Settling in

Well, we are moved in. We have our beds, most of our clothes, half of the kitchen and little else in the way of furniture but we are now officially residing in Ballan. 😀 We are still lacking things like mail redirection, internet access (pre-paid wireless thingies or over our phones at the moment and I’ve blown my bandwidth allocation in 5 days L ) and we have yet to get a home phone too but hey, these things will come.

I wouldn’t say we are properly moved in yet, not by a long shot, but things are starting slowly to resume normality. Our tiles are nearly complete with 1-2 days more work to finish laying and then grout them and then we can look at bringing up the rest of our furniture. Oh to be able to sit on a couch and put my feet up, even if only for 5 minutes! We now have a completed shower which is making life a lot easier. Baths are very well and good but they do take more time and there is something wasteful about running a bath, hopping in for a quick splash and getting back out again. Baths sort of demand that you soak in them, something I have neither the time nor the inclination to do. Along with the shower screen installation we had the broken windows repaired. The kitchen now has so much more light during the day and more of the wonderful view too. Aside from that, not much else has changed except for Martin just about finished setting up the cubby house and I’ve got a few bits of the greenhouse put together. Now THAT is a fiddly job!

Today was a day of time off for me too. Martin has had a busy few weeks with Christmas parties for work and the afternoons cooped up inside a house with greatly restricted access (can’t walk on the tiles for 12 hours after they’re laid) had taken its toll. I was a cranky Mummy. 😦 I took myself off yesterday morning for some op shopping as there are 2 wonderful op shops in town and I have scored some fantastic bargains. Gumboots for Allegra and Orik, a top for Allegra, shorts and shirts and trousers for each of them, 2 shirts for me, a shirt for Martin, 3 lovely little cups for the kids (matching hot chocolates 😀 ), a few kids books and best of all, a young adults novel I have been wanting for over 20 years as it’s the sequel to a much loved story I have! 😀 STOKED! I came home much happier than I had left.

Waking up on a misty drizzly wet old morning.

Waking up on a misty drizzly wet old morning.

Today’s plans went awry again, thanks to the weather. Yesterday drizzled constantly, with barely a break all day. I noticed this evening that one of my pumpkins has put out a shoot that’s nearly 2 inches since yesterday when I had 5 dry minutes to mulch them. Nothing like rain on the veggie garden! Anyway, today there was a huge band of rain and storms that meant once again our outing to Anakie was postponed. I had planned to head up to the Trentham Farmers Market for a quick shop before we headed off but I ended up having a blissful 4 hour reprieve that included iced chocolate, cherry ripe slice (I know I shouldn’t but YUM) and lots of giggles, chatter and of course, shopping! I hate wandering a shopping centre and all that commercial shopping but given the opportunity to shop at Farmers Markets, well, I love it! I bought a lovely big cauliflower, some potatoes, asparagus, peanut butter (it’s delicious) and some organic white peaches. The best bit though was spending time with my best friend uninterrupted by little people wanting something. It’s a rare thing we get uninterrupted conversation!

This afternoon Martin went to help a friend pull apart a shed he no longer wants and has kindly gifted to us. Looking forward to getting it set up so that Trevor no longer has to cower under a tarp when it rains. Whilst he was out and the kids were playing quietly I had a think about my tomatoes. After seeing pictures of your tomato plants Fran, I decided I would try digging one up and see how the newspaper pots had rotted. They hadn’t! L Explains why my tomatoes were looking very stunted. So, off I set, digging them all up and liberating their roots. They’re all replanted and hopefully, in the compost-rich soil they will get themselves into gear. The good news is that there were a couple of flowers evident so there is hope. 🙂

Happy belated birthday Allegra. Although you had a little party on the day, it took until now to get the cake made. Mind you, 2 parties is always a good thing. :)

Happy belated birthday Allegra. Although you had a little party on the day, it took until now to get the cake made. Mind you, 2 parties is always a good thing. 🙂

