Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Greetings



The children of the neighbourhood braved the misty drizzle and arrived at the home of a school mate with a glint of anticipation in their eyes. Empty baskets and restless feet were at the ready. The rules were announced and then they were off, quicker than the eye can blink!

Drizzle went unnoticed as they scampered around, looking for hidden treats.

Sweaters, socks and hair soaked through they eventually made their way back, the biggies (after a little encouragement) sharing with the littlies. Inside for a scrumptious morning tea and then back home again to the warmth of the fire..

Hope your day was a happy one!

**Sit tight for the Slow Living March wrap up in the next couple of days...**

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Gift - the kindness of strangers

 A week or so ago I was contacted by a reader of my blog asking if I was interested in a spinning wheel she had sitting unused in one of her cupboards. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I gratefully accepted her generous offer and we arranged to meet on a certain day and time to transfer the wheel.

The day of our meeting was sunny and warm, perfect for the plant nursery she chose to meet at - complete with coffee shop inside. We sat under the umbrellas at a table over a coffee and had a relaxed, friendly chat. It felt familiar even though I had never met this person before. We exchanged details of our lives and plans for the future. It was lovely.

I had completely forgotten the reason for our meeting.

Once our coffees were finished and were making our way outside she mentioned that she had brought along a few extra items that she wasn't using anymore. I was welcome to use them or pass them on to friends I thought who could use them.

I was completely unprepared for what followed.

The generosity of this dear person took me quite aback.


Useful books packed with so much information..

...from crafts to spinning, cooking to preserving, permaculture and so on..
 A food dehydrator. I have been toying with the idea one for some time now but the price was always a barrier for me.

Yarn for knitting and fleece for spinning. Fabric to sew along with a yoghurt maker.
The spinning wheel that was originally mentioned, which spins as smooth as smooooth can be.

The generosity and kindness of this reader has me feeling completely overwhelmed. I am grateful more than words can say. If you are reading, A, thankyou! From the bottom of my heart. xxx

Do you 'pay things forward'? Perhaps you've been the recipient of similar goodwill? What are your experiences? I'd love to hear..

Monday, March 25, 2013

Seven Hills Organic Farm Open Day

Yesterday I, along with my family and good veggie group friend, visited a local farm that I had very much been looking forward to seeing. Situated in the picturesque hills of Kerrie, Victoria, the 115 acre farm run by the Murray family, goes by the name Seven Hills Organic Farm. What I find most interesting about this farm and it's inhabitants, aside from being very close to achieving full self-sufficiency, are the businesses that have been formed from it, run primarily by the children!

In our local area, (Macedon Ranges), Josh's Rainbow Eggs are well known. Initially being sold at farmers markets and then making their way into the stores, Josh, aged 12, offers a local, free-range alternative to the mass produced eggs on offer. Sister Jess has branched out into flowers and sells her vibrant coloured blooms at the markets along with brother Jack, aka Sugar Snap Jack, who is growing his own beans and peas to earn a bit of pocket money.

It was so interesting to wander around this beautiful farm and take in the extensive infrastructure that goes with it...

The family raises four flocks of hens a year from day old chicks. Three of the flocks are laying hens that keep the eggs in good supply with the fourth being a meat flock for the family's own consumption.

The chicks are kept inside the fully fenced and netted espalier fruit orchard, safely out of harms reach of the foxes that roam the valley..
As we made our way through the shed, the group was shown how Josh's eggs are graded for sale. They are first candled to check for cracks and then rolled down a weighted machine which divides the eggs into their respective weight categories for correct packaging.


In the five acre fox proof run that houses the 900 laying hens, twelve year old Josh, a natural at addressing a group, explains the intricacies of his egg business...

Attendees are invited to collect their own eggs..


The chook tractor is a fine piece of work and cleverly designed with roosting quarters in the center and nesting boxes lining the outer edges. Eggs are collected twice a day and the tractor takes half an hour to move, which is substantially quicker than the family's previous set up. 
Hens are kept on a commercial organic diet which is supplemented with home sprouted barley grass and garlic infused cider vinegar. The hens are also free to dust bathe to keep parasites at bay. Everything the family does with the hens in mind is kept as natural as possible, "Letting the chickens behave exactly like chickens" as Josh so eloquently puts it. 
 Isa Browns, White Leghorns and Australorps make up the laying flock and are extremely curious of the sudden invasion of visitors into their domain..

Although some manage to seek a quiet, shady spot for a peaceful siesta.

The tour winds it's way out of the fenced hen area to Tamsyn's vegetable garden.
 Raised beds are the gardening method of choice here and the soil is comprised of a mixture of lucerne and chook manure, layered alternatingly into the beds and allowed to break down. The top layer is a homemade compost that is directly planted in to, while the watering is via drip irrigation with all water being collected on the property.

The family is completely self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables, with the exception of bananas, which according to the children, a childhood just isn't complete without!

