A workshop in Sourdough

Yesterday I attended the Prickleberry Sourdough workshop on how to make sourdough. Considering how much I have learned and how my bread turns out most of the time (not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but not bad none the less) I was really surprised with just how much I learned. All complimentary to what I already knew but I did learn why some of the breads I’ve made are less than satisfactory. And I’ve now got another starter on the go who shall be named Andreas (please don’t let mt brother-in-law know I’ve named some flour, water and wild yeasts after him πŸ˜‰ )

I’ve come away with 2 recipes, or 2 variations of the same recipe for bread and then information on how to jazz up the bread in a dozen ways. Whilst we made fruit loaves using soaked apricots, sultanas and spices, Oskar made chocolate loaf. Yep, chocolate bread! NOICE! πŸ˜€ I’ve come home with quite a doughy bounty. I have a new starter, a loaf of plain shaped loaf, a cob fruit loaf (the way to form a cob loaf is MUCH harder than I thought – practice needed there), dough that I made there, now baked into olive bread here at home this morning and as there was extra dough at the end of the class and we hung around to chat, another batch of dough I made into a tinned loaf this morning. I learned that the oldest known sourdough starter in Australia is about 150 years old and kept in 3 forms – dried, fresh and frozen. I learned that starters do well with sugars in them and Andreas has a slice of apple in him which I will discard tomorrow and a generous pinch of sultanas which will remain indefinitely. I also learned that using the water from cooking spuds makes a very sour smelling starter but even an over fermented apple based starter will smell of sweet apple cider vinegar. I also learned that I have been baking with a LOT of starter which may not all be necessary. Now there are different ways to bake and everyone has their own method, recipe and style and I’m not actually wrong which what I’ve been doing but I now have other recipes and techniques. I had an absolute ball making it too.

The only bad news I have to report is that not once did I think of taking a photo! Not a since one. Sorry.

Prickleberry Sourdough are only a new bakery (although Oskar grew up in a cake bakery on Ackland Street) and have done very well for themselves with their new store opining in a little over a month in Mair Street (just in case anyone is going through Ballarat or lives locally) and given the taste of the breads we ate throughout the day, if you can visit I highly recommend it. They have a Facebook page if you’re on Facebook too –https://www.facebook.com/prickleberrysourdough

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I love my early mornings… And more (of course).

I really do! I can’t believe I’m even saying this but I simply adore my early mornings. πŸ˜€ As long as they’re not interrupted by small people wanting food/water/Daddy (so go and annoy HIM then πŸ˜‰ ) and everything else under the sun. Those mornings are a little less lovable. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids but those early mornings are my sacred time of waking up my brain and then cramming it chock-a-block full of information for the day. It’s much harder to do that with the constant interruptions of little people. πŸ˜‰ Continue reading

In preparation for Easter

Not quite figured out the connection between rabbits and eggs yet but we’ll get there.

Easter here is going to be an interesting affair. We heavily restrict sugar in our house as even the smallest amount causes incredible silliness and misbehaving in both Jasper and Allegra. For example, a 1/6th of a bounty bar and a single bakery biscuit each last week created an awful afternoon of two children who basically spent their time swinging from the rafters. Continue reading

Re-education

I’ve not achieved much the last few days. It’s frustrating. I have however been learning. Learning about the olden days. I’ve been watching a wonderful series called Edwardian Farm. It’s where 2 archaeologists and a historian live the life of Edwardian age farmers in Devon England for 12 months. It’s been fascinating! I can’t call it anything but highly educational for someone like me and my old brain box is ticking at high speed. I want to make a barrel smoker, I want to raise pigs, I want to try some of the recipes they made I want to try try try and then try some more. πŸ˜€ I found so much of the series quite sad too. The Edwardian Era was the beginning of the end of horses on farms, the beginning of more and more mechanised work being done and also the beginning of more reliance on oil. The Industrial revolution had brought in the use of steam power through the Victorian Era but more and more the Edwardian Era saw this mechanisation filtering through to the small farmers and landholders, not just those with money.