I had another go at sourdough chocolate cake earlier in the week and was less than impressed so I decided to try it again, but measuring closely. THIS time it worked! I iced it with chocolate cream-cheese icing (decadence) and I have to say it’s a success. 😀 It is so wonderful being able to have my cake and eat it too with no repercussions! I’ve baked several loaves of bread too so my house is awash in the heavenly aroma of fresh sourdough. J I feel like I’m truly immersing myself into our wonderful new life now. We worked late last night felling trees and cleaning up the branches and I spent a good hour today pruning more branches, chopping up the fallen ones and piling them up. The chooks and ducks chatted to me and the Dorkings follow me along the fence line begging for scraps. We lob bits and pieces in to them and watch the mad scramble. The ducks and Dorkings are in there for young and old then pegging it off across the pen with their spoils. The Pekins just amble up looking fat, fluffy and mean and take what they want after a few vicious pecks at the current owner of the bounty who usually relinquishes it with a squawk! Our cats are still in quarantine in the laundry, although they have been allowed a few forays into the rest of the house. We’re taking it slowly with our furry boys. In revenge they have destroyed the door stops in both the bathroom and the laundry. Lol 😛 As much as I hate keeping them confined, I hate the thought of losing them so much more. They’re out on parole, meowing around my ankles and purring.

Anyway, I am beginning to really ramble. I’m exhausted (surprise surprise) and ready for bed. Hopefully soon I will have something new to report other than just commuting and moving.

Home sweet home

I received a message this morning from a friend whom I met through this blog and who is now a neighbour, which said “welcome home”. 😀 It IS welcome home too and that was something that has sat so profoundly right in my heart all day today. We are home. We truly are home. 🙂

The kids and I spent our first night here last night. Martin has slept here twice but tonight is the first night our entire family will be sleeping under our new roof. The cats, Maxxie and Minnie aren’t so impressed by their new location, but that probably has more to do with the fact that they’ve been confined to quarters since arriving. They’re in the bathroom at the moment but as soon as the chicks can be ensconced somewhere else safely, my furry boys will move into the laundry. Just for long enough to get them used to it all at least.

The chicks have transitioned well although their peeping woke me more than once last night. For such small creatures they sure can make a loud noise. Their antics, particularly when I refill their food has me giggling every time. It’s a melee! 😀

There isn’t much other animal news. The chickens have settled in well and we have had 3 of the 10 nesting boxes graced with an egg. Higgy sang her heart out today announcing her warm white deposit. I anticipate having to encourage the chicks to perch rather than hiding out in a tyre again tonight though. I’m hoping it sinks in sokn where they need to sleep although 9 not that small dorkings all jammed like sardines into a tyre is pretty funny. A friend told me how to tell the roosters from the hens too. The hens retain their brown breast feathers whereas the roosters lose the brown and get black and white speckles. Looks like we have 4 hens, possibly a 5th from 9 which works well as 3-4 hens are all we need for eggs. We’ve got our pekin bantams and we will also have the ducks later when they begin to lay too. Lots of eggs to come! And our 9 chicks appear to be a 6-3 in favour of the hens. Time will tell if I’m right but I’m keen to try putting a ring around their legs to mark them as to which to see if I’m right.

But the most exciting parts of my day today were mostly the mundane. I had a lovely time standing in the dappled shade, hanging out the washing on my new (2nd hand but new to me) clothesline and I’ve got 2 loaves of bread rising on the bench. That was a little trickier than normal, adjusting to a new bench location as well as not being able to stand on the freshly filled grout lines on the tiles. But my sourdough starter was demanding attention and I can’t go another day without my bread. I’ve fired the oven up to clean out the nasties so I can bake them soon. Fresh bread for breakfast and I’ve got orange blossom honey to go on it. Nom Nom Nom! 😀

