Smoky day

It’s a very smoky day here today. I woke up and thought we had another foggy morning but as the fog failed to lift I soon realised what it was. The sky is a dirty brownish grey and everything appears to be filmed with a light fog although not so clean and white. Smoke! 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. 😀 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. 😀 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. 🙂 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. 🙂 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.  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. 🙂

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?

Fire and a long week with the kids

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Oh so sweet pineapple chunks in juice and then pineapple juice beside it (the lighting makes it look white but it’s just the solids in the juice settling slowly slowly)

It’s been a long week. In fact it’s been a very long week and not one I would be keen to repeat any time soon. In fact pretty much the only highlights have been the delivery from a friend of some pineapples which I bottled and another blog post from 23thorns that had me chortling away like crazy as I tried to read it out loud to my husband. If you don’t already follow his blog I highly recommend it. Not only educational but extremely well written, witty and as funny as hell!

Last weeks white nectarines and apricots. Golden goodness that the kids have enjoyed on their porridge and with custard.

Last weeks white nectarines and apricots. Golden goodness that the kids have enjoyed on their porridge and with custard.

Anyway, my week has been full of misbehaving and children who obviously need their ears cleaned out or switched on( either way), mishaps, things not going to plan and mercurial weather.

Today has been a hot one. The temperatures this week have ranged from 6 degree lows through to high 30’s which makes it challenging to do simple things like put the kids to bed (summer pajamas or winter ones) and it plays with the mind when it’s freezing cold and you want to light the fire but it’s going to be mid 20’s the next day (we DID light it which just seems so very wrong in mid January). But today is also a day of total fire ban across the state where the fire risks are severe for most and extreme for the Wimmera and North Central which is pretty normal for January here. What is more concerning is the weather itself. Hot weather alone does not a high fire danger day make. But the wind today has been pretty awful, gusting back and forwards, blowing often from the north(ish), and it’s strong! The roof of the kids cubby which hadn’t yet been fastened down, has been blown off which is no mean feat given that it’s made from corrugated iron and heavy timber. I can’t lift the roofing pieces by myself. The trees were bending rather alarmingly back and forwards then side to side and anything not fastened down is probably half way to Geelong now. A pretty bad day for our local CFA’s I am guessing (my husband said they had sooty faces when he spoke to them about getting our fire hydrant refilled). I am just profoundly grateful we didn’t have extreme temperatures today. I have a feeling that had the temps been in the low to mid 40’s we would have had a catastrophic fire danger day. A Code Red day. They’re scary enough when one is living in inner suburbia… But now that we are country dwellers… 😦

It’s one of the bad things about not having the television connected. We’ve made the decision to not install it at this stage and so far, to be honest, we’ve not really missed it. We both feel that most of the news is doom and gloom, shared only to grab ratings but every now and then I realise there are things we are missing. I mean I really don’t care who plays Christian Grey in the 50 shades movies, nor what the Kardashians are up to or even particularly who wins the tennis, football, cricket etc. It just doesn’t interest me (unless it’s World Cup football in which case both Martin and I will be glued to every England and Australia game) BUT keeping up on things like severe weather warnings is becoming more and more necessary.

I read a couple of blogs today about climate change, increased average temperatures, hottest decades, hottest days on record and it frightens me. I don’t claim to be an expert on climate change, not by a long shot BUT the science is showing warming trends, temperatures on average increasing and the weather conditions are most definitely responding with greater severity. Keeping tabs on weather conditions, both locally and further abroad is starting to make even greater sense to me. I know the UK has had another very wet winter with flooding which we keep an eye on, or an ear actually as my mother-in-law always keeps us up to date with what the weather is doing over there (Martin’s brother and sister-in-law also live there as well as other relatives) and my mother’s family are spread out through New South Wales so we like to keep tabs on what’s happening there too.

