Friday, 31 May 2013

Sharing the bounty

Autumn is a time of bounty here it seems. In the last week or so we have been the very grateful recipients of the bounty of various neighbours.

First there was a huge plastic bag full of comfrey plants from digger man  'Brush' and his lovely Play School-named sister. These has been planted up into pots for the time being until I work out the best place in the beds for these fantastic plants. I can't wait to use their leaves for composting and mulching and capturing nutrients from way underground.

Then, a short time later, the same pair turned up armed with a huge and warty pumpkin,

and a bag of enormous crisp Granny Smith apples.

'Brush' and his sister live up the hills a little in Batlow -  place of apples.

Then, last night when all was dark and quiet came a set of headlights up the drive. We wondered who might be visiting at such an hour - most of our farmer neighbours are well and truly inside and snug by this time of evening. Out of the dark came a familiar voice, it was 'Heron', saying, "I thought you might like some meat, I just killed me pigs".

'Heron' came inside and handed over two large bags of bounty. One contained about 12 pork chops, a pork rib roast and a shoulder of pork, all with a lovely dark hue to the meat, totally different to the pale meat of supermarket pork.

The other bag contained 2 rabbits, beautifully dressed - 'Heron' does a great job of dressing rabbits.

One day when I have more produce of my own, I will be able to offer some in return. Have you received bounty from neighbours and friends recently? What's come over the fence to you? What's your favourite pork recipe?

Monday, 27 May 2013

Things are happening

It's a wake-up call when your mother phones and asks, "Is everything ok -  you haven't blogged for a week". And then, with more hesitation says, "Is Geranium ok?"

The answer to the question is and was, "Yes, everything is fine and Geranium is bonding with us, it's just that we've been very busy - too busy to blog." You see, in the last week things have started to happen - some of our infrastructure is finally coming together.

We now have a bridge crossing the creek that we must cross to enter the property.

We have a solar hot water system on our roof heating to steamingly hot the water from our tank and all for free. It even looks good!

We have had a space for our shed excavated. This shed will provide space for storage and tinkering with wood and dairy produce.

The beds in Fortress Wallaby (our vegetable patch) are gradually being made. They are framed by wood from the property, carefully selected and manoeuvred into place by the Lad. Filled with cardboard, manures and grass clippings eventually a growing medium will develop. (You should have seen the mountain of cardboard that came off the solar water heater! Now all turning to worms in the bottom of the bed!).

This bed will host apples and some currants and a perennial green manure to cut and mulch with.

We have taken out a huge Red Box tree. It towered over the house and was a real fire and dropping limb issue and it had to go.

While it is sad, we will use the wood wisely, it is so dense and beautifully red.

We will get someone with a portable mill to help us to make best use of this beautiful wood.

In the meantime, the chooky girls provide light relief and luridly yellow-yolked cackleberries.

And the views in the morning continue to make me smile.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Aphid invasion!

Never in my life have I had an aphid invasion like this one!

Aphids have been thick on my savoy cabbages, coating the leaves with their greyness and hiding away in the folds of the forming cabbages.

The other day I decided to make a garlic spray and hit them hard.
I didn't note the quantities of the garlic spray I made up but it went something like this.

Garlic Spray

2 cups water
3 large garlic cloves finely cut up
a tiny little dash of olive oil

Pop water and garlic into a saucepan and boil up. You can kind of smell when the water has taken on the garlic odour. Cool a little before straining into a pump spay bottle. Add the olive oil and shake. When the mix is cool spray offending aphids.

Red Drumhead and Mini Wombok
Yesterday I checked to see the results and yay, hundreds, thousands of dead aphids! (I didn't take a photo unfortunately, so you'll just have to believe me.)

Now, one more problem to solve... how to get them off the cabbage. I decided on a hefty spray with the hose - just as well we have had plenty of rain lately otherwise I would hesitate using precious water in this way. This seems to have worked.

Bizarrely, it is only the Savoy cabbages that have been affected. I have Red Drumhead, Mini Cabbage and Mini Wombok in addition to the Savoys in and they are all clean. So what is it about Savoys?

As for my other brassicas, they are all doing well except for those within beak reach of the marauding chooky girls. I have lost three immature cauliflower plants to their ability to peck thru wire mesh!