But most excitingly of all our cooker/heater arrived. My Thermalux Gourmet Cooker is a heater with cooktop, hot water heater and oven! :oD it weighs an absolute tonne! Took 3 men to haul it in (and that was no easy task either) and then the plumbers got to hooking it all up whilst John our builder tiled, put up blinds, grouted and other stuff. I believe the cooker is ready to go! Pity it’s going to be high 20’s tomorrow. I want to build a fire! 😦 It’s all connected to the solar hot water too. So we are heating our water as we speak, nearly entirely off grid. It will work like this. Solar is first, (which is what we have running now) and will contribute, even if only a little, on cold days too. Secondly is the wood fired heater which in winter will serve many purposes. If the water is not hot enough (50*C I believe) then the gas booster will kick in. Currently we are trying to sort out gas (mains or bottle) so the fourth and final water heating option will come in handy for now – electric. It won’t kick in unless there is no sun, no wood heater and no gas so it’s unlikely to be used beyond the next little while until we get gas. And with the low temperature setting, we will use even less. We already have luke warm water thanks to a lovely warm day. 🙂 Next part to that equation will be our water tank but one step at a time. 🙂

Sadly we didn’t realise our plans to visit Fairy Park for Allegra’s party as returning the van turned into a bit of a pain but we celebrated her birthday none the less. Happy 3rd birthday my princess. Love you to bits! 🙂

So, as I lie here taking a much needed (and deserved) break, all I can hear is the fan on my oven fan as it cooks off whatever horrid chemical they coat it with, the sounds of my tireless husband bringing in boxes we hadn’t found time to move in earlier, the sound of the birds (sparrows, passing sulphur-crested cockatoos and one small black bird that sings its glorious little heart out), and the deafening sound of silence! A silence so profound we will most likely hear the chorus of the stars tonight. 🙂 My children fell deeply asleep within minutes of their heads hitting the pillow and I suspect I will too when bed time rolls around. In the mean time I had better get my backside back into gear. So much yet to do.

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Tired

I am tired. Exhausted, pooped, weary (my Papa used to say he was weary – sorry, nostalgic moment 🙂 ), worn out, buggered, stuffed, knackered, all done in, fried, zonked, shattered. I am also elated, stoked, happy, pleased, proud, satisfied, contented, over the moon. It’s been a busy weekend.

Achievements this weekend include finishing the chook pen. Ok, so it’s not quite ready for them to move in but the fences are el completo, the door is up, although not yet lockable and the nesting boxes and perch are in. The nesting boxes are an upcycle job from junk existing left at the house. It was one of those shelves that are all boxed in (if that makes sense) so it’s been turned on its side, I’ve attached (ok, Martin attached) 2 bits of 2 by 4 to stick up in the air and after a large hole was drilled through, a piece of chopped down poplar branch was jammed in and drilled into place. Total cost? A few cents of electricity to run the drill and a few screws, non of which were actually bought for the job but lying around from previous jobs. It weighed a tonne so a bit of Egyptian engineering helped us manoeuvre it into place.

Rolling…

Rolling…

 

Rolling…

Martin also managed to get Trevor working again. He’s since mowed most of the grass flat again and made it worth while digging out the whipper snipper again too. The garden is looking a LOT neater and the snake risk is much lower. This has definitely been on the brain a lot of late as there is a snake road kill on the road into town that has had us both on the watch. Now that the grass is too short for them to hide in though we are both beginning to relax. Well, at least a little. Sadly, Trevor hit a stump and broke the belt that runs the mowing attachment. He can’t mow right at the moment but he’s earned his keep hauling a hole lot of crap and junk out of the creek. Sadly the fallen tree was a little too ambitious. Worth a try though.

I also got stuck into some planting. With the help of a few more loads of soil, the north and east sides of the chook pen are tyred in place (take THAT Mr Fox) and planted out too. There are a few tyres on the south side so, planted in anti clockwise order are: 3 tyres of marigolds, oregano, curry bush, thyme, rosemary, 2 with pyrethrum, curly leaf parsley, 2 more pyrethrum, then the rest either have sunflower seeds or sunflower seedlings planted. They will become chook food once ripe and hopefully a wonderful beneficial bugs only invite too (no shirt, no shoes, no service unless you’re a beneficial bug 😛 ).

These are some of my marigolds. More to be planted in the tomato beds and in the rest of the tyres along this south side of the chook pen when I get more soil and newspapers. 🙂

My pot-bound and water starved oregano has responded well to being planted and watered (funny about that) and the curry bush I struck from a sprig a few years ago.