However, the poorer farmers were still Jack of all trades but also masters of their own. They were farmers and raised their crops, livestock or both but during times when the money was thin on the ground and farmwork not pressing (working around planting, harvesting, lambing, shearing etc) then they turned to other means. Fishing, mining, cottage industry and so on. One comment has really stuck with me though. In the country the old ways persisted. The ability to forge iron was the example they used. In the cities, if folk needed iron they bought it. They had no other option but in the country people remembered their fathers and grandfathers, or mothers and grandmothers, doing things the old way and that skill base took a lot longer to disappear. The same is true today to some extent. Thankfully we have the internet and libraries which allow us to research the old skills though as so many have died out. If you needed to sharpen a knife for example, would you know how to do it? Without a knife sharpening doovahickey I mean. With a whetstone. I I know the theory but I wouldn’t get it right I know.

So today I have been researching. I’ve also been learning some other lessons. Like what happens when you burn too much wood that isn’t ideally suited to the fire. WHOMP! Yup, a big puff of smoke and a belch from Ignisa. Yes, belch is the right word. I ahve to say it scared me out of at least 5 years of my life. I instantly panicked and thought I’d set the chimney on fire. Thankfully I didn’t. I was home with 3 kids by myself! Martin has been out hunting and gathering wood to season for next year as well as finding some wood from last seasons cut which we can burn this year. πŸ˜€ YAY! Anyway, I totally dampened down the fire and called Martin who was on his way home. We’re thinking that a bit too much poplar has gone through her tummy giving her some creosote indigestion. I’m just grateful all she did was belch. Not very ladylike Ignisa. 😦 Thankfully she has behaved for the rest of the afternoon and evening as she was on dinner cooking duties. πŸ™‚ I’d thrown some lamb chops into the schlemmertopf along with some veggies and my last bottle of tomatoes I’d bottled last year (all 50 or so of them). Into the oven around 2 or 3pm and slow cooking away in there at temperatures between 100C and 150C give or take. Delicious! The meat literally fell off the bones which are currently simmering away to reduce down to a nourishing bone broth or stock. I can use that to flavour risotto or pasta or anything I fancy. πŸ™‚ Just 1 more way to get as much as I can from what we have.

I’ve also spent today sewing up a cardigan I knitted on the machine the other week. I added a few more rows in where I thought I might need the extra length but it’s come out a bit huge and baggy so I need to see how it fits after a wash. Currently it’s better suited to someone a size or 2 bigger than me and approximately 6 foot 6 inches tall or taller! Whoops. Hopefully it will tighten up in the wash but being acrylic I am holding little hope. We will see. Sitting and knitting or sewing etc helps me justify sitting down and watching something like this. It stops me from having idle hands which in turn gives me the fidgets or makes me feel guilty for wasting time. I COULD be doing something if you know what I mean.

Now I know there are some generous and wonderful people out there in the world but one of my wonderful readers takes the cake. I won’t name drop as I’m sure she would kick my backside but you know who you are. We have been gifted some wonderful books for our children in years to come (I reckon I will enjoy them before then too), a bicycle helmet, 2 bicycles and a rooster. Generous, no? Both Martin and I are more than a little overwhelmed by the generosity of this lovely lady and extremely grateful. The rooster comes to us courtesy of this wonderful lady’s workmate. Sadly, he does not come with breed information and although he came to us on the understanding that he would most likely end up in the dinner pot, his exquisite beauty has put us in a tough place. We don’t want to cull this beautiful bird. He is seriously the George Clooney of roosters, fitting considering his name was George. I say “was” as I’d renamed him Golden Boy (Black Boy is our black Dorking rooster) but Jasper decided he was Mr Skinny Legs and the moniker does suit. He has lovely long and non-stocky pins on which he dances around like a ballerina. Very light footed, rather noisy (hence why we can’t keep him), rather feisty and not impressed with Black Boy at all.

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Can you help identify the breed?