How do you deal with your aphid issues? How are your cabbages?

aphid-free Savoy cabbage ( minus bloom)

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Which is whose?

Who'd have thought that eggs could be so different. Who'd have thought that you can tell from the egg which of the chooky girls produced it.

Mavis lays eggs with lots of white spots on a darkish background. Strange given that she has the lightest feather colour.

Myra lays lovely even-coloured beige eggs even though she has the darkest feather colour of the four chookies.

Only two of the four chooky girls are laying at the moment but being able to tell which egg belongs to which chicken makes it easy to work out who is laying and who is not.

Thank you chookies for your lovely eggs!

PS: You will tell me if a spotty egg means that the hen is not getting what she needs wont you?

Saturday, 18 May 2013

A girl called Geranium Dexter

We have a new girl on the patch.

Her name is Geranium and she is a Dexter. Geranium arrived this morning, coming all the way from Callistemon Park, Beelbangagra (near Griffith NSW) where she was born and bred.

Geranium is a very generous birthday gift from my mother for myself and the Lad - we happen to have our birthdays quite close together.

Geranium is a pure bred Dexter cow. Dexters are small dual purpose cattle - suitable as a diary cow and for  beef. They are said to do well on native pasture - they kind of pasture we have.

The model pose - one leg forward

She is a black beauty and in calf and due to deliver in November. Her mate was a very handsome lad called Peppercorn, a lovely woolly-headed Dexter bull also from Callistemon Park.

Geranium will become our house cow, providing us with a little milk - milk we will make into cheese, yoghurt and butter (when we get the hang of it). In the meantime we hope she has a trouble-free pregnancy on our grass.

I hope she isn't too cold here in our mountain weather! I am sure we must be colder in winter than Griffith.

Dexters are a breed from Ireland originally and they come in black, red and dun colours. They are smaller breed  thus easier to handle for beginners like us.  They are classified as a recovering  rather than a rare breed.

She will be tucked into our cattle yards for a while giving her time to get used to us and her surroundings. I will give her a daily brushing and some special feed to help her feel at home before giving her a wider range on our grass.

And I guess you are wondering about her green ears?  Fetching colour against her black coat isn't it?  She's just had her ears tattooed with identifying numbers.  I'd prefer to think she went to the hairdressers before meeting her new owners, just to look pretty.

The Lad is now feeling a touch out-numbered. Our patch now has 7 girls and 1 boy -  Louise (me), Harriet (our English cat), Mavis, Myra, Myrtle and Muriel (our ISA Brown chickens), Geranium the Dexter cow and just one Lad.

Thank you mum and thank you Judy for trusting your lovely lass with us. We will do our best to look after her.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Harvest Monday on Tuesday

Kept inside by a heavy fog and warm heater I decided to document my meagre harvest of the last week and post it on Daphne's Harvest Monday.

Yes, you are right, it is Tuesday here in Australia, but I figure I am still 'legal' as it is still Monday somewhere inn the world and definitely Monday in the US where Daphne's blog is based. So here is the meagre harvest of the week just passed.

A few finger limes.  Liz recently explained what these little fruit are. These seem undersized to me but they fell off in my hand when I inspected the bush  and I figured they must have been ripe.

The finger lime I have is 'Collette' a black skinned lime with bright green citrus bubbles. Liz's finger limes are pink inside. The bubbles are highly fragrant as well as being very citrusy.

Most of the rest of the pick this week has focused on chillies and capsicums. The chillies are gradually ripening up and each day I pick about 5 -  not huge quantities but still they add to my stash which will sustain me for a year.

I also decided to beat the impending frost by picking my developing capsicums. They were meant to be large red capsicums, but I picked them green and stuffed them with a mix of feta and ricotta and pine nuts, topped them with smoked paprika and baked. Delicious.

And there has been a small pick of padron peppers as well, eaten by quickly tossing in a saucepan with olive oil and skin blistered and dashed with sea salt.

A fist full of spring onions completes the pick -  these went into my favourite eggplant dish - Spicy Eggplant - a Chinese style dish made by the Lad.

That's it really.  Head over to Daphne's for more produce.