Wonderful smelling thyme which was also very potbound and neglected before being repotted in anticipation of the move and is thriving even more with just a little love, next to the rosemary I also struck from a sprig of a rosemary that was all woody and near the end of its life (it died within 6 months of me taking the cutting)

2 pyrethrum, a parslet looking a bit sad and sorry for itself and 2 more pyrethrum. They will make a wonderful and natural organic and safe insecticide. Well, safe for us anyway. Sorry bugs.

Sunflowers…

… More sunflowers…

 

… And even more sunflowers! All for chook food. 🙂

I also planted out another of my no dig beds. This one is currently half full of purple sprouting broccoli seedlings. I will add some other brassicas in there too to fill up the bed. Only one more to plant out now, the second tomato and capsicum bed. I’ll also be planting some more marigolds in there as they are of assistance to tomato plants from what I’ve read. The tomatoes all got a water with Epsom Salts too. It’s supposed to be liquid gold for marties. We will see how they like it.

Kind of hard to see and some were looking a little worse for wear but we will see how they go.

 

My tomatoes and capsicums… Some are doing really well but some of the capsicums are looking pretty sad and some of the tomatoes haven’t grown much.

The mulberry tree is absolutely covered in fruit too. I am most impressed and will be planting a LOT more of them (they’re water hungry which makes them a good replacement tree for the silver poplars and they can be harvested for us to eat (and thoroughly enjoy I might add) as well as providing food for the chooks with any fallen fruit.

Not bad at all for its first year planted in our garden.

And even more on the higher shoots

The radishes are growing well and I may also have a few carrot seedlings coming up. It’s hard to tell at this point and they may well be radish seeds that got washed out of line. Time will tell.

Ooo I hope they are carrots.

Beans and spuds are doing very well too.

The kids have had a ball too. They’ve spent a good deal of time in various states of undress or swimming attire and playing  in the half wine barrel of water. They’ve had bike washes (they had their balance bikes and rode them through their bike wash 🙂 ), baby wash (Orik seemed to enjoy it too), a couple of friends over to visit and a lot of running around and playing.

I also had the pleasure of meeting one of my blog readers today who is a resident (and a rather new but extremely knowledgeable one at that) of Ballan. I’ve come away relaxed after an hour off from the kids and working, well welcomed to Ballan by jelly slice and a simply divine hot chocolate from Michellez cafe (near the butchers) and feeling like I know some more people and things going on in the community. I was also introduced to some further locals and I feel very much more like a local now too. We discussed blogs too. Check out her blog here. The offers of help have absolutely blown us away too. Thank you so much!

Anyway, my brain is totally fried and I can no longer see to type so I’ll pick this up in the morning.

Night all.

 

Slept like a log! Best nights sleep in ages. Can’t imagine why. 😉

So, what else happened on the weekend? Well, our chooks have been on the blink as far as laying eggs goes. I was pretty certain they had a hidden stash but I had been unable to find it. They haven’t been showing any signs of being broody – in fact I think they’ve all decided to be career chooks this year. If I’d seen signs of dedicated desire for motherhood I may well have sourced some eggs but alas it’s not played out that way yet. Anyway, on Saturday, through sheer luck I happened to be doing the egg hunt and just happened to see through the grass and spot an egg. I pulled away the grass then ran inside to get 2 egg cartons. I found 15 eggs! Yep, 15! Not a bad haul from 3 girls who probably lay ever 2nd day each. The best bit is they all passed the float test. 😀

15 pekin bantam eggs to add to the 2 I collected this morning and the 2 others I had in the fridge… I also have 15 organic eggs I’d ordered (Aussie Farmers) before I found the giant haul. 34 eggs. Quiche?

I’ve also noticed that more of our ‘fwowers’ are coming up. The ‘sturshuns’ have popped their heads up, the ‘I yisten’ is well and truly up too. I’m hoping to move my seedlings up to Ballan this week as we are at the point I can begin to move up a LOT more boxes so I think we might end up doing a few more trips each week which will allow me to water the seedlings when I’m up there.

