Monday, 26 August 2013

Harvest Monday - 26 August '13

While there is definitely spring in the air, the pick is still a wintery one. Here is our pick for the last week.

I picked more distinctly odd purple-tinged Romanesco Broccoli. They look more like strange sea creatures than a vegetable. So far I have had just as many lime-green ones as purple-tinged ones.

I had thought that the seeds I had purchased were for a lime-green form only. While they look very weird, they just taste like cauliflower but perhaps a little crunchier?

I have picked the first of the Red Drumhead cabbages, more broccoli side shoots and the first of the Brussels sprouts.

This is the first time I've grown sprouts and I am not sure that I am doing a good job. The sprouts are quite small and not very firm but I am sure they will be delicious steamed.

 The fennel on the other hand are a real success. The recent rain  has made the bulbs large and juicy. There are many many more fennel bulbs to pick over the next month or so.

The rain has also swelled the celery stalks (which I didn't photograph) - at the moment I have more celery than I know what to do with. Celery soup perhaps?  Is there such a thing?

That's been the week's pick. Pop over to Daphne's to see what others are picking.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Sheep midwifery

Last Friday I did a Sheep Care and Handling course run by the Department of Primary Industries. Today a wet cold and miserable day of drizzly rain, I had to put some of those skills into practise in a life and death situation -  you see today The Lad and I assisted a ewe with a complicated birth.

Normally ewes go off by themselves to lamb, they strain for some time and, if the birth is normal, the little front hooves come out first followed by the head and very soon and often with the helpful wiggling of the lamb, the newborn drops to the ground. Normally the lamb is born with no problems at all.

This morning when we went to check the flock we noticed a ewe up and running with the mob but distressingly with the head of her lamb protruding with no sign of any little hooves. Most crucially, the ewe had given up straining. We assumed the lamb was dead. We knew we had to intervene.

A quick call to the local Vet confirmed our suspicions - that the lamb was not in the correct birthing position, it was possibly dead and if we didn't  manipulate the lamb into the correct position and remove the lamb then the ewe would also die. After some clear instructions from the Vet he reassuringly said, "give it a go first and if you need me I can come out". After supplementing the Vet's instructions with my remembered book knowledge and after summoning up some courage we went into action.

We had a little trouble separating the ewe from the flock and getting her into a corner of the paddock but once we did The Lad very ably caught and held her fast. Secure with The Lad, the ewe was calm and seemed to know we needed to help her.

Thankfully and amazingly the lamb was still alive but in obvious distress. I felt inside the ewe and found one of the lamb's shoulders and then its little leg. It was curled up under the lamb as if it were sitting on the ground. I uncurled it and eased it out of the ewe and then went in search of the other leg. I could not find it at all.

Thankfully the Vet had helpfully mentioned that he had successfully removed lambs with only one leg out and so after a short time I decided not to keep searching and I helped the lamb out pulling it downwards in two firm but gentle movements. Once on the ground, the little lamb struggled to breath. I rubbed its little chest and it spluttered into action. We then introduced the lamb to its mum who nuzzled and licked it and the lamb wiggled.

And then I cried - it was pretty powerful really...

(and then I had a shower - it was also a bit messy!)

Throughout today we have watched the ewe and her little lamb through the binoculars to check on their progress, they are very slowly progressing but they are progressing. It was a difficult birth for them both, it was a big day for us. Let's hope they make it through the night, we will sleep well.

I don't have any pictures of the ewe and lamb in question - we were a little too busy to photograph her and we did not want to disturb her once the lamb was born, so here is another mother and child.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Little lost lambs

Our lovely 38 ewes started lambing on 4th August and so far we have 21 bouncing babes, 8 of them as twins. They are called bouncing babes for a reason -  they do bounce! It is remarkable how fast they take to their feet, how quickly they find their mummies milk and how soon and fast they run.

Frustratingly, each time I video them they do nothing! Then next time I glance out the window, 7 babies have clubbed together and are kicking up their little hooves and dashing en-masse back and forward across the paddock! Fabulous fun, quick where is the camera?

But we have had two little tragedies losing two little lambs, both at birth we think. One baby was a very big lad and his mum obviously had a hard time landing him. I feel a little sad that I didn't know that the ewe in question was having trouble otherwise I would have headed out with my gloves and lubricant, my memorisation of the correct presentation of lambs and what I had to do to assist.