Anyway, it’s time for me to hit the sack. I have a brain box that needs some quiet processing time, plans to make and mst importantly, sleep needs to be had. Here’s hoping I get to sleep later than 4:30, although it is quite pleasant having those 2 full hours totally devoid of other people, watching the light creep into the room and having the house to myself in some ways too. Β Who knows Fran, you might end up with company for your insane o’ clock starts after all. Now just to get you on Skype so we can chat easier. πŸ™‚

Ok, Fran I am up early again. I’m learning that the quality of sleep I get after having woken up early isn’t there. Lightly dozing just makes me a cranky Mumma so here I am, up at 4:45. Am I truly this insane?

Wild harvest

What better way to add to your pantry than to harvest something for free. But what about wild harvesting? Ok, I know the concept and I love it. It’s about harvesting from nature, not from other homesteaders, property owners or farmers but direct from Mother Nature, planted by her where she wills and grown by her hand entirely. That’s where, in my book, it gets a little scary.

When you’re harvesting from nature you need to KNOW what you’ re harvesting, not just pretty sure but because you haven’t planted the seeds yourself there is no manual or seed packet to remind you. Many plants are poisonous as are many mushrooms, some lethally Β so and taste is no indicator so seriously, KNOW WHAT YOU ARE HARVESTING!

In this instance I knew what I was harvesting. Several sources have confirmed it and even a cursory glance at google backed me up. I KNEW what I was doing in this instance but trust me, that will not make me confident. Even knowing and being sure and convinced and all the rest I was still nervous… Just in case. I had to make sure I’d done the necessary worrying before things went wrong just in case they do. πŸ˜‰ Yeah yeah, I’m a worry wart. πŸ˜›

I’ve taken these photos from Dr Google as I picked and cooked all of mine before realising I should maybe take some photos. Not the brightest spark in the fire, am I?

Pretty flowers, sadly no scent. When we cleaned up access to the creek we hacked off many of the lower branches and hence, most of the flowers and hence, most of the berries. Lesson learned. What the goats don’t eat, we will next year.

So this time we harvested our Hawthorns. Hawthorns are really beautiful trees. They have lovely green foliage, frothy white bunches of small flowers in Spring and in late Summer and early Autumn they are covered in bright red berries hanging in little clusters, not unlike a Barbie doll sized apple but in clusters like cherries. They are however, one of the most vicious trees I know. For those that are of Christian belief, this is the bush widely held to be the supplier of the branches woven into the crown of thorns. Some of the thorns are inches long! And the rotten things sting like billy-o if you’re unlucky enough to impale yourself on one. And if you’re seriously unlucky the tip will break off inside whatever unfortunate piece of flesh you stabbed yourself in. And if you are the unluckiest of the unlucky, you will react to whatever toxin is inside or on those thorns, causing the pain to increase 10 fold. When I stabbed myself I resorted to vicious methods to extract the 1mm long thorn tip embedded deeply in my hand as there was nothing short of amputation that could have possibly hurt more. Thankfully today we are victorious with zero casualties. Yay!

You really do NOT want to find out about one of these the hard way. Trust me!

So, whilst Orik slept, Jasper, Allegra and I, armed with out 15L stock pot (overkill in hindsight) headed out to the other side of the fence, keeping a wary eye out for any unwanted legless visitors (we saw none thankfully) and picked any of those lovely red berries we could find. Once we’d stripped every berry within arms reach and a few more besides we headed inside to remove leaves and stems. We ended up with 640g of berries. We’re following this recipe. I washed my haws as the berries are rightly known, threw them in Hermy the Thermy and gave them 60 mins/100*C/sp slow reverse. I did forget the mashing step but they kind of mashed up pretty well anyway. Martin picked up 1/2kg of white sugar on the way home last night. Normally this is something we never have. Sugar is refined, bleached and totally devoid of anything remotely resembling nutrition and it’s highly addictive but sadly, rapadura doesn’t really cut it for jam making. It’s different in many ways so on the odd occasion I can deal with a little sugar. I tipped my haws into the jelly bag to drain, gathering the liquid in a bowl underneath.

