life on the farm january 2017


























Well hello there! It’s a new year full of hope and plans and dreams as we ricochet into our first year anniversary on the farm. Summer has been pretty full and Christmas and New Year’s feels like an age ago already. Really to be honest, I’m quite relieved that we only have 1 month and 1 week of summer left. I’m still a little nervous that we’ll run out of water, either for us or for the garden. So far so good as we’ve had a decent amount of rain but I’m still wary and am pretty conservative with my use of it. The water isn’t the only reason I’m ok about summer nearing autumn. Flies. Hundreds of trillions of billions of very friendly sticky flies. I know that comes with living in the country surrounded by cattle farms, and I’m not complaining, I’m just saying ‘bloody flies’ about 68 times a day and feeling like I’m going to battle every time I walk out the door. Long sleeves, buttoned up high collar, sunhat with mozzie netting, not for the mozzies but for the flies, and ready to wave arms furiously. Everyone requires a thorough pat down before coming in the house for fear they’ll bring in freeloaders riding on their back. It’s been quite a shock to get used to the sheer volume and friendliness of them I’ll admit. I did just purchase some ‘fantastic stuff’ according to the farmer down the road, who was recommended it by the pea grower down the road. It’s a natural product with rosemary and cedarwood oils and is pretty pongy so the flies approach you then supposedly just stop once they hit your awesome new waft and move along to their next unsuspecting victim. I’ll believe it when I see it. Here’s hoping. I was feeling optimistic and bought the big jar. Will keep you posted.

Apart from fighting the fly army there’s been lots of other stuff happening too. Sadly my 6 month sabbatical has come to an end and I’m actively job hunting everyday. I can’t believe how fast that went, yet at the same time it seems like ages ago I was doing that daily 3-4 hour commute to work. We’ve got stacks done to the farm during that time including planting the orchard and establishing our veggie garden. There’s still a couple of garden beds we’ve yet to plant into, but boy have we managed to eat some produce out of it already. It’s really incredible how much food you can produce from a patch of land in 6 months. Apart from seedling gifts from family and friends, everything was planted from seed so it seemed to take forever to get started, but now we are surely reaping what we sowed. The first cucumber yesterday, I have a baby rockmelon and hopefully more to come. Plenty of carrots and some Parsnips. Spring onions, onions and golden shallots. Peas, snow peas and now the beans have started. Lots of different lettuce, spinach, and silver beet. Radishes, radishes and more radishes. Some raspberries, blueberries (about 9 actually!) and stacks of the tastiest strawberries you’ve ever eaten. Thanks Dot! Sweet and ripe through to the centre with a perfume that is positively heady.

Of course we’re so lucky that our lovely previous owners had the foresight to plant a lot of fruit trees and we’ve enjoyed the juiciest cherries and what I would call a delicious glut of apricots. I even had a go at preserving them in my brand new out of the box fowlers vacola preserving kit. Alas it wasn’t to be, by the time 24 hours ticked over I knew the jars hadn’t sealed so it was into the pot to stew them into a thick apricot sauce. All 12 size 20 jars of neatly packed halves, each half placed one by one to make for the prettiest jars. It’s ok, I’m over it now. Most of the sauce went in the freezer but I did pop some into a smoothie (yum) and even more into a mix of blended rockmelon, lemon juice and sugar syrup, of which the ice cream maker converted into the most refreshing sorbet. I’ve made a couple of batches of jam, one apricot & vanilla bean and one apricot & plum, with the plums also from our tree and a few from our neighbour down the road. I’ve found myself in the kitchen a lot more since not working and am really enjoying that time. Picking and washing the produce from the garden takes time and can provide surprises… I found a frog in the sink water whilst washing lettuces once– don’t think it gets much more organic than that.

There’s been a little craft here and there, a beanie for my Dads 70th birthday and I’m still knitting my hoodie – it’s slow going. I’ve had a go at making my own liquid soap using this recipe but changing the essential oils and the oil base. I could only get my hands on macadamia nut oil not vitamin e at the time and for the essential oils I used Lemongrass & Tea Tree for hand soap and Rose Geranium & Patchouli for the body wash. And I’ve made my own spray deodorant using this recipe but again changing the oils – I used Lavender, Myrrh & Spearmint for me, and for Charlie Cloves, Patchouli & Peppermint. No nasties and this recipe contains some good stuff that our bodies need – Magnesium oil. I’ve found it very effective but a little stingy if used after I’ve shaved my underarms! Overall I’m pretty thrilled with both these products and next on my list is laundry detergent. Mostly I just want to reduce the amount the unknown-to-me-chemicals that are about in our everyday lives.