We’ve also decided upon names for the various areas of our property. Our house has been named, as has the chook house and the veggie garden. I’m sure the shed will earn itself a moniker once it’s built too but in the meantime, I’m off to go and make some signs for the chook shed and veggie garden. I’ll share details once they’re done and not before so no asking. 😉

Well, the morning has disappeared and it’s time for lunch. I have small people reminding me of this fact with increasing frequency. What is it about 4 year olds who are permanently hungry? Bread rising, yoghurt culturing, about to start souring a chocolate cake starter too to trial sourdough chocolate cake (it seems almost anything is possible with sourdough).

So, what did you all get up to on the weekend?

Packing and baking

Packing and baking usually aren’t 2 activities that go together but here they most certainly do. The pantry is mostly packed, with only the essential ingredients left out or jars with bits and bobs left which I am hoping we can use up before the move. I didn’t find too many out of date items (surprisingly) however, all of those that I did find are herbs and spices (unsurprisingly). I am looking forward to growing my own herbs though so I can see a big chuck out on the near horizon.

I’ve got the car loaded and ready for a run tomorrow as I’m dying to have a squizz and see how the painting has gone.  I know they’re working on the trims now which is really exciting. Nearly all done! Then on to tiles. Sorry John, I know that’s going to be a rotten job too. I hope it’s easier than expected.

I’ve also got some errands to run tomorrow, including a trip into Ballarat to sort out details for carpet installation which is very exciting. I think we are on the final lap now! Get that chequered flag a-ready!

Baking however, has become a MUCH larger task than anticipated. I decided to bake to use up some of the aforementioned small amount ingredients but I really must remember to focus when reading recipes. Using the flour measurements to measure out the sugar has resulted in having to make 6 times the original recipe, rather than the double I was aiming for. 😦 Gem scones anyone? I’ve ended up with nearly 200 of them so I hope Martin’s colleagues fancy home-baked morning tea tomorrow. 😉 And I have 60 in the freezer as well as about 15-20 for the next few days. On the bright side, no more cacao nibs. 😀

A busy day in the kitchen

It’s been a busy day in the kitchen. Just the way I love to start my week too. I have 2 loaves of sourdough on the rise (modified recipe which I shall post if it works well), frozen blueberry and raspberry yoghurt ice-creams in the freezer for the kids, homemade ice-cream freezing, sprouted spelt wheat in the dehydrator, sourdough starter feeding, barm brack and gem scones in the oven, both made substituting homemade date paste instead of sugar, mashed potato with salami and cheese in Thermy for lunch, banana milkshakes,  made and I’ve made date paste too. Thank goodness for my Thermomix is all I can say.

I love baking. I pretty much hate cooking, the traditional way with saucepans etc, although I don’t mind it so much with my Thermy and I dread the usual “that’s yuck”  I get before even tasting from my cheeky wonderful children. Dinner every night is a chore, and one which I must soon address too. 😦 Baking however, I can lose myself in. Even though the Thermy takes away most of the hard yakka kneading and stirring and most particularly so with bread, I still find I have to give it a hand knead or stir and then shape it in to the pan for baking. Bread making. It’s one of those old world jobs, performed in some form or variety, around the world and has been done for centuries. I feel a kin-ship with the women and men of ages past kneading and pummeling the dough with their floury hands. Inevitably Orik wakes and screams his head off right in the middle of the most floury part but apart from that it feels like my contribution to the art that is baking. And I am by no means an artist. I am merely a mimic of the greats. I may tweak and twist a recipe to suit my tastes and needs better but I lack that skill the greats have to recognise when I have created a masterpiece. I strive only to please the taste buds of my family and any friends who have inflicted upon them receive something from my kitchen. Apart from the healthful goodness of home baked and mostly organic bread, including the extra nutrients from freshly ground flour, the one thing that keeps me bread making on a near daily basis is the smell. In my huble opinion there really is nothing better than the aroma of freshly baked bread, piping hot from the oven, turned out of the pan to cool (except maybe the smell of that self same bread freshly toasted the next morning with a hot coffee;) ).

My house at the moment is bathed in the aroma of fresh gem scones, cooking barm brack, rising sourdough (it bakes in another hour or so) and the gentle aroma of harvest from the drying spelt.

What is your favourite thing to cook?