two years




















I couldn’t let our two year mark at harvest moon hill pass by without recognition here. And I’ve been meaning to pop in, for oh you know, six months or so! I know the posts are few and far between these days but here we are again… a new year… a new season… and change in the wild windy air…

As I type this I am watching our sheep mow the grass in our back yard with the three musketeers darting about around them. Despite the foxes and wedge tail eagles these three guinea fowl have thrived all by themselves with no human intervention of care or feed – if you don’t count all the nectarines and plums they ate from our trees! These moments of bliss are hard to describe, yet even harder is to articulate just how much I feel they impact on my wellbeing. Vast open spaces and prolonged periods of silence bring such deep calm and peace, I can only imagine how much more keyed up I would be not living here! I absolutely love it and feel so incredibly lucky we found this place.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all peace love and mung beans baby, there’s plenty of hard work and head scratching. Just like the three musketeers receive the odd bunting from Ziggy or a stalking from an eagle, there are unwanted nudges, death, sickness and loss on the farm too. We sadly and mysteriously lost our first little lamb born last year, Eileen. Burying her was heartbreaking yet also, in many ways, an inevitable part of farming, I understand that. We also had a sick sheep and had to intervene with medication, but first there was the matter of catching her for the vet. A missed footing and consequent stumble produced two broken ribs for Charlie and a greater appreciation for just how big these girls are. A week later and I am proud to say we managed to round up the whole flock (all six of them – real sheep farmers don’t laugh!) by ourselves and secure them in next doors cattle race where I injected them with their vitamin B12 & selenium shot. Another feather in our farming cap that definitely left us more traumatised than the sheep!

We’ve had more loss than bounty in the veggie garden but have slowly worked toward rectifying that, and now have a rather ugly but cost efficient immediate windbreak to protect the beds from the relentless elements of being high up on an exposed hill. We have to watch out for snakes and the seasonal battle of uninvited critter visitors in the roof. There are days of relentless mooing when our neighbours move their cattle or separate them into different paddocks and the flies in summer are horrendous – thick and sticky! But I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. Well, maybe the flies. And roof critters. And ok maybe the snakes too. I love quintessential country things like driving down our road and stopping to chat to the neighbour passing by in his car, windows down and waving off flies and saying ‘why yes, I’d love some of your excess apples and tomatoes thank you’ . The crystal clear nights when the milky way illuminates the sky and the stars glisten and the moon lights up the fields… The family of magpies who visit most mornings with their wake up songs… The odd wave to someone you know in town and no longer feeling like the stranger… but mostly I guess it’s the peace and watching the hills turn golden, then pink, then disappear into the night sky with only the sounds of the sheep munching nearby, the cows mooing, the birds all settling into bed for the night… it’s profoundly healing and as magic as it sounds.

We’ve enjoyed many apricots, plums and nectarines this summer from the trees the previous owners planted. Jam making days are a favourite and we have apricot jam, peach & apricot jam, nectarine jam, and blood plum jam bursting out of the pantry. The nectarines were so prolific we froze kilos of them (great for smoothies and homemade ice creams) and discovered that the sheep, particularly Lenny and Ziggy love nectarines! Our 18 month old orchard is growing well and we’ve managed to keep all 50 odd trees alive through two summers on very lean water rations, both to encourage deep roots and also because we didn’t want to run out of water. We didn’t, and although we are very low on water now, I’m hoping some decent rain is not far away. I know, even sounding like a farmer!

In other non farmy news my daughter and son in law moved into a beautiful new home in the Dandenong Ranges, and their cute dogs Sai & Kenzo recently provided the modelling for the new Stockman Leathercraft dog lead and collar set. My son made a trip back home at Christmas after travelling through Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. He’s just been through Cambodia on a motorbike and is now riding through Vietnam, soon to start making his way towards India. We’ve been working on Stockman Leathercraft over the summer. We ventured into local markets which were lots of fun and I have just finished setting up a new website. Craft has always been a form of sanity for both of us and we’ve enjoyed focusing heavily on this aspect of our lives over the last few months. I’m even adding plaiting to my list of crafty dabbles after becoming the new apprentice to help keep up with orders. I received a spinning wheel last year and learnt to spin… kind of…. I think it takes many years before you can say you can spin properly, but I can turn fibre into yarn now, even if it is a little wonky and uneven.

Break in transmission. I heard something bashing outside and looked up to see two rogue cows! They broke down the fence and ran through our paddock, then broke through another section of fence to get out! Luckily our sheep were in the backyard enclosure so I just had to race out there and close the gate to the paddock – or I’d have a crazy rogue cow or two at the back door and by the looks of the way they just pushed down the fences I’m thinking that could get ugly!

