I think I’m back

Wow, it’s been ages since I disappeared off-line. Nearly a month! And no, I’ve not been without a laptop that entire time but it has taken some time to get things up and working again. Not that we’re there entirely yet either. 😦

When my computer took its final dive from its precarious perch to the tiles below, smashing the screen I groaned as I hate changing technology even more than I hate being offline. Nearly a month on and I am still working on getting all my RSS feeds, old emails and contacts onto this computer but hopefully this weekend I can press my technically minded husband into getting it done ( I wouldn’t have the foggiest 😉 ) which means I can follow-up my Pip Permaculture competition winner and arrange that subscription (I’ve not forgotten Simone and I’m sorry for the lack of follow-up but your email is on my old computer) as well as several other pending emails.

Whoops

Whoops

I actually had my new (second-hand) laptop arrive within days thanks to eBay and a proactive husband but then our ISP crashed and we had 4 full days of no internet, followed by nearly 3 days of no email send-ability. Coupled with 2 long weekends in there for Easter and then Anzac Day plus a 2 day migraine has meant it’s been very busy offline around here.

Actually there has been a LOT going on, some of which is worthy of its own posts but I’ll summarise here to catch you up.

Disclaimer. Meat pictures following.

You may remember back in October when we picked up our lambs, intending to use their lawn mowing services until the time came to process them for meat. Well, that time came and on the Sunday of the Anzac long weekend (27th April) our lambs met their maker. In order for full accountability I had a friend come to help me who has had abattoir experience and with me as his assistant we dispatched then hung, skinned and gutted our 2 sheep, one at a time. It was not easy in the slightest and I will never forget that day as long as I live. Taking responsibility for one’s decision to eat meat is a heavy weight I will say and one I feel obliged to carry. Their carcasses hung for 5 days before our friend came back to help me to butcher them into cuts of meat for the freezer. I then spent the rest of the weekend beginning the long process of rendering down the fat (tallow) to be used for soap and candle making and turning the scrappy meat into sausages. We have mint and garlic sausages and garlic, sage and dried apricot ones in the freezer along with roasts, chops, the bones (for bone broth soups) and shanks galore. So far I’ve rendered 1.3kg of tallow and I have at least 2, if not 3 more kilos to finish. Lots of soap!

Jas was most keen and very helpful cutting fat off the meat destined for sausages.

Jas was most keen and very helpful cutting fat off the meat destined for sausages. You can see sheep 1 behind me, wrapped in the sheet.

Cutting the carcass of sheep #2 into butchers cuts.

Cutting the carcass of sheep #2 into butchers cuts. I’ve learned the value of an ultra sharp knife as well as the right knife for the right job.

Rendering down the lard in the slow cooker (the wood and electric stoves were full)

Rendering down the tallow in the slow cooker (the wood and electric stoves were full).

Did you know you can sharpen a knife on the bottom of a coffee cup? Nor did I until a friend told me.

Did you know you can sharpen a knife on the bottom of a coffee cup? Nor did I until a friend told me. It took a while but it gave me enough of an edge to keep using this knife at least.

Making sausages by hand. Meat cleared of excess fat then hand cranked through the mincer before being flavoured then piped into the casings. Plenty of casings left too. :)

Making sausages by hand. The bowl at the back is the pieces too sinewy to mince well which the cats are thoroughly enjoying.

We also had our first frost of the year on Anzac Day (25th which meant there were the last of the tomato plants to pull out, yacon to harvest, 3 zucchini plants to strip and a few other bits and bobs of summer crops that had still been hanging on. I ended up with about 6kg of green tomatoes, mostly cherry tomatoes AFTER I’d given away 1/4 and ripened about 1/2 of them in the pantry. 🙂 They are now made into a green tomato salsa which has been most delicious on corn chips with melted cheese. 🙂 The yacon boasted pretty much nothing but that was a brand new straw based garden bed and I think I ended up with nitrogen draw down by the straw. It is all nicely composted but the yacon were a dismal failure. I ended up with a handful of tubers no bigger than my fingers 😦 but I’ll try again next year. I think I have some of the corms to replant in there too. I hope so. The zucchini plants were great and from the 3 plants I had we grew just slightly more than we could eat. My kids are most grateful for no more ratatouille but I will miss it. We have 1 monster zuke about 60cm long and likely 15cm at its widest point with which I need to do something. Unlike my mum I won’t torture my kids with zucchini soup. 😉 Likely I’ll harvest the seeds then grate the monster into manageable portions to hide in different meals over the year. 🙂

This was on Thursday 1st May. Well iced over and very cold.

This was on Thursday 1st May. Well iced over and very cold.

