The last week and a bit

The last week has been one of the most intense in a long time. It’s been a week of sadness, of joy, learning and sharing and most importantly, a week of family. Continue reading

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Another weekend

Yes, another weekend has passed and here I sit, warming myself by Ignisa’s glowing belly, sipping a hot cocoa just before bed and reflecting on the weekend that was.

In some ways we have done precious little this weekend. Martin has managed to procure some nicely seasoned (read bone dry) wood extremely locally (just across the creek on our own property so has it) and chopped up the necessary for the weeks supply but aside from that and the other daily tasks we have done little. We have however, achieved a lot.

One of the things small towns are know for is their sense of community. Sometimes it’s a negative when the whole town knows the whole towns business but on the whole, there is a sense of community that is hard to find in larger towns or cities. And that sense of community, of being local people for our local area is something we sought when we moved here to Ballan. And, we have found it. Not just in Ballan but also in the surrounding towns.

The ultimate smal-town busybody – Rachel Lynde

Saturday was a day for the people. Meeting up with and spending time with 2 different families. Like-minded people. People who are walking their eco journey. People who don’t look at you like you’ve got bats in t he belfry when you talk about things like organic vegetables, peak oil, melting polar ice caps, solar panels and homemade just about anything. It’s nice not to be a rabid little hippy sometimes but just someone who is doing her part and who’s levels of rabid are understood and maybe even applauded. πŸ™‚ That’s not big-noting myself or saying I do heaps/enough/great. That’s just saying that to some people I know I am extreme, go to far or am just plain crazy. The moniker Rabid Little Hippy was given to me after all. πŸ˜‰Β So, Saturday was a day to spend time sharing ideas, ideals and general conversation about eco and unrelated things.

We started the day off with a visit to Gavin Webber again. I have a few friends who are also keen to get into the homemade cheese scene and who better to ask than Gav of Little Green Cheese fame (and of course Greening of Gavin fame πŸ˜‰ ) and as Gav sells both mozzarella and feta kits I said I’d grab them some mozzarella kits so our visit began with me picking up the kits. When Martin expressed some mild jealousy at my intended visit I was cheeky enough to ask if it would be ok for the rest of my family to “tag along”. With permission granted we headed off armed with cake. What ensued was a visit filled with laughter, serious conversation, shared beliefs and ideals and in general a great time. The kids all seemed to have taken their angel pills again and so were all on the best of best behaviour. We had great food, colby cheese and morning tea that edged nearly into mid-afternoon! πŸ˜€ I hope we didn’t overstay our welcome guys but we had a wonderful time. Thank you.

We lost Jasper and Allegra to the sandman in the car on the way home and Orik was also due for a nap so we had a couple of quiet hours before heading out once again, this time to Phoenix Park for a roast lamb dinner. And my goodness was it good! Organic lamb and the full trappings cooked by someone else. I know I can cook a good roast but there is something about eating food that you haven’t had to prepare yourself. I swear it really does taste better! πŸ˜€ And again, several hours of like-minded people sharing ideas, dreams and goals as well as achievements. A great finish to a great day.

One of the best bits of a busy Saturday is that the kids sleep well and we scored a sleep in Sunday morning! I was also smart enough to head to bed early and so scored nearly 11 hours of sleep with only 1 interruption! I cannot remember when last that happened! πŸ˜€ And an 8am wake up to boot! Win!

Today was a much quieter day and although we didn’t achieve what we had planned, the house is tidier and the souls are peaceful, hopefully ready for the week ahead.

Oh, and for those that have seen my washing pile, I’ve folded and put most of it away! πŸ˜‰

A quiet time and all that we have achieved

Things have been quiet around here. Not literally in terms of noise. Our house is rarely devoid of noise but in terms of achievements and blogging things have been quiet. I’ve needed the downtime and time off from the blogosphere, both reading and writing, and as I come out the other side of this time I am feeling the better for the time off. And after getting a new RSS feed (thanks Narf7) I feel like I’m getting all my posts and nearly on top of them all too. πŸ™‚ Continue reading

A harvest meal, real food, Freecycle and bartering.