The liquid, around 640g (it works out similar in ml but the Thermy works only in grams) so in went all the sugar – 500g and on to 100/60 mins/sp 2. I checked for gelling. Nope, but close. 15 more minutes and I thought I had it. Into their sterilised jars, clear cellophane covers on and labels on the jars. I’ve checked them this morning now that they’re cool and a little later it will be off with the cellophane and back into Hermy the Thermy for about 30 minutes. No gel, just thick viscous sweet and delicious syrup. Bugger. 😦

Well, you live and learn and I’ve always been a little premature on the gel front. Except for the lemon marmalade I made whilst on the phone to Ing a few years back. That stuff was nearly teeth breaking! I have it on good authority that it was delicious though but I cannot attest to that being truth. Who in their right mind eats lemon peel in any way shape or form. Any peel for that matter. Bleuch!

Well, when they’re done I’ll share a photo of my 3 finished jars. πŸ™‚

I would like to get into wild harvesting a lot more but I know I need to learn a lot more before I do. I would simply adore to be able to safely and confidently go mushrooming but I might stick to buying used mushroom compost for now or a grow your own kit. There’s too much at stake to play around with mushrooms. Or any wild harvest when you don’t have the knowledge to be honest. Still, it’s exciting to know that there is food just waiting to be discovered and picked. πŸ™‚

An update and things coming together

It’s all pretty amazing when things start coming together. I mean, you plot, you plan and you dream and you try and cram the plotting, planning and dreaming into reality, dodging around obstacles like time, money, weather, differing ideas, legal requirements and everything else and you hope to come up with a workable situation that hasn’t strayed too far from your first inspired musings.

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Heidi, grandfather and Aunt Dete hurrying away

My initial dreams involved up to 5 acres, an eco friendly house built by my own two hands, robust and healthy children who look liked they had escaped from Heidi, friendly animals, beautifully landscaped (but not rigid) gardens and fresh produce pouring from their richly composted soil. The reality is a little different.

We have a 1/2 acre, the house was not built by my own two hands although I have had a lot of input into the design and materials used and we have been as eco friendly as the budget allowed for (low VOC paints, woolen carpets over recycled fibre underlay and LED lights). My children don’t have the plump legs and ruddy complexions of Heidi fame but they are healthy and happy and sporting somewhat of a tan, testament to their enjoyment of outdoor life. Our animals aren’t quite as keen on us as we are on them but Milly and Molly are getting more comfortable although Mandy still keeps her distance. The baby chicks are well acclimatised to children as they are picked up and carted around by the kids for a couple of hours each day and the silkies are fast becoming favourites (Mrs Silverpants was replaced last night along with her companion Dandelion the white silkie and Goldie or Gold Star the golden silkie). The baby chicks are used to being handled by us too although they still peg it during the day (we go out each night to make sure they’re either sleeping in a nesting box or on the perch which they’ve finally figured out last night too). The gardens are not the verdant oases I dreamed of and their soil, although rich, is not as rotted down as I had dreamed. It’s getting there now though. We do have crops coming along nicely too. I have 2 zucchinis that will be ready in the next day or 2 (they’re taking longer I think due to the still un-rotted garden beds) and my corn are flowering and I can see the beginning of corn cobs. πŸ˜€ My watermelons won’t make harvest this year but I will try transferring them even though they hate it. I have nothing to lose at this stage. My tomatoes are still coming along in the garden too. I live in fear of possums discovering them but we appear to have few of those thieving little blighters around thankfully. My broccoli are doing much better since I got up close and personal with them, rubbing the underside of their leaves and squishing all the caterpillar eggs (or are they butterfly eggs – defined by what they hatch into or what lays them?) and caterpillars of the (presumably) coddling moths that had turned their leaves into fine green lace. They still look a little lacy but much happier. My onions haven’t even made it to pickled onion stage sadly but then again I never really expected them to. 😦

The greenhouse garden

The greenhouse garden, marked out with sticks and some used chicken straw for nutrients. I will mulch it when the seedlings are up more. Thanks for the idea Narf. πŸ™‚