Ok back again… it’s a couple of days later but I’m determined to publish. There’s been a few times I’ve sat down and starting writing to you but then if I don’t finish in one go, time passes, I feel it becomes outdated, then I start thinking about my writing, what I’m writing, why I’m writing, and I can’t find a good enough reason to share it. I start second guessing all the words and the stories and think you probably don’t need my ramblings in your life. But you know what, who am I to say what you need or want in your life? Besides I love the process of writing my thoughts down, and I do love to look back and see when we planted the orchard, when I made that sheep beanie, when the lambs were born… etc… I use this blog as a reference for dates as they seem to mush together the older I get! So here goes on another long waffle session from me, and if you made it this far then you are a legend!

May you add some surprising feathers to your cap and be as full of sunshine as our jam cupboard x

PS – Did you wish upon a super blue blood moon too?

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a flock of sheep





















We finally felt ready to take on our own flock of sheep. Three girls was the plan, but when our neighbours offered a Ram for sale we couldn’t say no. They were sending the rest of their young boys off to the butchers and there was a girl who would go too, and not wanting to have an even number of sheep, we purchased the girl. We went from 3 to 5 sheep within the first week. As the weeks went by we made some jokes about the girls being fat, there was of course an abundance of long green grass in our paddock, which had been unattended to for some months, but one Sunday whilst taking Lenny the ram some broccoli flowers, we heard a little ‘baaaa’ coming from the grass. Low and behold a cute little newly born black lamb was right in front of us, we could hardly believe our own eyes! We suspiciously eyed the other ‘fat’ girls and begun to research the ‘signs’ to look for. Within a day or so we were pretty convinced Lucy would soon give birth. Sure enough, the following Saturday she had the biggest baby lamb – poor girl! She’s always been smaller than the other sheep, being hand reared and not receiving her mother’s milk seem to have stunted her growth somewhat, but that didn’t stop her having the biggest baby boy – almost twice the size of the other little lamb born the previous week, to a mother much larger than Lucy.

So within a month or so of becoming sheep owners, we became sheep breeders, about a year before we had planned. We’ve been flat out getting a little fox proof enclosure ready so we can lock up the mums and bubs at night keeping them safe from harm. Easier said than done! Have you ever tried to get sheep to do what you want but they don’t? It’s not that easy – I have a new appreciation for sheep dogs! We are learning a lot about keeping sheep and recently had lessons from the vet on how to trim their hooves and give injections either into the muscle or just under the skin, along with a rather indignant lesson for Lenny on how to get a ram on his back. No easy feat for an estimated 80kg of sheep!

Now I know I’ve told you about Lucy before, who was already named, and we were thrilled to be able buy her as she’s such a friendly girl. We decided to name the other girls after songs too so we have Lola (the other new mum), Layla, and Luka, and the ram is Lenny. Now Lenny was named after a hidden track at the end of a Lemonheads cd, the track has never been released as a single nor is it a complete song, but the little snippet of a gem is a fave of ours and now immortalised in our ram. We are only going to name the sheep we are keeping, the ones that will end up in the freezer eventually will not be named so I don’t get too attached to them. And I’m not entirely sure that theory is going to work, we may very well end up with a paddock full of pet sheep! But our grand plan here is to raise our own meat and to ensure the animals live a beautiful natural stress free life where they are cared for in the best possible way and are never exposed to toxic fields full of sprays. So we are going to try with all our might to do this, it won’t be easy I know, there may tears I know, but we can try.

We already decided we didn’t want to take away Lucy’s first baby. Lucy has had a lot of human contact and she is proving to be a very caring attentive mother. As she lost her mother at birth we thought it would be kinder to allow her to keep her baby. Turns out she had a boy so we are keen to allow him to grow into his full ram potential and take over the reign from Lenny as we allow him to age, he’s no young buck. He’s obviously still going well, two new lambs and all, but his years of productivity are probably limited so we now have a succession plan. Lucy’s boy has strong genetics, he’s a huge baby, and will hopefully inherit Lucy’s gentle temperament along with an automatic trust of people as he watches his mum walk up to us for pats and treats – unlike the other sheep who all run a mile in the other direction, except for Lenny the ram who has turned out to be a smoochy gentle giant that likes chin scratches. Lola’s baby is a girl so we will keep her too and add her to the breeding stock. It’s early days and we’re still to learn how much feed our paddock will yield over the dry summer months, we do not wish to subsidise their food too much as we’d like them to eat from our biodynamic paddock rather than buy feed in, so the total number of sheep we keep has to be in balance with what we can provide naturally. I think we’re probably close to the limit now but I’m pretty happy we are keeping our first two additions to the flock.