Most of the garden beds are planted out now with winter crops. I have just 2 more to go. My sunflower beds is cleared and I have a large tub of sunflower seeds (needs winnowing to clear out the husks) and still I have flowers drying. That bed is now showing that the wild fairy dance with dried rainbow chard plants covered in seeds that I did a while back was fruitful. 😉 Lots of inch high rainbow chard seedlings are waving their cotyledon at the skies. :)The potato onions are sprouting although we have a small magpie problem in the shape of about 7 large specimens who are pulling out my newly sprouting onions to dig for worms in the holes left behind. 😦 Frustrating but it did mean a friend took home a large double handful of potato onions to plant out. 🙂 The garlic are coming up too and I have some early broad beans showing their first leaves as well. The flowers are frost sensitive but last year they seemed to present no problems and we had a bumper crop. 🙂 My radishes, turnips, various brassicas, spinach and peas are growing at various stages and my compost pile is looking impressive with a trailer load of manure and a wheelbarrow load each of rotted pond weed and fresh pond weed as well as kitchen scraps the chooks and goats can’t eat. I have also a large stash of cardboard to lay flat after I poison out the poplar saplings and dock plants everywhere. 🙂 I even have some spuds trying to grow from the green ones I threw in the compost pile. It’s destined for spuds in Spring anyway. 🙂

My worm farm is also doing well. There are thousands of tiny baby worms and the small to medium-sized worms are now all huge fat ones. Whilst digging to see how they were going the other week I even found a couple tying the knot. I didn’t get a photo but just imagine 2 worms each crawling under the band of the other worm. It was very interesting. 🙂 I used 4L of worm wee inside the greenhouse the other day too. Lovely jubbly. 😀

I also decided in the midst of the last over full and busy month to make beer and cheese. I found an old unused stock pot we’d bought way back in our camping days and left in the camping pile but it’s now a brand new and much-loved and well used kitchen stock pot now. It might be just a wee but small for cheesemaking though. 😉 I also had a go at making beer. Sadly with not just mine but Martin’s computer out of action (yep, I dropped that one too 😦 ) I had no way to watch the video and I struggled somewhat with the various dribs of information spread between 3 different instructional points. I think I figured it out though and I have 36 (I think) bottles of beer I bottled up the other week. It definitely tasted like beer anyway. The bottles are feeling very full and taught so I hope that means that they’re nice and fizzy and beery for Martin when he opens one this weekend (the 2 week mark). Gav, if you’re keen for a willing helped next time you make beer then give me a call! 😉

A 7.5L stock pot I think. I made about 7L of milk into cheese and had to ever so slightly reduce and modify the recipe.

A 7.5L stock pot I think. I made about 7.2L of milk into cheese and had to ever so slightly reduce and modify the recipe.

Mmmm Beer!

Mmmm Beer! Ready for sitting and doing its thing in a warm and child-proof cupboard.

Allegra has also started her dancing again this term, this time at the local community centre which is within walking distance. So far we’ve not managed to walk up but being local means a lot less fuel at least and no massive hill climb from Bacchus Marsh to Ballan which is a killer on fuel consumption. 😦 After dance, and a mere 15 metres down the hall is the Ballan library and storytime which has been good for the kids. We now have a library card and borrowed out a book each for the week. This Wednesday we read last weeks books and the older 2 kids did a drawing each of their stories. Book reports for 4 and 5 year olds! 😀 A coffee at the local cafe with old and new friends afterwards before heading home completed the day. This week we also did some banking in there. Dancing, storytime, banking, butchers shop then coffee is a wonderful morning. 🙂 I like Wednesdays. 😀

Bottling tomatoes was also on the cards. Martin picked up 50kg of tomatoes at the Laverton market as per request as well as 20kg of mandarins, 10kg of  apples and also 10kg grapes that were unexpected. The grapes are now bottled as juice, the mandarins are 3/4 bottled as pieces (and they take AGES to peel then pretty up by removing the pith bits) and we’re eating the rest until I get around to peeling and bottling them, the apples are being demolished by a small child with a big appetite and the tomatoes are pretty much all bottled too. The pantry is looking good!

Pretty pantry of put up preserves. Nearly full and almost out of jars.

Pretty pantry of put up preserves. Nearly full and almost out of jars.

And the overflow of things I want to keep, beer and preserves that won't fit int he other cupboard, plus the last of the empty jars (the big ones are 1.2L and for juice) plus Kombucha.

And the overflow of things I want to keep, beer and preserves that won’t fit int he other cupboard, plus the last of the empty jars (the big ones are 1.2L and for juice) plus Kombucha. Oh, and my monster zucchini too. 