A good portion of my time is spent in the garden, tending and watering and planting and ripping out and mounding and netting and harvesting. How lucky am I right?! I’ve had a couple of bouts of feeling unwell and after a few days of not being in the garden I get that yearning feeling to get back out there. Unless it’s stinking hot. Or it’s a bad fly day. Or the wind is that wild it takes all your strength just to walk from the house to the patch. Then I choose indoor chores like making deodorant or jam. With air con. Thank goodness for air con.

I’ve been enjoying listening to some new podcasts, mostly gardening, homesteading, permaculture types as I like picking up new tips and tricks and feel so inspired listening to how other people manage their land and look after animals and grow produce. Our neighbours flock of sheep are now out in the big 100 acre paddocks so we don’t see them much anymore. Although a couple of times when I’ve been in the patch and Lucy happens to be in the paddock next door, I’ll call her name and she’ll come running over for a pat and maybe some fresh silver beet leaves. We’re not really any closer to getting our own livestock but I think we’ve figured out what we’ll get when we do. Sheep. We need to set up some sort of water trough for the sheep before we do and we still need to work out how many. Then when we can fund a nice little safe chicken house, there will be chooks. That’s probably the main goals for the farm this year, sheep and chooks. Aside from increasing production in the veggie garden and the million little things that need doing.

So that’s me all caught up, now I’d love to hear from you. Can you tell me what’s happening in your life and where you are from so I can get to know you lovely dear reader?

May the cool breeze blow gently your way on a hot day and the flies nowhere to be seen.

Ps. Marathon post, if you read this far you’re a gem x

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life on the farm december 2016
















So the best of intentions to write more often here doesn’t mean it happens. The last few months have been a whirl of sowing, planting, weeding, mowing, mulching, digging, baking, hand feeding Lucy, job hunting, Chrissy shopping, visits to Melbourne, and possibly way too many hours gazing out at our lovely hills and valley. As the grass on the hills grows long it takes on the appearance of a green ocean when the wind brushes over the top of it, pushing and swishing it in all different directions, flowing like grassy waves up the mountain. It’s totally mesmerizing and can draw you in before you know it.

Since I wrote you last three new lambs were born. The first arrived not solid black like they usually do, this one had all these zig zag patterns over his coat, so we named him Ziggy. Within a day the next lamb arrived, and this one just stuck to Ziggy from day one. They are best buds so we named him Iggy. Then when the Moto GP was being raced not far from us, the last lamb of the season was born. He’s a real little racer so we named him Duke. Well Ziggy, Iggy and Duke are the new little gang in town and love to race laps of the paddock with Lucy and the Twins but mostly just hang out together, often play fighting over the newly named Lamb Rock. There’s really nothing funnier that watching a lamb bounce, spin 360 degrees and land slightly awkwardly.

As you probably know, the warmer weather brings with the snakes and I had myself a terrifying incident involving a large black one and the ride on mower and a lot of swearing. Both of us were frightened out of our minds and retreated back away after discovering each other, needless to say it’s created a rather anxious vibe when mowing that particular corner and any other spot along the fence where the grass next door is long. Our lawns are mown within an inch of their lives, short short short is how I like it and the snakes don’t, so I mow for many hours each week and Charlie brushcuts for many more. We did get the last of the first stage of works completed which was impeccably timed as it involved removing all the huge overgrown snakey flax plants from around the house. Like I said, timing couldn’t have been better, had the snake incident happened before we had the flax removed I think I would have been too scared to walk in and out the front door!

We have finally started eating out of our veggie garden, fresh organic lettuce rocket and spinach salad anyone? The next lot of radishes are nearly ready and soon we’ll have parsnips, carrots and beetroots too. We’ve had a few snowpeas and sugarsnap peas but hopefully a lot more to come. Coriander is coming along nicely, the birds have loved the strawberries (!) and the spud fest will be here before we know it. Onions are booming and the cucumber and zucchini seeds have just sprouted. A few precious tomato seedlings are in and I’ve got a heap more to plant when they get a little bigger. In the heart of the veggie patch I planted a mixture of flower seeds that are designed to bring in the beneficial insects and we are experimenting with composting our grass clippings from the veggie patch and can’t wait to see if it’s going to work. It’s all very exciting and so rewarding now that we are picking our homegrown goodies for dinner.