But it’s the greenhouse I am most amazed with and proud of in our garden. It’s a Sproutwell greenhouse built from a kit I bought off eBay (they also have a website and the price is the same) and the garden beds I built myself using corrugated iron and hardwood corner posts. The hardwood we already had and the iron, bought from my uncle, makes each bed cost $1.50! WIN! Anyway, I’ve built 3 beds in there and filled and planted 1 of them. I transplanted the tomatoes from the second martie bed as they were very small and not going to make harvest before the frost arrived so I had nothing to lose. I planted my mandarin, banana and lemon trees in there first, then the transplanted tomatoes and transplanted marigolds in there, some beans planted down the side, transplanted capsicums, rocket seeds between them, then planted carrot and radish seeds, some spinach seeds, leek seeds, coriander seeds, transplanted chives and also chive seeds. So far the chive seeds are the only ones I haven’t seen a sprout from yet. I also transplanted in a pumpkin that popped up from seeds I’d scooped out of a pumpkin around Christmas time and planted out mid January. So, although it’s not yet that verdant oasis, it is well on its way to being a nifty little food garden.

Radishes

Capsicums and radishes

A bean

A bean

Carrot wisps :)

Carrot wisps πŸ™‚

Spinach

Spinach

Capsicums and rocket

Capsicums and rocket with a tomato and the beans in the background. The carrots are near the icy-pole stick.

Nice mangel wurzels πŸ˜‰

I’ve also bought some more interesting seeds – mangel wurzels which are like turnips but they get HEAPS bigger and if harvested small they’re good for human consumption or if left to grow out, great for cattle and chickens. I wanted to try them just because I can! I’ve also finally sourced some black carrot seeds (purple/black inside and out and amazing for antioxidants), kale, rainbow chard and some other bits and bobs. I’m planning some BIG gardens over winter. πŸ˜€ And speaking of winter gardens, I’ve started building the garden beds to go in. The existing beds will be raked up to fill the new ones and they’re a little shorter but I can double the amount of beds, greatly increasing planting area overall. I am eagerly awaiting Autumn now, something I NEVER thought I would say. πŸ™‚

But the most fun of all is that Ignisa and I are starting to work together. We’ve had some veryΒ unseasonablyΒ cold weather this last week and Ignisa, our lovely Gourmet Cooker has been alight for about 44 hours although she’s been resting for the last hour or 2 but I’m getting cold again so reckon it’s time to fire her up again.. We need to organise some hardwood to burn (if anyone local has any they’re getting rid of or selling…?) but in the meantime we have been able to make do with our existing poplar stocks which isΒ marvelousΒ that we can use them up. πŸ™‚ We also had a little bit of plum from a tree that we chopped down after it died at Spotswood. I started off by bringing in our old DVD shelves and then arranged them in such as way as to make a surround or frame for the stove. I’ve now got some space for trinkets, wood, kindling and fire lighting paper. The lamps came out and look lovely too, bringing some pleasant ambiance to the room. The fire guard, half of our playpen is doing duty as a fire guard and at night it makes a great clothesrack too once stoo up on it’s ends. πŸ˜€ Multitasking and repurposing at its best. πŸ™‚ I’ve done some cooking with Ignisa too. πŸ˜€ I cooked a compete meal on her the other evening, spuds in the oven and then fried off the bacon in aΒ fry panΒ on top and breakfast this morning was homemade sourdough English muffins cooked on Ignisa and a hot chocolate made with her heat too – another complete meal. πŸ™‚ I also baked bread in her belly the other night but the oven was a wee bit hot (like 350C rather than 200C required). Should be fine once I carve off the top inch. lol

3 bookshelves arranged just so

3 bookshelves arranged just so

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English muffins and hot chocolate – this mornings breakfast

Briquette?

Briquette?

I also did some more unpacking – DVD’s away (not that they will see much use given the lack of tv), my crystal radio set up and working (I need to find a better station with some music although ABC news radio is ok too), and I’ve been knitting away getting clothes ready for winter. The kids each have a new hat and I’ve made a scarf for Orik too. I need to source some more yarn to make Allegra a scarf so it’s time to dig into the stash. I also knitted my first dishcloth using this pattern and I’m happy with how it’s come out. Now to test it and see how it works.

