Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Splitting logs

I am probably pretty weird, but I think that one of life's great pleasures is splitting old dry wood.

Yesterday I bought a log splitter to make a start on splitting up the large pile of  logs that the Lad had cut up with the chain saw.

I love how, when everything is perfect, the axe 'bites' and the log cleaves in one go and with little effort. I love the pile of split wood as it grows and grows.

I love the thought of the heat that the wood will generate later in the year as the weather nips off and we load up the wood heater.

I love how it makes you take time to appreciate how beautiful wood is.

 I love how it makes me feel strong.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Zucchini Tuesday - Wallaby proof

What do zucchinis, chillies and sunflowers have in common?

They are the only wallaby-proof things in my vegetable patch!  While everything else has either been sampled or mown down completely, Greenskin 2 and the new zucchini babies (which I will thin out to one soon) are untouched, completely untouched.

Perhaps the Wallaby is like many others - zucchini not being their first choice for vegetable? Perhaps when the wallaby has finished everything else left in the garden, it might go for the zucchinis?

This information is probably not very useful to you, I suspect most of my readers are not at risk of browsing swamp wallabies?

You might like to know that garlic chives are a particular favourite of the Swampies, garlic chives and parsley.

I think that the Swampy should read my somewhat triumphal post about 'dressing' rabbits. After having eaten  loads of garlic chives and all my parsley, I think Swampy might be nicely pre-seasoned by now?

Think about it Swampy...think before you munch!

What sits undisturbed in your patch? What despite the heat wave or the flood or the  various pests and diseases  ravaging your patch stands proud, undefeated?

Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Rabbit Challenge

* Viewer warning: While there are no images of dead animals in this post, if discussion of the preparation of fresh rabbits for eating disturbs you, click elsewhere. Readers from outside Australia should know that rabbits are not native to Australia and are considered a pest. Rural land holders are obliged by law to control their numbers.

Last night one of our neighbours Mr C brought round 6 freshly shot rabbits. Most were shot off our property but one was shot at Highfield after having given permission, nay begged  him to assist with our rabbit control issues. Mr C and the rabbits arrived after I had gone to bed but the Lad was up and received the shooters at the door and with esky a ready.

On asking Mr C to visit with his gun he kindly offered to 'dress' them for me once he discovered that I as former city slicker had never done it before. When I said I was willing to prepare the rabbits myself he also kindly offered to do one for me so I could see how to do it. Being the independent kind, I said, "thanks, but I have read up on 'dressing' rabbits, I'll give it a go". Was I being too confident?

I consulted two texts - Dick and James Strawbridge's Practical Self Sufficiency,

and John Seymour's The New Complete Book of Self Sufficiency. 

I decided that I preferred the version supplied by the Strawbridges - the first one shown - and read up before I went to bed keen to put my new found book knowledge to work in the morn.

It was about 6am when the Lad, in answer to my question, "how many?" said, "6". To be frank the number 6, startled me a little... I was a new comer to all this, 6 furry rabbits to clean seemed a challenge too far, one or two or even 3 seemed more manageable. Was this Mr C playing some sort of joke in response to my cockiness?

I decided that earlier in the morning for this sort of thing was best and  re-consulted the book with bleary eyes, grabbed some essential equipment (knives - a sharp small one and a heavy big one, a bucket, and a cutting board) and  headed outside.

What I learned
I hope that these short notes will assist any of you taking this task or similar tasks on. It was this detail that the books were missing that you might find useful. It may be a little confronting.
  • the first one was the most difficult - unsurprising you may say.
  • it is best to make two cuts to access the organs -one thru the fur and skin and then another into the 'bag' that holds the organs. The books above implied that it would happen in one go and thus I was mightily confused when with the first rabbit I couldn't see any entrails when I made my first incision!
  • once I had made a gentle and small cut into the 'bag' that holds the organs, this was easily torn with your hands - in fact I think that this is 'safer' (if not a little unnerving at first) than using a knife to open the cavity more lest you cut the organs.
  • once you have opened the organ 'bag', I find it easier (contrary to the book's instructions) to hold the rabbit by its front paws over a bucket and let gravity assist with the organs falling away.You do need to use your hands a little to scoop out the innards as they are loosely attached to the cavity by a sort of membrane. It comes away very easily.
  • the lungs and heart are in a separate cavity above the innards, you need to be more vigorous to access these and take them out but hands I think is the way to go.
  • the skin and fur are very easy to remove - just like the books say!
  • the hardest bit of getting the skin and fur off is cutting the paws off, the bone even when cut right at the joint, is quite tough - I guess its the sinews that make them bounce that make it tough.
  • it doesn't smell.
  • it's not bloody.
  • it's not hard  physically to do, I didn't find it emotionally tough either and I am a bit of a softey. In fact I feel a little proud of myself setting myself the challenge and taking it on. I had wanted to take things on like this when we moved here and I feel great that I have achieved this humble little act that our mothers and grandmothers probably did every week!
  • I wasn't being too confident.
I took the back legs off the hips and tonight I am making a Spanish inspired dish. In part it comes from this SBS recipe, which is French in style, but I have amended it to replace the bacon with chorizo and have added smoked paprika. I think that the best rabbit dish I ever ate was a dish in Spain and so I had to make a dish with Spanish flavours.

