Thursday, December 29, 2011

Garlic

A couple of days before the Summer Solstice I pulled up our garlic. Most of it had flopped over and the leaves were starting to yellow. I would've liked to have left it in for another few days but as we had heavy rain forecast, I seized the moment and yanked those babies...or would they be mamas?!


They basked in the sun for the afternoon and were then placed under our verandah on an old work bench to dry out further.

Skip forward a little while and they had wilted enough for me to feel comfortable with cleaning them up and trimming their roots.  To clean them up for storage, the outer papery layer was rubbed off and added to the compost bucket. It's quiet, satisfying work this paper removal!


Again, I would've liked more time to dry them further but as we've got nowhere really to store them while they drape somewhere to dry, I reluctantly chose to braid them today as well (I was actually a little excited, too, what can I say?)!

Braiding garlic is just like braiding hair - start with a 'plait' and then add a bulb or two with each move of the outer 'strand' into the center. Again, immensely satisfying work, this braiding!


My total harvest produced three hefty braids, all 132 bulbs worth! Hopefully this will be enough to last us until next summer as healthy, organic, local garlic is really important to me, as is avoiding the imported chemically treated garlic that seems to dominate in the shops.


Now, where to hang these babies/mamas?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Season's Greetings

Handmade elves made by the tweens. Local pine clippings and holly from the garden (very prickly - ouch!).
Hubby's offering to the lunch table..prawn cocktails.
Salmon hors d'oeuvres put together by my brother..
The Table.  Brother, uncle, cousin, nieces, daughter, sister-in-laws and Oma. 
Home brewed beer also brought to the table by the same clever brother. This batch he dedicated to someone special, our dad.
Jamaican Jerk Chicken on the bbq..
A December tradition in our house - the gingerbread house!
Homemade love!
LOVING these white hydrangeas  at the moment. Absolutely loving them!
A storm thrown in too!
Season's Greetings to you all!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Breathing the moment

Breathing it in. 


Breathing through it. 


Breathing to get past it.


The daughter who is growing up way too fast, before our very eyes.


Choked up. 


Farewells to people who have made a positive impact, both to myself and my daughters.


Teared up.


Rapidly approaching our first Christmas without my dad. 


A blubbering mess.


Breathe.


Soon it will be here, soon it will be over.


Just breathe.



Not the cheeriest of holiday posts I know but it's how I'm feeling, right now.

I hope you have a happy and safe holiday and manage to breathe your way through those moments that seem to test us, whatever they happen to be.



Hugs to you, dear friends and thankyou for all your support this year. I look forward to writing a super happy post with glimpses of our festive happenings next time, it's a promise. xxx

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Gone Elvin'



El-vin/g: (verb) Not uncommon behaviour surfacing this time of year in which people spend a considerable amount of their time putting together parcels of homemade goodness for others. 

Happy elving out there! I'm looking forward to catching up on your blogs over the coming days..


**P.S. There were a few questions/comments in my last post about the homemade pectin stock I was using in homemade jam. The pectin stock was made the first time here following these directions from Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. We wouldn't be without it. **

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Raspberry Jam & Raspberry Clafoutis

Our raspberry canes are being extremely generous at the moment..would you believe that we are picking 2-3 punnets a day? A day! Added up over a week this is a LOT of berries, for us at least! One day over the weekend I picked close to 500g..I nearly knocked over the whole bowl in surprise once it hit the scales!!

We've been eating them fresh from the garden, picking off the odd grub..I'd much rather a grub on my berries and know they're organic than buying overpriced berries from the shop and fearing what they might have been sprayed with. The excess are getting frozen in snap lock bags, which are starting to form quite a collection in the bottom of the freezer!

And so, you know, the time had to come. Sooner or later... it had to be a jam making day. All the more exciting as this is the first batch of jam I've made using our own homegrown fruit! Almost a cause for celebration, wouldn't you say?


The ingredients I used were:

Raspberry Jam:
700g raspberries, a mixture of frozen and fresh
650g sugar
the juice of 1 lemon
200ml homemade pectin stock

The berries were put into my largest, heaviest based pot and allowed to heat over a low flame until the juices were running. While this was happening, the sugar was being warmed in the oven in a stainless steel bowl.

Once the berries were mushy and juicy, the warmed sugar and lemon juice was added to the pot and stirred gently while the sugar dissolved. The pectin stock was then added and the heat increased to bring the mixture to a rolling boil.

After 10 minutes of rapid boiling, the set test was done on a saucer that had been placed in the freezer previously. Not quite there yet..set the timer for 3 minutes and check again. As it turned out, two more 3 minute 'sessions' were needed before a set was reached.

