastic (or toss it all into the bread machine if you're hauling goats into their paddock again). Prove at room temperature until doubled in size or as mentioned above - placing it in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, or after it has doubled in size, divide the dough in two equal pieces and roll out one piece into a largish rectangle about 1cm thick. Spread with your favourite ingredients, whatever is growing in the garden or delicatessen delights to suit your tastes.

For this particular focaccia I used some homegrown garlic which had been finely minced and then mixed with some olive oil which was spread onto the base, crumbled fetta, finely chopped fresh rosemary and cheddar cheese. Plus a good grinding of black pepper.

Roll out the other piece of dough in the same fashion and position carefully on top, matching the shape of the bottom piece as best as you can. Set aside on a parchment lined tray to prove until nicely puffy and doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 220c. Make small indentations in the top of the dough with your knuckles, drizzle with olive oil then sprinkle with more chopped rosemary and coarsly ground sea salt.

Bake the focaccia for around 30 minutes, reducing oven temp to 200c after 10 minutes. The bread will be done when it is golden brown all over and yes, hollow sounding ;)

Cool on a wire rack before cutting..but don't let it get completely cold - it's good to eat while it's still a little bit warm you know!

Lunch, snack or an accompaniment to soup, it's your choice!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

All that remains...

..are a few feathers. From eight birds.

The gate was locked

although the fence had a weak spot

I don't know how many there were or if it was the work of a lone fox. I am devastated to have lost every single one of my chooks. The chook pen was silent when I went out to feed them and there were feathers scattered everywhere. The only consolation was that the attack had obviously been for food and not sport as there were no remains aside from the feathers.

What a waste.

I know it's just the food chain at work and I am being a hopeless romantic but these birds were special to me. They knew the drill. The ISA's were my gardeners, going to work for me each day in the chook dome to till the soil and clean up pests. The eclectic remainder were my fruit tree pest controllers, dust-bathing on the slope and cultivating around the trees to keep the weeds at bay.

Eggs were icing on the cake.

Manure was a bonus.

Catching sight of them through the kitchen window added joy to my day.

They will all be missed.

Goodbye Mr Green. I will miss your handsome presence, hearty crow and funny little dance that you do.

Goodbye dear, sweet black orphington bantam. You weren't with us for long but we enjoyed having you here.

Goodbye dear, dear Violet. This is breaking my heart. You were my favourite. I will miss your flapping antics, funny expressions and beautiful blue eggs.

I'm so very sorry to have this happen to you all. After four years of not a single fox attack on our chook pen, I thought we were safe. Obviously not.

People reading, if you keep poultry, please, please check your fencing mesh and make sure there are NO weak spots where a fox can dig and slither underneath. Your girls are dependant on you.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Woolly updates

It feels like I've totally jumped into the deep end in regards to fibre for spinning. There is a drum carder on loan in our home at the moment from spinning group and I've been excited to see if I can create my very own batts. My main aim is to blend some of the alpaca fiber with a portion of wool as this apparently helps to keep the 'memory' in the alpaca (which is notorious for dropping, according to nearly every spinning/knitting person I come across..).

This is my first batt going through the rollers. Youtube once again came to the rescue, showing me several techniques to get me on my way...

And here it is off the drum! How exciting! Yes, a little on the small side, but it really does look like a 'batt'! This one won't be going into the roof though..oh no, not this little baby. And so soft!! So, so soft!

Once this one was off the rollers, the next ones went much more smoothly, averaging 40g for each batt, with the first one being 20g.

I decided to then split them in quarters lengthwise to form them into a rustic type of roving. Pre-drafting them a little helped, although it's still going to take a bit of time to get the hang of spinning with them...

It was enormously satisfying to create them from absolute scratch. The batts are approximately 60% alpaca, 40% wool.  I have about as much as this quantity again that has been cleaned to pick over, comb and card. Slowly, the dent will be made in those bags of fibre!

I'm also super pleased to have finished this sleeveless cardi this week. It's been on my list for yonks and once started, it only took a few nights to complete! I love it.
The free pattern can be found here  and was extremely easy and fast to knit, using 12 ply yarn and 7mm circular knitting needles. I used the two skeins of Bendigo yarn that I picked up last time I was there.

Knitting from the top down also meant that I could add a few extra rows to the length to suit (accommodate!) my shape.

Having no seams is also my favourite kind of knitting! When you're finished, you really are finished! No fussing around with yarn needles and seams. You can find it raveled here.

A happy Winter Solstice to you and yours!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

At our place...'s cold! Wintery weather makes for gloomy pictures but I thought I'd share what's happening around the place lately...

There must be slim bug pickings at the moment because our ducks are staaaarrvvviingg!! They follow me about the place constantly voicing their disapproval. I'm feeding them twice daily, but you know, this stiiiilll isn't enough for them!