I’ve found it tricky trying to squeeze in craft time, I guess spring is a busy time in any garden and that compounded with the work we are doing still getting ourselves set up, along with the general upkeep of the orchard & veggie garden and the mowing has kept my days very full without even looking at my craft projects. But I am progressing very occasionally with knitting a jumper, which will probably be a bit ugly as I wanted to use up a particular type of yarn I had, and the colours together, well let’s just say I wouldn’t normally put them all together, but I needed all them to make the jumper so it will mostly likely be a farm / gardening jumper. I crocheted some sweet little garlands and I have also started to make my first ever patchwork quilt. I used up all my favourite precious bits of fabric, some of which I’ve saved for years, but really what’s the point of having them if you don’t use them? So I chopped into them and I just love the colour palette that evolved. I remember reading this wonderful post and absolutely loved the way Alicia created this quilt, no prior planning or pedantic placement of fabrics/colours, just cut, barely or not measured, and sewed randomly together. Reading the story of how this quilt was put together totally gave me the confidence to give it a go myself, I thought all quilting had to be so precise and that’s not really my style. Anyway, after a big day sewing all the strips back in October, I’m yet to get back to it! Everything in my craft room is exactly as I left it – sewing machine all set up, swatches of fabric laying everywhere, strips hanging from the wardrobe (making access to it a little challenging), and bits of cotton all over the place! I am hoping to get back to it very soon, probably when the grass growing starts to slow with the summer heat and lack of rain, less mowing more sewing maybe?

Given my track record of late, I’m not sure if I’ll be back here before Christmas so I’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas, or Happy Hanukah, or have a great end of the year, whatever it is that you celebrate at this time. I hope this year has given you more joy than sadness, more laughs than tears, and that wisdom and kindness keep you company throughout the coming year. Thank you for popping in here, taking the time to comment, and following along this little blog, I’m really honoured that anybody reads this at all, so thank you.

Sending Peace Love & Harmony to you x

life on the farm october 2016




















What a thrill it’s been to see Spring breeze into the orchard and our little trees burst into life with blossom and leaves. The veggie garden has seeds sprouting and freshly transplanted peas that I grew from seed. I’m not sure if it was the chamomile tea soak or just beginners luck, but the pea seeds had around 99% germination rate, dare say I’ll be soaking future pea seeds in a chillout bath too. The potatoes are booming and have been mounded three times and already need a fourth mound in their short 6 week life since planting. The orchard is planted, we just need to finish staking all the trees and mulch the second half. The veggie patch is fully enclosed but needs some finishing off in the fencing department and my hard-rubbish-collected-old-laundry-trough needs fitting. The trees that were already here with the house have started fruiting and we’ve had to net the almond and the apricot already as the birds discovered them.

Of course the grass grows fast during Spring, but boy I’ve never seen grass grow as fast as it does out here. We are mowing every week, and there’s a lot to mow! Partly to keep it under control and neat, but mostly because snakes don’t like short grass. Enough said right? I love being greeted by a dam and if I’m lucky a couple of ducks, when I pull into the driveway. I’m getting used to seeing huge expanses of land and big farms on the way to do my grocery shopping, along with the occasional escapee cow / calf on the road, closely followed by a slightly concerned / annoyed farmer on foot / bike trying to coerce said animal back into the paddock. I’ve watched twin baby lambs grow from day old timid little fellas, to confident if not cheeky, little boys who hang around Lucy and look at her like she’s the cats pajamas. The 5 lambs (Lucy, Buttons and Bouncer, and the Twins) all seem to get the wind up their tails by the late afternoon and can sometimes be seen running laps across the paddock in their little gang. There doesn’t appear to be any point or achievement to their race, they seem to just run for the fun of it. You can almost see their mums roll their eyes!