And a set it was! It was the first time I've used homemade pectin and I was just as excited with it as my homegrown berries! It gelled beautifully on the plate and wrinkled when my finger swiped through it. I'll definitely be planning to use up the remainder I have in the pantry!

The 'set' with homemade pectin. Oh my!
The quantities produced two smallish jars for giving, plus a larger jar for home, us, scooping, myself ahem.

Others did get a look in, but I hesitate to confess, I had so many scoops out of that glistening jar they may not have got their fair entitlement!


It's ok..there are loads more berries in the freezer for another batch. 

Raspberry Clafoutis
And while we're still talking raspberries, here's a nice, quick, easy one to whip together if you've got friends coming over for a morning of crafting and you realise during the school rush that you haven't baked anything. Ten minutes maximum preparation and into the oven while you scoot through the shower, you'll be convincing yourself you had it planned this way all along ;)

Raspberry Clafoutis
serves 6-8

500g raspberries, fresh or frozen (no need to thaw)
1/2 cup plain flour
1/3 cup sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
25ml light vegetable oil (or 25g butter, melted..although I refuse to melt this minuscule amount of butter!)

Preheat oven to 180c and grease a 23cm shallow pie dish. Place the raspberries into the dish, spreading them out evenly.

Place the flour and sugar into a bowl and mix to combine. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs, milk and vegetable oil. Whisk well to ensure there are no lumps. Pour the batter over the berries and bake for 30-35 minutes, until puffy and golden.

Serve warm or cool, dusted with icing sugar and a serve of cream if you have it. If not, don't worry, it's fine on it's own.

*Did you know that Clafoutis comes from the French verb Clafir, meaning 'to fill'? Usually made with cherries, it works just as well with other berries such as blackberries, blueberries and here, raspberries.*

What's being baked, or created in your kitchen at the moment? 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Festive Wishing Tree

The youngest tween was home with a cough and sniffle yesterday. It's hard to know if it was hayfever, a cold, or an evil combination of both. My hayfever was out of this world yesterday, even the local honey we've been swearing by made little impact. The poor thing if she felt anything like I did. To cheer her up a little we spent the morning checking the hens, watering the fruit trees and making scones. While the scones were cooling, we took a walk outside and gathered some twigs to fulfill an idea that had been floating around in my head for a few days...

A Festive Wishing Tree:

A festive twig tree is not a new idea. However, I believe ours is one with a twist for which I can't take any of the credit for.

Last week at our school fete, my good friend Kirsty was inspired to create a 'Wishing Tree' in the veggie patch of the school. The idea being that kids can come along, write their wish on a strip of fabric and tie it to the tree. It looks fabulous with all it's fabric strips blowing in the wind and reading the wishes is so much fun!

Of course there are the usual materialistic type yearnings, but some of the wishes surprised me..emotional type wishes from small kids are just so touching. I decided we just had to have something similar at home, preferably something that could sit on the table and be a festive decoration!


Ornaments will be added to the tree over the next week or so, as they are found or made by small people. What I'm most interested in seeing though are their wishes. A unique insight into their little brains..when was the last time you asked a small person in your life what they really wanted? What would make them the happiest kid in town? (Superficial consumerism type wishes aside).

I was so pleased when the small, coughing one wrote up her first wish with no prompting from me, without a toy or gadget request in sight!

The first wish:
{I wish I don't have my cold on Christmas.}

Aww, how sweet. I bet they aren't all like this. But I'm hoping at least some of the wishes from the  tweens will be insightful into what's ticking through their little minds...

For more festive twiggy tree inspiration, take a look at dixiebelle's and ivynest's lovely creations.

(Add a link to your blog in the comments section if you've gone 'twiggy' this year and I'll include it here).

Here's Brydie's at cityhippyfarmgirl
..and Kirsty's at Bowerbird Blue
and veggiegobbler's who appears to have been onto this idea all along! Clever cookie.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Meet the Girls

Some of  you may have caught a glimpse of a hen in my last post. Such eagle-eyed individuals. You are on the ball, that's what you are!

After months of not having any chook activity here, grieving the loss of our last flock after the devastating fox invasion and missing the sounds of the friendly clucking, we have taken a leap of faith and re-stocked the pen. The time felt right, we were ready to jump back in.

Five Rhode Island Reds at point of lay, bought at our local farmer's market from this reputable breeder.


They look extremely similar to Isa Browns (hybrids), although I was assured they were not.  Having kept Isa Browns in the past and noticing several of their flaws, I was keen to veer towards purebreds this time around.