There are odd little piles of wood scattered around the property (oops! Sorry, I shouldn't say little, hubby worked very hard to create these heaps). It's homegrown timber that has either died and been felled or has fallen over on it's own.

Here is our access to our main wood pile:
Not so much fun to travel through. We can't even use the little ride-on with the trailer for hauling wood due to the slush factor. It looks like it's back to stumbling through squelching mud with the wheelbarrow again...*sigh*.

There is not a scrap of duckweed  left on our dam - it really did vanish with the first appearance of the cold weather. The delicate green surface covering has been gone for weeks now.
It will be interesting to see if and when it reappears...

Hello cheeky friend. The goats have had a mischievous couple of weeks, escaping the confines of their paddock. (Who wants to be tucked away up here when there are more exciting taste-offerings on the other side of the fence?). Back to big daily hand feedings and tweeking the electric fence, which fingers crossed is back up and running again.

Our oak tree has finally decided to turn colour! It is a magnificent tree - a small picture just doesn't do it justice.
Glorious to stand underneath and gaze up through the branches, soaking in the oak-eyness of it all..

Inside, I've heaved out the slicer for a spot of bread slicing action. It makes short work of cutting several loaves in one sitting...
And with slices that are all ridiculously consistant in thickness, I'm pretty happy to see it again!

I've also spent a bit of time today washing fleece. At the front is some local wool I purchased and behind is some fawn coloured alpaca.
Filomena (front) and Mashuri saddle (behind)
It's time to make a dent on the 7 bags full that are clogging up the lounge room! Wish me luck.

What's happening at your place?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fruit Loaves

Eager to put my new starter to use even if a little on the sluggish side, I decided to bake a couple of fruit loaves. A cinnamon and raisin bread similar to the one in the Handmade Loaf for the 11yo who can go through a whole loaf on her own in a few days! For me, non-consumer of raisins, sultanas and anything that resembles such fruit, an apple and cinnamon loaf made in the same style although making use of a portion of our air-dried apples from last week.

Raisin and Cinnamon loaf  and Apple and Cinnamon loaf
One of the things that really struck a chord with me recently while perusing Dan's book was his suggestion of how we should go about making bread for consumption at home. It sounds obvious - he advises on  packing as much fruit in as the person (people) who is going to eat it will enjoy. Be generous!

So often with bought bread the fruit inclusions are skimpy and hard to spot. Not so the case thankfully when baking at home, so it was with a heavy hand I got to work making the daughter's loaf....

Raisin and Cinnamon loaf

Apple and Cinnamon loaf

To make two loaves (one of raisin, one of apple):

500g leaven, your choice (I used predominantly white with a small amount of rye included)
1 kg flour, your choice (I used white)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp mixed spice
2 1/2 tsp finely ground sea salt
1 tbs honey
550g water

250g raisins
100-150g dried apple, coarsley chopped

*Spice was subtle in these loaves. If a spice hit is more of your thing add extra to the quantities listed*

Combine ingredients to form a dough using your preferred method. Divide in two and place into separate bowls. Add the raisins to one bowl and the apples to the other. Mix/knead gently to incorporate fruit. Prove for 5 hours, covered at room temperature. Shape, then prove for a further 4-5 hours or refrigerate overnight. Bake at 220c for 20 minutes, reduce oven to 200c and rotate loaves if needed and continue to bake for another 20 minutes or so, until golden brown and hollow sounding. Cool on wire rack.

For tips on getting started with making your sourdough starter from scratch, visit Brydie's blog; cityhippyfarmgirl.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

'Real' bread, revisited - a sourdough tale.

There has been a bit of bread action in our house over the last week or so. The reason? A young sourdough starter, eager to make it's way in our kitchen.

I have to start this tale by saying that sourdough is not new to us. Indeed, I had quite a fulfilling affair with it some two years ago. I was smitten.


Somewhere along the line a series of events caused me to stop baking my beloved bread.

1. The hearty filling bread, being so full of character, filled young bellies after just one (good) slice. Not wanting to appear frugal in the lunchbox department, I insisted on packing sandwiches made of two (good!) slices for the tweens' lunches. Oh yes friends, they were packed off to school everyday with a doorstop sandwich of the most generous which, every day their bag would come home with the leftover slice. Sometimes days would go by and they would present the leftover offerings to me in the most apologetic fashion, asking meekly "Will the chooks eat these?" *sigh* This is what it had come down to, me baking hearty breads for our hens. I was feeling particularly valued. No wonder their eggs were so good!

2. The crusts, being 'real' bread, are most appealingly crunchy. For me at least. I dare not talk for hubby's tastes, but I confess, the crusts came home just as often as the 'leftover' slices.