Monday, 13 May 2013


Last night and this morning, it rained. It woke me at about 4am -  it was a pleasant wakening - a drip, drip, drip and a trickle into the tank. The sound that means longer showers.

It hasn't rained much here so far this autumn - we had only 9.5mm in April and quite warm temperatures. Many properties around have been looking very parched and I know that some are hand feeding their stock already - a little too early in the season.

The farmers around here have been waiting for the autumn break and it didn't really happen. But last night it rained and  there were 12.5mm of beautiful rain in the gauge and more rain is forecast.

The rain makes everything look so beautiful. The dampness has made all the colours of Highfield really stand out.

Like the colour of the  lichens on the post that holds the rain gauge.

And the beetroot red of the growth rings in the top of the fence posts.

The bark of the Box trees and the Blakley's gums are an inspiration of colour.

There is a little low cloud over the hills. 

The brassicas and nasturtiums are holding little diamonds of rain drops.

Strangely the grass seems to have greened up already. I cant wait to see the new growth.

Let's hope that those further west have received some rain or will soon.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Fortress Wallaby

Those who read my blog over the southern summer will know my battles for produce with wallabies and that the veggie beds I currently have are temporary ones.  Well now I have a permanent place to put my veggies and it is behind what I hope to be a wallaby-proof fence -  it's called Fortress Wallaby.

Fortress Wallaby is no ordinary piece of  fenced off ground, it's beautiful  (if a fence can be beautiful - I think it can). Fortress Wallaby was made by our neighbour, I'll call him Woody - I don't think he'd object, and Woody as you might expect  is very handy with wood (and fences).

The strainer posts and stays are cut from fallen or dead trees on the property - ones that if not already fallen, needed to come down as they were too close to the house.

The wood is so beautifully red  where it is newly cut and so grey  and lichened a patina where it has weathered the weather.

In places, the fence looks like a mythical animal - perhaps a little like  old Nessy of Loch fame without the abundant water and trapped behind chicken wire.

Fortress Wallaby contains quite a sizeable garden area that will be home to veggies and some fruit trees too. I will never again be allowed to comment that I don't have enough space.

The first beds are being formed from old bridge decking and more fallen wood along with cardboard boxes, piles and piles of manure of all sorts and yard muckings, lucerne and mowings.

I'll take it one bed at a time.

This concoction will be allowed to stew  for as long as I can stand it and then gradually I will plant up, first with things that need to go in over winter - raspberries, asparagus and bare rooted fruit trees - what else should go in in winter? And then the plantings for summer.

I have some pretty wonderful views from the new patch to keep me musing while I plant, manure and weed.

Finally we are under way.  With such a beautiful fence line I had better grow some pretty wonderful vegetables!

While we are pretty sure that this fence will keep the wallabies out, it appears that the chickens are not at all deterred!

I have warned them that they might look nice stuffed and mounted as fence sentinels if they are not careful!

Watch out Muriel....

I am very glad that wallabies can't fly.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Birds and onions

I love my chickens and I love the wonderful native birds that we share our patch with, I really do!

Myrtle and Mavis eyeing off the baby spring onions
Except when they eat my oniony things! For instance, on Monday morning I emerged from the house to find this.

All my shallots dug up and flung around their little oniony bed. Hmm, a busy tribe of choughs! Thank goodness they had only just started to put down a few roots and no shoots. And there were other casualties in that bed as well.  The shallots were sharing their bed with some onion seedlings  and a row of snow peas that had started to sprout. Gone, all gone.

The shallots have been put into another bed and the soil has been covered with wire to stop the choughs scratchy feet and flicky beaks. Hopefully!

What are choughs (pronounced - chuffs)? Well they are fabulous black and white birds with lovely curved wings and beaks and quite mad red eyes. They hang out in groups and spend a lot of time turning over leaves and other forest litter and they chat to one another as they do. Trevor's Birding has a nice picture of them hanging out together.  They have the most amazing big mud nests. This website has great pictures of them and their nests.

As for my chooky girls, well they like chives,

garlic chives,

and spring onions.

I am guessing that their eggs are going to have a nice oniony taste? Better not make a cake! And better find a solution to their onion tribe snacking.

What irresistible birdie treats do you have in your patch?


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