Moving on to the glasshouse, we are shown how the seedling are raised for later transplanting..

The berry area with sturdy supports for the scrambling canes. Blackberries, raspberries and youngberries are grown, along with blueberries in the adjoining plot.

Walking up the hill a little way reveals the polytunnel. No ordinary plastic lined polytunnel, this one has adjustable sides which are raised or lowered in a moment, depending on the weather conditions and the plants' needs. The addition of the polytunnel has significantly lengthened the growing season for the Murray family.
 Tamsyn explains her unique way of growing tomatoes. After thoroughly pruning the lower half of the tomato plant and leaving the upper foliage in tact, the plant grows and the tomatoes fruit straight from the stems, eliminating all of the bushy growth that typically comes with growing tomatoes..

 ..making harvesting a whole lot easier!

 Aside from tomatoes, the polytunnel is home to members of the squash family including tromboncino, gem squash and buttercup pumpkins. Not to mention sweet potatoes and the most delicious looking passionfruit I have ever seen!

The tour wound up with James' coverage on the Dorper sheep and pig experiences the family have faced recently along with down to earth, honest advice for those thinking of taking up food farming themselves.


It was a fantastic day out and I have come back with so much from the experience.

Thankyou to the Murray family for being such gracious hosts and allowing us a glimpse into your fascinating and inspiring lifestyle.

Click here for more information on on Seven Hills Organic Farm 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Thankful

I've had two doses of sad news from very dear people this week. Both have caused me to stop and ponder all things meaningful. Searching deep inside, trying to make sense of life and it's many wonders and challenges we all seem to face along the way.

My thoughts and hugs are with them. xx


Thankful
Opp. shopping is always a nice diversion from everyday life. A good haul this week with several pairs of newish jeans as my old ones were falling apart at the seams. Fabric to sew (I'm thinking long tunic top), a vintage cake tin for storing sewing supplies and a substantial collection, although not complete, of Golden Hands publications. A while back I pounced upon a collection of hardback books by the same name and they are referenced a LOT! These vintage mags are sooo absorbing, with actual useful information offered to the reader..you know, from back in the day when the majority of people actually made things? With their hands!! Imagine that! What a find..


Hubby was looking out the window a week or so ago and happened to notice a frequent visitor perched menacingly close to our much loved silkie chickens. If you click on the image, you can see just on the right side of the tree, the foxy hind legs and tail poking out. This was taken at midday, so no chance of letting our feathered friends out of their hutch unless I am out there with them...ugh. Who ever brought foxes to this island continent??! I'm very thankful my handmade hutch is holding up to these daily foxy visits..

{plying}
{local alpaca/wool - two ply, sport weight}
{local alapaca/corridale wool, 2 ply, dk weight}
Thankful for spinning and the gentle meditative state it brings. Truly soothing for the soul.
And being in contact with spinning folk too..is always a nice thing.

Tween origami. Love it!

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes! After being out after school recently, running errands, this was the easiest dinner to come home to, Bruschetta. We made what seemed enough to feed an army, but it all got eaten! Very satisfying indeed..

Bruschetta

Your favourite crusty bread..however much your tummy is telling you it needs
olive oil
one garlic clove, cut in half
a small bowl of ricotta (2 cups)
a big bowl of tomatoes
a big bunch of basil
red onion, sliced, optional
extra virgin olive oil,
good balsamic vinegar
s & p

Chop the tomatoes and tear up the basil. Mix them together in a bowl and add the red onion, if using. Stir through some (2-3 tbs of each) extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season to taste and set aside.

Slice the bread into thick chunks and place on a baking tray. Brush with a little olive oil and grill/broil for a few minutes each side until toasted to your liking. Rub the toasted bread with the cut end of the garlic clove.

Smear each piece of toasted bread with some creamy ricotta and then place spoonfuls of the bruschetta mix on top. Gobble up immediately. Be well satisfied. :)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Everyday life..


- seeking relief from the recent heat at a cityside beach. The youngest and her friend enjoy the typical things a beach has to offer..
- a tween street stall, selling handmade cards and origami creations, all their own idea. Two friends just having a bit of fun
- handspun yarn. My first attempt at a standard three ply, this yarn has two strands of alpaca and one strand of corriedale wool (the lighter coloured thread). It measures up to be a thick 10-12 ply...I can't wait to knit with it!
- fibre preparation on the ancient drum carder on loan from spinning group. Here, some dyed alpaca in a shade of pale purple
- from the garden. Nosey tomatoes?
- tomatoes are going with every meal at the moment. This day, hubby made a delicious tomato and cheese 'sanga' for our lunch, with fresh basil. Yum..
- tuna patties..always an easy dinner when there is a heatwave in town
- Toffee apple made by the stall partner of the tween.  How could it not hit the spot? And the apple is eaten afterwards! Success!!

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