3. Thirdly, only the keenest homebakers continue to bake their weekly bread over the summer months when temperatures swelter into the 40's. Sometimes even the most active starter gets neglected. Forgotton at the back of the fridge *blush*.  "I'll bake tomorrow evening, when it's cooler".
"Oh, I forgot to feed the starter yesterday, I'll do that now and bake tomorrow when it's not so hot". "Oh, bugger, a week has gone by, I'll just feed the starter to keep it going until I get around to baking (when it's not so ragingly hot)".
"Oh. Dear. It's the end of summer, I wonder how my starter is going...*Gasp* Mould? Fluffy mould? A hard skin? All dried out? This cannot beeee....*wail* It's dead!".

A sad tale indeed.

But my friends, there is an upside!

This time around there will be no imposing my tastes on my tweens and their lunchboxes! They may eat as much or as little of my offerings as they please, there will be no enforcements.

They can even cut the crusts off if their little mouths so desire!

And at the onset of Summer, I hereby vow to place a small receptacle of our precious new starter into the freezer to await it's emergance again the following Autumn. Perhaps I'll even continue to feed a token starter in the fridge, to bake with when temperatures permit.

My starter was created in a most cringe-worthy manner, but I have come to the conclusion it worked.

Into a glass (hubby's big beer drinking glass, to be exact), I placed: a cup (250mls) of water which had been allowed to stand overnight (to evaporate chlorine) and three dried dates. This was left for a few days but all that seemed to take place was a murkiness of the water and some unsightly shapes inside it. Unconvinced anything was taking place, I added 1 teaspoon of sugar and a tablespoon of homemade yoghurt. Another couple of days went by. It really looked like a frightful mess with curds of yoghurt and brownish liquid.

What to do?

Strain and add flour. Rye flour, organic. A day and bubbles appeared...and then some more! Another feed, at a ratio of 1:1 flour/water. We were back in business again! It was alive and frothing!

After the first couple of obligitory brick offerings and a few more feeds, it rose my loaf! (My, that sounds raunchy, doesn't it?)

But it did!

If you are at all interested in sourdough baking, I cannot reccomend the book below enough! It has been a godsend, both then and now, so full of knowledge and tips that make baking this kind of bread so much fun!

What I'm enjoying most though are the slow rise times. Sourdough is so forgiving at when it can go into the oven, not like dry-yeasted breads. Another half hour until I can bake? No problem, I'll just stick it in the cold part of the house!

Yes, it is a slow bread and planning needs to take place, although very little time is spent in the actual preparation of the bread! It's so time friendly that it can happily sit away for hours on the kitchen bench while I'm off pottering, or in and out of the house on errands.

White leaven loaves

..and right now, I can't get enough of our 'real' bread again, crunchy chewy crusts, holes to sink honey through and that slight tang that is so characteristic of sourdough! This is winter bliss at it's best!

Friday, June 10, 2011

This week..

I have to share this pic of what I saw when I looked out the kitchen window yesterday! There was a whole family of kangaroos and this fellow was sooooo huge, I attempted to quietly sneak up on him but in the process stood on a whole pile of tools/buckets that we had at the back of the house and they quickly bounded away.

Big Daddy-O
They were in the neighbours place, grazing and I did wonder about their manicured garden and it's remains while clumsily trying to snap a pic.

A generous veggie group friend had  given me some wool (roving) that she had living in a cupboard. I've been spinning it into a very fine (for me) single and then after watching several youtube clips, had a go at Navajo plying, which is a way of plying the wool from one single bobbin, creating a yarn by looping chains together to form a three-ply.

I like the way the 3 strands ply together, they seem to make a smoother yarn...for me at least. I'm looking forward to knitting something with it for my veggie friend, just trawling through patterns at the moment though...
Navajo/chain plied skein, 216yards/15wpi (sport weight/5ply equivelent)
'Entrelac' knitting
At spinning group this week there was a fun workshop on how to go about knitting (in?) 'entrelac'. It resembles a basket weave pattern and was quite tricky to get the hang of, although after much brain power, the instructions seemed to make a little more sense. Lots of picking up stitches and joining other stitches together.

A kind hearted spinner also sent me home with some of her homegrown apples. Yum!

Yellow Delicious..and they are!
Needing to be eaten up quickly, I decided to peel, core and dry them using my favourite method, which you can read all about HERE.
soaking in vitamin C solution
..and hanging up to dry. Waiting is very, very hard!
It's been ages since we've had dried apples...they are sooo yummy and don't last long enough! I am really hoping  to bake with some this time around too...

This week also saw the appearance of another Meal Tree, which you can find more about here

It is staggering to think that when people band together, this gift can last for weeks! A precious gift indeed.

We have an extra long weekend this week, with Monday being a holiday and the kids home from school today with a student free day. It's nice to stay inside, cosy and not be rushing anywhere.

What's been happening in your week?
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