I often watch a big black Crow, a couple of Willie Wagtails, some Grey Shrikethrush birds, and Finches wander through the back lawn picking out worms and bugs for breakfast as I sit and have my morning coffee. And on a sunny morning the chirpy birds seem to harmonize with each other and create the most magical birdsong. Needless to say sabbatical life is absolute heaven! I am loving not feeling under pressure, or stressed, or held for ransom by time. Although, sometimes I can’t work out if I’m wasting it or just relaxing – tis a tricky balance thing I think. There’s still plenty of internal conversations on what exactly I should be doing with my time at any given moment, whether I’m being self indulgent and not productive enough, or working too hard in the garden and not taking enough time to chill and craft. I’ve noticed how easy it is to squander time when there are no deadlines looming. And there are times when I haven’t left the farm for three, four or five days – and not even realised! #homebodyheaven. I am finding my days so full, my to do list is always chockoblock with the next jobs that need to be done around the place. We are still getting ourselves established here so I’m hoping the list will reduce somewhat once we are at the everyday managing stage of our little farm. But in the meantime I’m feeling grateful and very lucky to enjoy this special time on the farm, building our dream.

May time be gentle with you x

gluten free cinnamon biscuits









Oh my, I just had to share my latest little kitchen experiment with you, they are too delicious not to. It all started when my dad developed this yummy gluten free biscuit that my mum and I can both eat. (mum and I have many similar food intolerances/allergies). Anyway after eating Dad’s scrummy bikkies that taste just like a classic Nice biscuit I was reminded how having a cuppa and biscuit is just about the best thing ever, one of life’s sweet little simple pleasures. It got me thinking, if I can’t make the time to do some experimental biscuit baking whilst I’m on my lovely precious sabbatical, then when can I? So I got to it and these are the results… they are easy and only need basic ingredients that are most likely staples in a gluten free kitchen anyway.


Ingredients

1 Egg
120g Butter
1/2 cup Rice Flour
1/2 cup Potato Flour
1/2 cup Almond Meal
1/2 cup Hazelnut Meal
1/2 cup Caster Sugar
1tsp Baking Powder
2tsp Cinnamon
Slurp of Maple Syrup

Method
Cream the butter and sugar til fluffy, add the egg and maple syrup and mix well.
Sift potato flour and rice flour then mix all dry ingredients together.
Add dry ingredients to butter mixture then stir and mix until combined.
Spoon dollops onto a lined tray and dust with extra sugar and cinnamon.
Bake for 18-20 minutes at 160c degrees (fan forced oven).
Allow to cool, if you can, then demolish at least half the batch just to make sure they are ok.

I think they taste a little like those yummy cinnamony bikkies Speculaas, but I’ve also tweaked the recipe with molasses instead of maple syrup, lots of ginger and a dash of nutmeg and cloves and this version reminds me of Gingernut biscuits. Yum yum, so many biscuits, so little time! I’m off to put the kettle on for another cuppa and biscuit session.

May life’s simple little pleasures fill your heart with joy and your bikkie tin with your favourites.

orchard and veggie patch














I can hardly believe it but after many years in the dreaming, I can now say we have an orchard and a great big veggie patch! It’s so exciting! As I type this there’s a new water tank being installed specifically for the veggies. The shed tank is also receiving some plumbing love with new tap connections running off it into the orchard. Although water is plentiful right now, I know summer will change that and we’ll be using it like we’re sprinkling gold dust.

In the orchard we’ve planted a yummy selection of trees, some are old heritage varieties and some newer varieties. If I’ve semi-planned it half way right, we should have fruit over an extended period of time although I still think there will be a glut at times when lots of varieties peak their harvest periods together. There are apples, peaches, apricots, cherries, figs, pears, nectarines, quinces, plums, a crabapple, an almond tree and a mulberry tree, plus we’ve planted a few lemons, limes and a blood orange. We planted just over 50 trees! Along one boundary of the veggie patch we’ve planted raspberries and in the patch we already have potatoes, onions, cauliflower, broccoli, radishes, carrots, parsnips, beetroot, beans and peonies planted! ( Now I know peonies aren’t veggies but we brought a heap of them with us from our old house and if we left them in their ‘temporary’ planter boxes any longer we might have lost them.) I also have a heap of peas, snow peas and sugarsnap peas all starting to sprout in my little make shift seedling nursery on the back deck. And today I’m hoping to add tomato seeds to the mix.

We garden biodynamically and have applied preparations to the property, it was quite the surreal moment as it was often talked about when dreaming out loud. Everything has been planted in accordance with the moon calendar and I’ve done a few extra things that I’ve read about in Biodynamic books but are possibly just good gardening tips. For instance I’ve heard about soaking pea seeds prior to planting them, as it helps soften the outer skin which can result in better germination rates. The only difference I did was soak my pea seeds in Chamomile tea, as chamomile is a significant herb used in Biodynamic gardening. Actually it was Chamomile and honey tea as that’s all I could find at the time!