Our food is improving on a weekly, if not daily basis. I’ve committed to making sourdough pasta using this recipe so we are slowly using up our normal pasta which I can’t eat and once it’s gone, that’s it. We’re now drinking real milk, our veggie box arrives each week from Highland Heritage (I highly recommend contacting them if you’re local and interested as their produce is first rate) and I’ve started culturing milk too – milk kefir is like super dooper yakult and it tasted a HEAP better as well as being heaps better for you. Google kefir if you’re interested. I just don’t know enough about it at this stage other than to say it’s very good for you and not unpleasant to taste.

Bertha was also split and fattened up and her daughter, Agnetha has gone to her new home. Bertha will be fed and split again and posted this week to The Eco Mum and Narf so you should see some mail coming your way soon ladies. I had planned to post it today but I haven’t fed her or her babies enough for the rigors of travel. πŸ™‚

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My Bertha, Agnetha her daughter and the tub with my bread in it at the bottom of the picture.

A Dexter. Photo is not such a good one of the cow but gives a brilliant idea of their size.

They come in black (most common) dun and red, polled or horned, short legged or normal. I think these are polled and the black one closest appears to be short legged. Aren’t they pretty. πŸ™‚

My latest project, much to the horror of my darling long-suffering husband is to purchase a house-cow. Yep, a cow! πŸ™‚ Don’t have a cow, she wouldn’t be a full sized one and nor will she be a genetically twisted (albeit via breeding only) miniature cow but a genuine naturally occurring small breed cow, the Dexter. The average Dexter cow, when fully grown will stand no higher at the hip than Jasper. They stand around and just over the 1m mark although the bulls are up to 1.17m I think (44in) so they really are quite small. They’re easy calvers, easy milkers, friendly animals and make excellent lawnmowers! πŸ˜€ They also require a lot less pasture space and although we don’t quite have enough land for exclusive grass feeding we may have access to some good local and I believe organically grown hay. It’s also another reason I want to try growing mangel wurzels as they used to be used for winter and early spring food in the UK for cattle. We are big dairy people here with hot chocolates, homemade yoghurt, custard and cheese (not yet homemade) on our menu with frequency. I want to know that our dairy is organic and hence free of hormones, anti-biotics and all the rest of the garbage pumped into many commercial cows (I’m not sure how much of that is dairy cows rather than beef cows which I believe are treated with regularity in factory farming conditions but any of that gunk is too much gunk) and I also want to know that it’s cruelty free. These cows are prolific milk producers for their size and can easily feed 2 or even 3 calves so I figure that there is no need to remove the calf from mother and we can simply milk the excess. No poddy calves! πŸ˜€ I also want to know that our milk is local. Full respect to dairies around Australia but I would prefer to support any in the district and preferably my own back yard… Literally. πŸ˜€ I also want to be able to give my children raw milk, full of all the wonderful goodness that milk contains, not pasteurised to within an inch of its life. I understand that pasteurisation aims to kill nasty bugs but it also kills many beneficial ones and a single cow raised at home will be much easier to maintain in a sanitary milking condition than hundreds of them all traipsing in manure and mud. And that brings me to another great reason for keeping a cow… I want her manure for my gardens. πŸ™‚ Bonus fertiliser cakes. πŸ˜› Dexter cows are also great for their meat which is reported to be superior – a wonderful duel purpose cow. They can also be trained to pull like oxen, something that will come in handy in a post peak oil world. Any bull calves would be fattened up for organic, pasture-fed, free-range, cruelty free (need to find an on-site butcher) and utterly local beef. It’s a HUGE undertaking though, with initial costs, commitment (10 months of the year they lactate and they live for up to 20 years, even more) and we obviously need to check council rules and permits (definitely required) and whether we have or can access sufficient fodder (I do not want to grain feed except maybe as a treat) and there is also up to 10 litres of milk a day to work through. I would need to make cheese on a daily basis which would be far too much for us to eat) and I’d still have enough left over for custard, yoghurt, bechamel sauce, Orik’s bottles and all the rest. It’s very exciting to dream though and following up on information and researching is keeping the old brain box ticking.. πŸ™‚

So anyway, that’s the updates for now. There is lots happening, lots in the pipleline and many many more things on the discussion table. It’s a busy time and I’m loving it. πŸ˜€ What’s the news in your slice of paradise?