Paranoid about the security of the chook run (even though hubby had been over it, veggie group had been over it and I had been over it), I fashioned a door to enclose them into their 'bedroom' within the pen at night. During the day I have been letting them into the fully enclosed run for dust bathes and grain pecking.


For a couple of hours in the afternoon, if the weather is fine (that is, not foxy..ie - gloomy), they go into the fenced off raspberry patch, hence the netting of delicate seedlings in the previous post. The first time they entered the patch I lost them immediately to the undergrowth of the raspberries and cabbages. It is any chook's dream in there and goodness knows there is a lot of bug control to catch up on!


We have also invested in a new poultry feeder that will hopefully reduce the vermin numbers we have experienced in the past associated with keeping hens. One step onto the platform pushes back the barrier, allowing the hen access to the feed. The barrier shuts back into position when the bird hops off the platform. It only took two days for them to learn! (www.chooktred.com.au)


Wish me luck as we travel down this path again. I watch them with quiet happiness this time around, not the eager excitement of a novice. Being burned does that to a person. Nothing will replace our lost birds but hopefully in time, these new creatures will become part of our family, offering their eggs, manure and entertainment via quirky antics to our daily life.


Breathinig deeply. Be safe, little hens. Be safe. xx

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Butterflies, bandicooting and friands.

Butterfly stalking..

..and a little netting action..

Cherries are ripening (Sunburst)....
..under a thrifted net curtain that reminds me of a bride's veil.

It's a potato jungle out there...

...and so a little 'bandicooting' is in order....
Ban-di-coot-ing (verb)Bandicooting is the act of digging up potatoes or other root crops, leaving the top of the plants in place in the soil to keep on growing and producing more root crops. (organicexchange.com.au)

Friands are made..

And a new friend or two as well.
Boo!



Raspberry Friands
Makes around 2 dozen
125g almond meal
190g pure icing sugar, sifted
100g plain flour
180g butter, melted and cooled
4 egg whites
100g raspberries
60g raspberries - extra
1/2 cup white chocolate chips (optional)
2 tbs flaked almonds to garnish

Preheat oven to 180c or 170 fan-forced.
Place the almond meal, flour and sugar in a bowl and mix well.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the egg whites and cooled melted butter to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.Add the raspberries (and white chocolate if using) and stir gently, being careful not to break the raspberries up. Spoon into greased mini muffin pans, place an extra raspberry on top of each muffin and sprinkle with flaked almonds. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
Allow to stand in pans for 5 minutes before removing to cool on a wire rack.
Dust with icing sugar before serving. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Primary School Fete

It was time, once again for our girls' primary school biennial fete. This is the first fete post on my blog as the last fete was held before the blog was started. It is a fun affair with something on offer for the whole family. Attractions and rides are always popular as is the baking stall. There is a trash'n'treasure stall for the bargain hunters and secondhand book sale for people like myself to take delight in and rummage through. Face painting, temporary body art and badgemaking always seem to be on the agenda too! This year there were kids' performances scheduled into the afternoon/evening time slot as well which they had been rehearsing very hard for. This extra item on the agenda made for quite a chaotic event!

In addition to enjoying all of this, our Friday Veggie Group had volunteered to take on the running of the plant stall, crafts and pizza making! Busy, busy, busy, I have to say! But all in a good way and it was such a relief to wake up yesterday morning and see that the weather was fine and looked like it would stay so for the rest of the day- after all of the crazy, rainy weather we've had here the past week or two!

Consortium members - well done ladies!
My humble offerings for the plant stall - Herbs with recipe cards, wrapped in op-shopped hessian, tied up with string. 
Bunting painted by grade 3 and 4 students in a Junior Landcare session.
The woodfired oven was lit around 11am and was well and truly eyebrow-burningly hot by the start of the fete at 4pm! (In fact, can I say  it was actually hot enough just a couple of hours after lighting, enabling us to have a sneaky 'test' lunch? All for quality control, of course!). 

The offerings were delicious, made all the easier to prepare by using individual pita breads.
1000 times better than a sausage in bread, wouldn't you say?  They sold amazingly fast and were extremely popular.

Quiet craft activities away from the hustle and bustle of the noisy attractions. Preschoolers, visitors and newcomers could also gain appreciation for what is on offer in the environmental studies at the school.

The Bowerbird, hard at work as always. Here, preparing the garland table with natural materials - the activity was  a great success! The school is so very lucky to have my friend Kirsty in charge of running Junior Landcare!


Once again, well done Friday Veggie Group - you amaze me with your enthusiasm and organisation!

So what's on for today? I hope to plant out the plants I came home with and maybe curl up on the couch and peruse the books that were calling to me...

Have an enjoyable Saturday out there!
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