Our property was certified Biodynamic when we purchased it and we can see how much this has benefited the land, the soil is incredibly healthy. Even the earthmoving guy that dug our tree holes and cut in our garden beds, couldn’t believe how many worms there were… and he digs soil for a living! It’s quite a heavy clay type soil but it’s chocoblock with worms and there’s a lovely layer of rich top soil that’s been chemical free for 8 years, whilst being fertilized naturally by the sheep and cattle that are lucky enough eat all the spray free pasture. The proof’s in the pudding as they say, and so far whatever we’ve planted is looking great… fingers crossed this continues! Although I did hear a funny saying from a neighbour the other day, ‘They say you could plant a toothpick a grow a forest around here!‘ … maybe the odds are in our favour anyway hey?

To say it’s been a very active time getting our orchard and veggie patch in, is putting it rather mildly. I’ve been keeping an eye on my step counter in my phone, and when you see the graph for this year it’s very easy to spot exactly when I finished work in the office. I love it! It’s wonderful to be doing something physically active during the day after years and years of sitting at a desk. My body is thanking me for it, albeit in a whiny ouchy voice at times! Meanwhile the voice in head keeps telling me to pinch myself. ‘You’re here on the farm of your dreams. And now you have an orchard, something you’ve dreamed of for years. And a massive veggie patch, with more room than you could possibly need. Better pinch again to make sure you’re not dreaming girl’…. *pinch*

Wishing you all the fruit and veg and sprouting seeds of your dreams x

PS. Here’s the before and after photos in case you want to see exactly what we did and just how paddocky this patch of earth was before we turned into an orchard and veggie patch!


Before – Looking East towards Veggie Patch

After – Looking East towards Veggie Patch

 

 


Before – Looking West towards house

After – Looking West towards house

 

 


Before – Looking North over Veggie Patch

After – Looking North over Veggie Patch

 

 


Before – Looking West over Orchard

After – Looking West over Orchard

 

 


Before – Looking South over Orchard

After – Looking South over Orchard

Phew that’s a lot of photos…you’re pretty awesome if you scrolled all the way down here – thanks!

knitting sheep







It felt like I hadn’t really been crafting much lately but then I realised that I’ve made three beanies in the last month or so. One pure wool chunky knit for Charlie to double up with his pure baby alpaca beanie on the super chilly days. Both of these beanies were made with the ace “Farmer Boy Beanie” pattern from the lovely Kate at Foxs Lane. Thanks Kate, this is my go to beanie pattern now! Plus I’ve made two Baable Beanies. And I’ve cast on a third! Such fun to knit something like this and watch the image appear as each row grows. It is a pretty easy pattern to follow, even for the pattern challenged like myself, I managed to make it without one single #%$@&*!!%!! moment. I think I originally spotted the beanie on pinterest but have tracked back to find the creator of the pattern here. Thanks for designing such a cute pattern Donna!

The beanie with the darker richer colours is all pure wool, and the lighter shade beanie has a mix of pure wool and pure baby alpaca yarns, including some of my special baby alpaca I brought back from Peru. I didn’t have the same ply yarn the pattern requires, so I knitted the lighter shade one first, with 8 ply not 10 ply but used the needles recommended for the 10 ply. This produced a nicely fitting beanie, but not surprisingly it was a little too loose in the tension. The darker shaded beanie was knitted with 8 ply and finer needles, 3.75 for the rib and 4 for the body, and it turned out perfect! Lovely tension and a great fit. The whole gauge and swatch thing isn’t my favourite part of knitting, kinda does my head in to be honest. In fact I think that contributes greatly as to why I feel a bit antagonistic towards patterns. So I just do what I usually do – fluff and bluff my way through till I land where I’m happy. Not the most efficient path at times but that’s the way I roll.

I love that the Baa-ble beanie has Suffolk Sheep in it, with those being the sheep that roam around our home. It feels like I’m knitting exactly what I’m meant to be knitting. I guess I’ll have to find an Angus Cow pattern next. And just as I typed that two ducks flew by the back door, so ducks too!

May you never drop a stitch in a tricky spot x