So, for now we now have a flock of 7 Suffolk sheep and I have two new names to pick out! In case you haven’t realised I love naming things, including all our neighbours sheep! One of which I’m going to reuse as it’s one I love and this is important for a ram who will be with us for many years. Lucy’s baby is Ziggy. We’re sticking with the music theme obviously! Lola’s girl will be Eileen. And yes we may or may not sing their names.

Our lives have been totally taken over by sheep in the last month or so, learning about sheep, caring for sheep, watching the sheep and building a sheep shed but in other non sheepish news the farm is going well… the fruit trees are all starting to burst with blossom and leaves after their big winter sleep, there’s baby apricots and almonds developing already and we have our first few fingerlimes ripening up. The veggie garden is sprouting new life despite the fact I planted a heap of new seeds prior to a week of the most solid heavy rain dumping all winter! I was sure I’d lost them all but it appears there are a few survivors in the mix. We fell way behind in our plan to plant to heap of seeds late winter ready for a spring planting, life has a way of getting busy and August was nuts this year! Craft is slowly coming back into our lives in a daily manner as we try to do a little making each night. Charlie always seems to have an order on the go and I’ve just made a couple more scarves, I love having a cupboard of homemade goodies at the ready for presents and gifts.

Farm life sure is luscious this time of year in Gippsland, the hills are a deep rich green and the grass long. The cattle surrounding us are healthy and shiny and the vet commented on the excellent condition of our sheep. There’s plenty of food for them and I’m pretty sure you can see a little contented smile in their relaxed faces sometimes.

Wishing you contented smiles and relaxed days.

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.

ginger & turmeric syrup





‘Cup of tea or coffee? Ginger Syrup?’ Chances are if you visit me that’s what I’ll say. Followed by ‘I make this homemade ginger syrup and use it like cordial with sparkling water. It’s a lovely refreshing drink, would you like to try some?’ … I guess it’s quite the sell job really but unless you are a ginger hater you will probably love my ginger syrup. Well that’s been my experience in offering it so far anyway. I thought I’d share how I make it as most people that try it usually ask for the recipe. This version is the turmeric one but just leave that out if you’d prefer a plain ginger syrup.

I’ve been making ginger syrup for years and it’s become one of those things that I hate to run out of. I tend to make a couple of litres every couple of weeks as it’s the main thing I drink apart from cuppas. I found the inspiration for my original recipe at this fabulous blog by the lovely Rhonda. Of course me being me I tweaked the recipe somewhat, partly due to the fact that I can tolerate limes better than lemons and partly due to laziness. I no longer grate my ginger, and I don’t peel it either. I just wash it and scrub it with a firm brush to remove any dirt. I’ve taken to adding fresh turmeric in my ginger syrup over the last few months and am loving both the subtle flavour and the health benefits of consuming turmeric regularly. Be warned though, the fresh turmeric will stain everything it touches so don’t use your favourite chopping board! I use gloves so I don’t have yellow/orange fingers for days.

This isn’t a recipe as such, more of a guide. It’s only cordial so you can’t go wrong really! Oh and all you ‘no sugar people’ best look away now, this is not a low sugar drink, it is a cordial/syrup after all.

Ginger & Turmeric Syrup

INGREDIENTS
Ginger – approx 3-4 pieces the size of your hand
Turmeric – approx 1 piece the size of your palm
Raw sugar – approx one mountain equal in size to the mountain of chopped ginger/turmeric.
Limes – approx 3 to 6 (depending on availability and price!)

HOW TO MAKE IT
Scrub the ginger and turmeric to clean any residual dirt.
Chop as finely as you can be bothered, the finer the better.
Pile into large pot forming a single mountain, I use a big 6.7 litre pot (I think!).
Pour in sugar to make roughly the same size mountain as the ginger.
Peel or zest limes and add juice.
Fill the pot with water.
Bring to the boil then simmer for an hour or three.
Turn off heat and allow to steep for another hour or three. (or overnight if you run out of time/can’t be bothered)
Strain into bottles or jugs and keep in the fridge.

That’s it, simple hey? I’m not sure how long it lasts as ours doesn’t make it beyond a couple of weeks. I like it served with sparkling water but tap water is fine too.

Let me know if you make some? Or if you have any questions about my vague guide?

May your cup runneth over x