This week I’ve most definitely been out of touch as our internet is once again gone so I’ve been reliant on the iPhone again – difficult. I’ve only just found out that NSW has had some of its hottest temperatures on record with catastrophic fire days although we’ve kept an ear to the ground regarding the fires near Wagga Wagga (my uncle and aunt live there) and I know there has been the hottest day recorded in Tasmania in the last week too, along with catastrophic fires there too. There have also been fires around Wallan where my sister-in-law works and her boss sent her home (all safe and well thankfully) as well as fires a little closer to our slice of paradise here, both at Ballarat and Daylesford which are both only about 30 minutes drive away. Not near enough to be personally threatening but close enough to want to keep an ear out.

Breakfast time Mummy! Wake up!!!

Breakfast time Mummy! Wake up!!!

This morning I woke up to find that one of us (most likely me but I don’t want t admit to a moment of sheer stupidity) left the spigot on the water filter in the “on” position. I’d emptied it of filtered water making my ginger beer (I’ll post on that soon) and I’d refilled the water. It takes a while for the clean water to filter through so it would have started dripping slowly sometime around 12:30 or after when I was well and truly in bed (Martin got up to make a bottle though so ha! I can blame him! 😉 ). This morning I had a puddle of water all over the kitchen bench, soaking a few bit and bobs like instruction manuals I had sitting there, and a second puddle on the floor. Topped off with an imminent food delivery, 3 hungry kids and the frustration of discovering we had no butter (there goes the idea of sandwiches for lunch to keep the house nice and cool), well, let’s just say it wasn’t a great way to start the day. Mopped up, kids eating (late breakfast in the end) and my wonderful delivery arrives. It’s my first order and I am extremely impressed! Highland Heritage Farm (Facebook page and blog) delivered, in a lovely wooden crate, my order of organic oats, cashews, own grown red onions, spuds, beans and eggs (a wonderful selection of colours and sizes) as well as some free “glut” veggies of turnips, zucchinis and also some rhubarb (not sure if you can call that a fruit or a veggie). It’s locally grown, home delivered, supporting a family of like-minded people (they also use sourdough and grow organic) and it’s beautifully fresh produce so I couldn’t be happier. I’ve used up our 7 hard won eggs today (I think my hens are broken as that’s 9 days of eggs! 😛 ) Not sure yet how to use the dozen zucchinis I have in my fridge although the rhubarb will served for breakfast I think. The turnips will also be a first time cook for me too. Never had them before. 🙂 Any recipes to share?

I do NOT want to wear this dress Mummy!

I do NOT want to wear this dress Mummy!

The rest of the week has been lacklustre. I baked some bread in Ignisa’s oven when she was lit (may as well make use of the heat I guess), but otherwise, just a bit of online shopping (for organic foods and such, not shopping for fun), dishes, toilet training (*sigh* will it ever be over?), washing washing and more washing and taking out and bringing in the chicks. Just a quiet week on the homestead I guess, punctuated by “I don’t want to wear a dress” tantrums, please don’t climb out the windows moments and all the rest. I am very glad it’s over and very much looking forward to the weekend (BRING IT ON!!!). Jasper, who helped me amazingly with putting away washing will come with me to the Ballan Farmers Market as a treat and he will get some money to spend. He knows it’s not a toy market, but a food market and I told him that they have honey, peanut butter and cheese that he might like to buy. His eyes lit up more and more with each suggestion. Too funny kiddo! 😀 We’ve also dealt with his ongoing processing of grief from the death of John the chicken. 😦 This morning he was beside himself, sobbing that Ellie was dead. It took me 5 minutes to work out what he was saying. Once I had located the missing Ellie, his stuffed toy elephant we had a chat and the world was right again. A challenging conversation.

We've found Ellie

We’ve found Ellie

We’ve managed a little more unpacking, some serious furniture rearranging (I think I have things where they work now) and more processing of larger city house into smaller country house with different priorities (more gardens, less stuff) so it’s all slowly slowly coming together. The old house is nearly empty (although the shed is another thing) The skip is also gone now which involved a very close call with 2 cats whom were unbeknownst to us hiding under the skip. I’m not sure who got the bigger fright, them when their cool hiding place on a hot day suddenly made loud noise and lifted up in the air, or me when first Minnie then Maxxie came boiling out from underneath the rapidly shrinking hole at the end of the skip! Frightened the life out of all 3 of us (they have about 8 left each I think).  Anyway, another full week and I am very much looking forward to bed.