A death in the house and bottling more apricots.

We have our first death in the household since moving here. One of our 4-5 week old chicks, named John after our builder who first saw he wasn’t well, died last night. I got home about 10pm from bottling (more on that in a minute), got the kids into bed (I don’t normally kep them up that late but Martin was in Spotswood packing up the old house and we had been working hard until then so it was a needs must situation) then I finally got the chance to bring in our chicks. They’re around 5 weeks of age which means they’re nearly ready for life in the big pen but in the meantime they’re being slowly acclimatised by being taken out each morning and brought back in every evening. They’re enclosed in our old chook house, a small kit build one a friend gave me about 2 years ago which is plenty big enough for now 8 small chicks and it gives them time to get used to the other hens and roosters, and them to the smaller chicks too, before they’re in the pen proper. Well, when I brought them in last night John was a pretty miserable bundle of feathers. He was cold and stiff and I was convinced he was gone. Given how sick he’s been and that he hasn’t grown in a couple of weeks I had been fully expecting it and, if I’m brutally honest with myself (and you too of course) I was grateful too. A sick chick IS a lot of extra work AND he would have been so very miserable. Well, as I picked up this cold stiff little bundle of feathers he drew in a very sick gaspy little breath. Unbelievably he was still alive. I bedded the chicks down inside and said farewells to John (I am a sentimental fool I know), knowing full well he would not be with us in the morning. He was not. Orik couldn’t care less of course and Allegra just took it in her stride. It was just another piece of information to her as she’s still a bit young to really comprehend what had happened but Jasper is fully aware of what had happened and was most upset he couldn’t pat John again and couldn’t see him again and so on. We had a pat and said goodbye, both of us with streaming tears and John is currently sitting on top of Ignisa our wood heater, in a small tin awaiting Daddy to come home to perform a funeral. It seems kind of silly to hold a funeral for a 5 week old chick but I think it’s probably a necessary thing for Jasper to complete the hard little life lesson he’s just learned. He knows about death but it’s never been such real and tangible thing, only ever an abstract concept gained from his Granddad having passed years before he was born.

In other more positive news, yesterday was spent up to the eyeballs in apricots, finished off with super sweet white nectarines. I headed over to Phoenix Park, a great caravan park with cabins and a most marvelous hall where we set up the pressure canner, Fowlers Vacola water bath, dozens of jars, bowls and between us, 30kgs of apricots and 5kgs of white nectarines, all organic and absolutely delicious. We had freshly made Vegemite and cheese scrolls and brown rice mushroom risotto for lunch, then got stuck into halving our apricots. I had decided to halve them and if the halves were complete and whole I would bottle them but if they were blemished or bruised etc, then the apricot minus the blemished part would be turned into apricot nectar for drinking. I bottled 16 of the #27 jars of apricots in water and 4 of the #36 jars and a #20 of nectar but sadly I forgot the golden rule and I unloaded hot jars onto a cold bench (in my defense I had only made it to bet at 1:15 the night before with a 5am wake up and I was pretty much exhausted when I was unloading the jars) so I’ve broken 2 of my #36’s and I have a 3rd of questionable condition as it’s leaked over 1/2 of its contents. It’s made me stop and think about several aspects of bottling juice but I’ve not given up yet. It sounds crazy, even to me, but it took us 11 hours to bottle 16 jars of apricots in water, 8 in light syrup, 7 bottles (I think) of nectarines and 6 or 7 bottles of apricot nectar as well as processing 30kgs of apricots and 5kgs of nectarines but we also had my 3 monkeys and a 9 month old in the mix! Not a bad achievement in my books.

So, here are the photos I promised from yesterday.

Sterilising jars

Sterilising jars

First jar of apricot halves . I figured out a better way to stack them in after this one.

First jar of apricot halves . I figured out a better way to stack them in after this one.

Left to right: With lid awaiting clip, clipped and ready to process and jar filled with apricots and water and ring on awaiting the lid and clip.