The other loss was a tiny little girl. She was probably a little pre-mature, in any case she was very small.

Poor little babes and poor ewes who bleated for their babies for a long time...

We're poor little lambs who've lost our way,
Baa, Baa, Baa!
We're little black sheep who've gone astray,
Baa, Baa, Baa! 

Both little lambies have been taken into my vegetable patch marked and remembered first with a little sprig of rosemary then later a fruit tree. Thank you lost lambies, we know where you are, you are not lost.

* Neither of the lost lambs was photographed. The lambs and ewes pictured here are all fine and well and bouncing.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Unfettered feta

You'd think it would be easy to buy unhomogenised milk in the country-side right? Wrong, in fact it is quite difficult to buy  three things here in the bush, unhomogenised milk, any locally produced food and most deli items, oh, and I forgot, there is a fourth thing, rye flour!

But to stop me raving any more on supermarkets and food distribution systems, I can report that the other day I DID find a stash of unhomogenised milk at a supermarket and promptly bought the fridge out (there was only 6 litres and I got them all!).

Why you ask? To make cheese! You see I want to practise cheese making so that I am ready to rip when the lovely Geranium the Dexter produces her calf and allows me to milk her.

The other day I took the feta challenge and used 5 litres of my unhomogenised milk stash to make it. I was so nervous that it wouldn't work that I didn't take many photos, but I am pleased to say that it DID work and that I did take some photos.

So now that I don't have to declare failure, here are the curds draining - 5 litres made 3 baskets full of curds and these drained down to about half the size of each basket.

Here is one of the freshly drained cheeses -  still quite soft.

And here is some of the feta stash popped in a jar with oil and rosemary, pepper and chilli.

It was surprisingly easy to make and tastes surprisingly good even though I made it with bought cow's milk and not with sheep milk as feta is traditionally made.

Yesterday, I had some of the marinated feta on a piece of toast with sun-dried tomatoes on top for lunch - heaven! Today, it is a feta and pistachio nut damper to have with pumpkin and parsnip soup.

I will have to think of more things to do with feta given that I have quite a stash. Got a feta recipe to share?

Thinking of trying to make some of your own cheese? Based on this one experience -  do it, it is easy!

I'm off into town to see if I can find more unhomogenised milk!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Harvest Monday - 19th Aug '13

It's been a busy week and I can't quite believe that it has been a week since I  last blogged. I've been weeding, counting  lambs, doing a sheep handling course, meeting strange alpacas, making cheese, hosting visitors AND picking vegetables. Here is what I picked this last week - it's been a big harvest.

I picked the last of the womboks, some spring onions and the flowering stalks from my red pak choi, which, when combined with some tofu and an egg fried rice, made a great dinner  -  chef was the Lad.

I picked two fennel bulbs which went with potato, and bacon one of my favourite fennel dishes.

Lots of broccoli side shoots,

a handsome Savoy cabbage,

a stash of small but oh so tasty parsnips (they are a bit hairy aren't they?).

There has been loads of rosemary, but I didn't pick it, a flock of sulphur crested cockatoos flew in and pruned off a huge number of stems! They also destroyed several parsley plants...must make a scare cockatoo!

There has been a bizarre purple tinged Romanesco broccoli  and a 'usual' lime green coloured one. The purple one looks a little like a coral doesn't it? Almost a bit  too scary to eat...

 And to finish the week's pick - loads of celery stalks.

But before I refer you off to Daphne's to see what others have picked over the last week, I want to show you a picture of the strange alpaca I met at a farm called Evandale in the Southern Highlands.

He was staunchly defending his sheep from my prying eye and was a little cranky! Thankfully he didn't spit !

Monday, 12 August 2013

Harvest Monday - 12 Aug '13

I am loving the garden at the moment. The produce keeps coming in and it's all so vibrantly coloured. This week as with many previous weeks, it's a brassica-dominated pick. No surprises really, it is winter here.

The prettiest combination of colours I think came from the purple cauliflower (which I think tastes like broccoli), the lime-green Romanesco broccoli (which I think tastes like cauli) and the side shoots from the Calabrese broccoli (which refreshingly taste like broccoli).