All in all it’s been a tremendously busy month. It’s been hard to motivate myself the last few days but I think I can live with that. We’ve got another few busy weekends coming up with roosters that are waking up Ballan with their crowing wars and also with a garden bed I need to top up so I can plant garlic. Busy once again of course. 🙂

So hippies, what have you been up to this last month? What plans for the weekend? 🙂

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15 thoughts on “I think I’m back

  1. Lynda says:

    Huh, in Jo’s post you commented that you were being slack with the housework, i wonder why??? So much going on and i’m kicking myself for not planning leave during this time to join you. The pantry is drool material and im looking forward to partaking of your Korma in hopefully a korma (sorry vegoes). I think id be rendering the fat outside on a BBQ, so smelly. I remember turning the handle of the mincer when i was a child. It was nothing to come home from school to find a massive carcass on the dining table and Mum wielding a cleaver. So many skills you are gaining and be sure, the children are watching and learning, just like i did.

  2. Gavin Webber says:

    I will get Kim to give you a call a couple of days before I put down my next batch of beer. x

  3. foodnstuff says:

    Wow! Your industry puts me to shame. I have very little to pick in the garden; new seedlings are too small to plant and growing backwards it seems and I am depending far too much on the greengrocer for my veggies. Good to see you back and hoping no more dropped laptops. (I remember seeing a description—for computer dummies—of the difference between software and hardware, which basically said that if you can drop it, it’s hardware. So right!!)

  4. Wow, you’ve been so busy and productive. I love that you try / do all these things, you are a goer that’s for sure!! Who cares if the housework isn’t up to date, this is far more interesting work 🙂

  5. Lisa Sleep says:

    Girl you make me proud enjoy that lamb, my favorite meat and home killed is the best

  6. narf77 says:

    Welcome back…been doing SWEET bugger all…again, SHAMED TO THE MAX by this magnificent edifice of a blog post fecund with energy and production and terrified to head out into the garden (jungle) of poor neglected plants (spear thistles and blackberries) or even tackle that veggie garden that is now home to wayfaring pumpkins from all over the place…holed up studying and admiring all of that effort from afar… like Mr Grace from “Are you being served” would say “Keep up the good work…you’ve all done very well” before he tottered off with a nubile blond on either side 😉

  7. Sue says:

    My gosh you are so productive, I didn’t know about the knife, must try that, my knives are shockers very blunt! Feverfew is apparently good for migraines – I have some if you need a plant, tastes dreadful though!

    • The coffee cup isn’t superb for knife sharpening or my cups weren’t but with some time I was able to hone the edge back to something suitable for more than looking like a knife.
      Whetstones are as cheap as can be at Bunnings – I got mine fur just under $11 on Saturday and I bought a diamond steel too (That was $5 or so). A butchers steel would be cheaper and work well too. Well worth the investment in sharpening tools I am learning. 🙂
      Yes, I’d heard about feverfew and with a garden full of it I tried it. It is VILE! I would prefer the migraines personally. My kids still tell everyone the story of Mummy spitting her tea back in her cup. Most uncouth. 😉

  8. Linne says:

    Oh, my! What a month! Look what happens when one drops a couple of computers and has to fill the time with something else . . . 🙂
    I’m so impressed (and jealous, at least a wee bit) of your lovely pantry and freezer. When we were butchering our own meat, it was wild deer or our own goat buck kids. Half grown bucks will get you past sentiment, believe me! But we had no freezer, so just hung the meat (it was late autumn, so no flies) and cut off what I wanted each meal for cooking. Island deer are the size of goats, so not that much meat, really. The inland ones (Okanagan valley) were about 200 lbs, but even so, we ate it all and wasted nothing. A freezer would have been nice, though. And if I’d had my food dryer then, I could have dried a bunch, too.

    I’m glad your butchering went well; not so hard, really, is it?

    I’d heard of using china cups for sharpening knives, but had forgotten again, so thanks for the reminder. Always good to have a fall-back. I have a good whetstone, but am not sure exactly where it is (well, it’s in storage somewhere . . .)

    My Mum grew marrows about the size of that zuke. She would make a stuffing like the one she used for chickens and turkey, sprinkle the de-seeded marrow halves with salt and pepper, then stuff it and bake it. We liked it a lot. But my kids weren’t fond of the texture, so I did what you’re going to do; grate and hide . . . 😉

    I’m way behind on comments, so will have to read and comment more another day. BTW, love that photo of you . . . with your Katniss plait.

    ~ Linne

    • Butchering was hard work in that it’s busy and the meat is heavy but not difficult. The kill is the same. Not exactly difficult but heavy work and of course, the emotional drain is very real. Still, it has been a very satisfying and educational experience and I have learned a heap.
      My kids would walk out in protest if I served up that monster zuke in any obvious way. Sneaky Mummy to the fore!
      I now have a whetstone and a steel for sharpening the knives. I tossed up a butchers steel and a diamond steel and in the end went for the better of the 2. It should be a once or twice a lifetime purchase for us as we aren’t butchers using our knives all day long 5-6 days a week so it was worth the expense (I hope).
      Not sure we would get lambs again but I plan to try goat and see if that route would suit us better.

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