Left to right: With lid awaiting clip, clipped and ready to process and jar filled with apricots and water and ring on awaiting the lid and clip.

After processing. 10 successfully processed jars, 1 that appears to have sealed but with a LOT of air in it in the fridge and a small jar (#20) of nectar.

After processing. 10 successfully processed jars, 1 that appears to have sealed but with a LOT of air in it in the fridge and a small jar (#20) of nectar. Clips will come off tomorrow.

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Halving apricots and 4 well-behaved kids (with a very tired Orik who fell asleep within 5 minutes of taking the photos.

Broken jar. I put it on the bench and no sooner had I moved my hand away (thankfully) than POP! Vomit! What a mess!

Broken jar. I put it on the bench and no sooner had I moved my hand away (thankfully) than POP! Vomit! What a mess!

My other broken jar. :( The white you can see is actually VERY fine bubbles creating a path through the puree heading to higher ground.

My other broken jar. 😦 The white you can see is actually VERY fine bubbles creating a path through the puree heading to higher ground.

The same leaky jar with my other unsuccessful jar of nectre in the background. Only half full so it may not have sealed adequately with all the space (air) in the bottle. One to be used quickly.

The same leaky jar with my other unsuccessful jar of nectar in the background. Only half full so it may not have sealed adequately with all the space (air) in the bottle. One to be used quickly.

This morning was a very slow start after the late night we’d had. Orik slept until 7:30 (although he came in for milk at some ungodly hour of the night before dawn), Allegra after 8 and Jasper slept until almost 9. I think he would happily have stayed in bed longer except for his sister being insistent he get up accompanied by a grumbly tummy. As we broke our fast at around 9:30 10 I went out to take the chicks outside and was greeted by a couple of visitors I hadn’t expected to see. I knew we had kookaburras around as one had been visiting and eating the resident skinks from my potato beds and compost heap and then had returned that evening with a friend whereupon they’d caught the mouse Minnie had rejected the day before and another skink or 2. Given their predilection for snakes and other reptilia they are so very welcome. πŸ˜€ In fact we will be encouraging them to come visiting.

This morning's visitors. He took flight just as I hit the button but it's not every garden that has 2-3 kookaburras come and visit and not many that have a kookaburra perching on the edge of the trampoline. I think Martin's a little sorry he missed seeing them.

This morning’s visitors. He took flight just as I hit the button but it’s not every garden that has 2-3 kookaburras come and visit and not many that have a kookaburra perching on the edge of the trampoline. I think Martin’s a little sorry he missed seeing them.

The other kookaburra.

The other kookaburra.

The fellow on the trampoline flew off a little so I followed after him and was blessed to be able to stand about 3 metres away from him. They really do have the most amazing glossy hard black eyes. Predatory, without being cruel if that makes sense. Sadly I didn’t get laughed at (never thought I’d say THAT in my life) but I was snickered at, a slow craaaak… craaaak… craaaak… but not the full-throated belly laugh. Is there any other bird in the world with such a distinctive and joyful call I wonder? It is simply marvelous to hear them chortling and chucking away in the trees across the creek and it never fails to make me smile. πŸ™‚ If you have never heard a kookaburra’s laugh, check out this link. Well, Mr Kookaburra was warmly welcomed and most cordially invited to drop in whenever he fancies and no need to call first. In fact he was told he’s welcome to make himself at home whether or not we are at home BUT he was warned off the baby chicks (not that he can get to them at the moment anyway but still). What a wonderful cheer me up after John’s discovery this morning. I just wish my photos were better but with limited zoom and an iPhone only and being a less than average photographer… Oh well.

Sitting in our silver poplars next to the house.

Sitting in our silver poplars next to the house. Sorry for the crappy photo.

And finally, I put my kids down for naps this morning as I could see they were cranky from too little sleep and although I know they’re not very eco at all (we’re getting back into cloth again but we have been using sposies just whilst we got settled 😦 ), Allegra who is just toilet training went back into a nappy for her nap. Jasper was being helpful and went to fetch it for me…

Stick em up and give me all your chocolate!

Stick em up and give me all your chocolate!