The ingredients are here but I forgot to put in the photo the wine and the stock that I had in the freezer made from lamb bones.

It's in the oven right now and I hope we get to eat it! A fire truck has just raced past to attend a fire just 3kms away. Thankfully it is a calm evening - not a hint of wind. The fire no doubt was ignited by last night's lightening storm. I will post now and add a postscript if we get to eat it. By the way, the rest of the rabbits are in the freezer awaiting cooler weather and a rabbit pie.

Stay safe everyone, Queenslanders stay dry (especially you brother), and can we have a little of your excess water please?

PS:  We ate the dish, we didn't need to vacate, and it was delicious. The meat was still a little dry but not too dry and with the light sauce it was lovely. I had already started to munch on this before I took the photo, I couldn't wait!

The fire is still there but  the fire fighters have gone home - a sign that they are comfortable leaving it. There is no wind and we will keep an active watch on the RFS website.

Friday, 25 January 2013

What Wallaby ate

Last night a Swamp Wallaby visited the garden. This morning I inspected what the Wallaby had for dinner. I was grateful for the Wallaby's grazing of the suckers that were thickly sprouting from the bottom of one of the crab apples. Thanks Swampy, you saved me quite a bit of pruning!

Swampy also had a nibble of beetroot leaves,

a munch of radish leaves,

and quite a bit of rocket. It seems that Wallabies also really like nasturtiums,

and new bean plants ( I didn't take photos of them because there was nothing much left to see!). Swamp Wallabies also really like the tender tips of blueberry plants,

and they really enjoy kurrajongs eating every leaf.

It's been so hot and dry, the landscape around is brown and crunchy, of course my green vegetable garden looked so delicious, I think I can share a little bit with the Swampy.

I am grateful that Swamp Wallabies generally graze by themselves. I hope word about my garden doesn't get out to the Eastern Greys who graze in mobs!

I wonder what the Swamp Wallaby will eat tonight? After sampling the garden, perhaps the Wallaby will settle on one thing? I am punting on the rocket. I had better pick lots today -  it might be the last opportunity to do so!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Frog invasion!

It starts each night a little after the sun goes down.

Groups of Peron's Tree frog start gathering at the lip of the small water storage drum that drains the verandah. After some time they move onto the deck,

and then onto windows searching for the insects attracted by the light.

The odd frog waves hello to us to thank us for the buffet.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Zucchini Tuesday - The King is dead

The King is dead, long live the King! Yes, its true, Greenskin has been deposed or rather disposed of.

Growing up in the Metropolis, being transported for 4 hours on the back of a ute, being planted into a hastily made bed and suffering weeks of over 35c plus a day of fire threat has been too much for Greenskin. It failed to thrive, produced only 2 zucchini and over the last few days just looked limp no matter how much water was supplied. The time had come - off to the compost bin!

But as tradition should have it, when one King passes, another arises - Long Live King Greenskin 2. Please
give me more that 2 fruit!

Have you had a transition in leadership in your zucchini patch  Any revolutions? Any  zucchini sent to the compost bin?

Monday, 21 January 2013

Harvest Monday - 21st Jan

Finally I have something to show for myself! Pickings are meagre but they are happening. Here is what I have been picking this last week.

  • two padron chillies - these will be gently fried in olive oil and dashed with sea salt this evening for a tiny  starter. Oh how I wish there were 20! My padron plant tries to give me more but each time the flower forms, the heat wave gears up and I guess the plant decided that survival is better than fruiting.

  • small pickings of broad yellow ripple currant tomatoes and even fewer brown berries. This is today's picking but I have had similar pickings every two days. The yellow toms are very small, but actually really delicious.
  • 4 cucumbers - yay! These were picked today and will go into a cucumber, pomegranate and feta salad.

One of them is quite wonky.

  • Red chillies - I have picked many over the last few weeks. They are being stashed in the freezer for year round use, 

and from now on I am stringing some up on my trusty linen substitute to make dried chillies.

  • I have also been picking lots of radishes - this is today's pick, meagre compared to other days.
Other things I've been picking that I haven't photographed.
  • lots of rocket -  somehow this survived all the heat thrown at it.  It wilts but revives each day!
  • spring onions
  • herbs - basil, parsley and oregano
While pickings are slim, it feels great to be picking something.

Hope your gardens are surviving the heat (in Australia) and the cold in the other hemisphere!

You'll find much more produce to admire at Daphne's.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Rabbiters' ruin

This morning we spent around the Rabbiters' Hut ruin. Rabbiters' was the original homestead on our property. Locals say that previous owners of the property put a rope on the hut attached the rope to a 4-wheel drive and pulled it down. Before its destruction locals say, the hut was 'rustic' but definitely liveable. That the hut was destroyed in this way causes the locals to shake their heads. We shake our heads too.

We have done many walking trips to the Victorian and NSW High Country where huts were built by cattlemen and which now provide emergency refuge to walkers and skiers. We love these Mountain Huts very much - Rabbiters' is very much in the style of its more famous cousins further up in the hills.

Today we took lots of photos of Rabbiters' to get a sense of its structure and features with a view to rebuilding it (one day) in its rusty, rustic simple style.

Here is Rabbiters'.

Here's Rabbiters' thunder box.


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