I also picked one of the last two Mini Womboks. This went into a great pork and wombok stir-fry.

Mountains of parsley went into Salsa Verde, my new favourite sauce on everything.

And thanks to the raid on my patch of my heavily pregnant sheep, I harvested  these three mini-sized ( or undeveloped) Romanesco broccoli and a Mini cabbage.

I also picked spring onions and chives but didn't photograph these.

While there is bounty now, I can feel the hungry gap approaching...

What are you picking? Head off to Daphne's to see pickings from elsewhere.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Saturday Spotlight: Romanesco Broccoli

It's my first year growing Romanesco Broccoli. I confess I was tempted by its mad, lime-green, fractal-like spiralling curds. I raised them from seed and popped them in the patch in early April (I think). They grew well with a little lime to sweeten the soil and today I harvested my first decent-sized beauty.

While they are called a broccoli, I found their growth form to be much more like a cauliflower. Certainly their leaves were much more like a cauli. I haven't tasted them yet - I have a back log of purple cauli that should be eaten first.

 I  found them one of the last of my brassicas to produce. This year my brassicas produced in this order:
  • Wombok - Mini
  • Broccoli  - Calabrese
  • Cauliflower - Purple
  • Cabbage  - Savoy
  • Broccoli - Romanesco
Still to come:
  • Cabbage - Mini
  • Cabbage - Red Drumhead
Despite the fact that they have grown quite well, I will harvest only a few of those I put in because they were see yesterday my heavily pregnant ewes that had been let into the House yard to eat the luscious grass around the house down  decided they wanted to sup on something else. They broke into one of my temporary beds and devoured three Broccoli Romanesco plants.

My big fat sheepy mothers ate most of the leaves of three of my Broccoli Romanesco - perhaps it was one of those pregnant cravings?

While they ate the leaves they left  the underdeveloped hearts which I harvested. Here are the tiny babies munched off in their prime ( in my hand and in the background).

They did take a munch of one of the undeveloped heads - naughty sheep!

(Eek, look at my rough farmer's hands!)

While I am yet to taste them, I will probably grow them again, in part because I have more seeds and in part because I am still fascinated by the green spirals - next time I  must keep the sheep off!

I am contributing this post to Liz's Saturday Spotlight. Pop over to hers to see other varieties of vegetables highlighted.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Harvest Monday - 5th August '13

Pickings here at Highfield are still good, but I am afraid this week I was not consistent enough with my photo taking. No surprises for a southern hemisphere winter, it's been a brassica dominated pick again with lots of broccoli side shoots, and purple and white caulis.

I also picked two fennel bulbs but didn't take a photo so here is some fennel that will be picked in a few weeks.

There have been a few small but very tasty parsnips, loads of celery,

and small pickings of chives to go with all the breakfast egg dishes we have been eating.

As for animal produce, there have been eggs, eggs and more eggs and,

lambs...this one was born just this morning.

That's it for the week, pop over to Daphne's place to see pickings from elsewhere.

Sunday, 4 August 2013


Today we welcomed two new lambs to our flock. The first one had arrived before I woke and was lying near its mum when I popped out to inspect the herd at 8am. We watched as it took some of its first steps,

and not long after started exploring the paddock with mum.

The ewe had chosen a beautiful and sheltered place to lamb, under a large tree out of the wind.

She'd dug a little nest of soil  for her lamb.

By afternoon, both mother and child looked well and well at home.

At midday, we noticed another ewe leave the herd and find a spot among the tall reeds to have her lamb. By 2.30pm, after a lot of pacing and digging of the ground and straining the second lamb had arrived. I had the privilege of watching the whole process through binoculars from a distance. I must say I cheered when the lamb's little head was visible and cried out, "come on, one more push"!

So that's 2 down, another 36 ewes to go!

We had put in a lot of preparation for the arrival of the lambs, we had some fencing put in to make smaller paddocks suitable for lambing.

The ewes also put in some effort to welcome their babies by yarn bombing parts of the fence.

We hung plastic bags and a fox light along the fence to distract foxes.

Welcome little lambs! May your mother answer your little bleat and may the grass grow beneath your feet.


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