We dispatched our first chicken last Sunday. One of our roosters has been limping for a few weeks and he hasn’t improved so the decision was made to end his misery, despite not having reached maturity or harvesting age. His end was as quick as we could make it with no prolonged suffering and he has been waiting in the fridge, resting until we were ready to cook him up. I decided to roast him, despite the lack of meat on his scrawny carcass and so he was roasted with some Chinese 5 spice rubbed into him, with plums inside the cavity and around, roast spuds and peas and corn.Β I wouldn’t say it was the best meal I’ve ever eaten, not by a long shot but it was tasty. The plums which I had bottled the other week were sour but the rest of the meal was good. The bones are now simmering on the stove to make stock (waste not want not) and I am feeling comfortable with our decision to raise our own meat.

 

Roast chook stuffed with plums, surrounded by crunchy spuds and more plums. Best looking meal I’ve ever made that’s for sure. πŸ™‚

 

I had a friend come visit today and we were talking about food. She jokingly asked what “real” food we had in the house, referring to conventional supermarket foods and we went to have a look in my fridge, freezer and pantry. What we found makes me beam with pride. There are a few condiments, vinegar and the like, frozen peas and corn and a few leftover berries, milk, a beer (home-brew is on the cards one day) and a few other bits and pieces. I am proud to say we make the gross majority of our food from raw ingredients. πŸ˜€ I don’t have an issue with buying things and I am sure I will in future but I love the fact that I can “damn the man” and make it myself. I just wish I could find a recipe for homemade Vegemite. Supporting Kraft, even as infrequently as one buys Vegemite sticks in my craw. 😦

Who says you can't sleep the baby in the drawers? Yet another use for repurposing some old drawers into underbed storage - the kids can play in them :D

Who says you can’t sleep the baby in the drawers? Yet another use for repurposing some old drawers into underbed storage – the kids can play in them πŸ˜€

I love a good bargain but even more than that I love a free bargain! I mean who doesn’t? πŸ˜€ I love Freecycle for that reason. Freecycle is a place to list your unwanted goods or to put up a wanted ad if there is something you are after. You will not be offered things like a good car or the latest LED TV but people list unwanted books, furniture, unused garden items (gravel, plants, seeds), kitchen items and occasionally some pretty wonderful items too – I missed out on a knitting machine once which I sought for a friend (I already have one) – as well as the more commonplace. I’ve seen requests for glass jars, school uniforms, newspapers, yarn, and offers for kitchens (we listed our old one), topsoil, kindling, hot water units and more. Almost anything goes although different groups have different policies and those policies differ often around the placement of wanted or offering animals/pets.

The other day an offer came up for a 6 seater extendable dining table, something we have been after for quite some time. We have 5 of us crammed around a 4 seater table and Martin or I end up sitting on a folding chair as Orik’s high chair clips to a normal chair. I fired off a reply as soon as I saw the ad and was lucky enough to be offered the setting. The description wasn’t encouraging – laminate and timber – so I was expecting an old, possibly late 70’s early 80’s brown wood look laminate table and the matching vinyl chairs but needs must. I was jaw-droppingly surprised to discover we had just become the new owners of 6 lovely high backed chairs and a deep reddy-brown timber veneer extendable table with only a little damage. I am stoked! πŸ˜€ Freecycle, you RULE! We have some more stuff to list now, including our old table as well as some other unwanted items that are too good to throw out. If they don’t find homes on Freecycle then it’s off to the op shop.Β I love the idea of eBay, Freecycle, Gumtree and any other similar webpages, just like op shops, as they do one HUGE thing. They keep usable items from ending up in landfill. There is nothing wrong with our old table except its size but without a second hand market out there it’s a perfectly good and undamaged item that will sit there for all eternity (glass doesn’t decompose).

The excitement of lift off and pressure building int he pressure canner - first time I've used it and I "canned" chicken stock.

The excitement of lift off and pressure building int he pressure canner – first time I’ve used it and I “canned” chicken stock.

Another concept I love that I am just delving into which is fast becoming the new black, at least in my circles, is bartering. Swapping this for that. Offering your goods or services in exchange for other goods or services. Effectively buying things but without exchanging money. It’s fun and it’s challenging, just like op shopping. πŸ™‚ The challenge of locating what you need is far harder than just walking into a normal store and grabbing the item off the shelf. Now where is the challenge in that? I LOVE the thrill of the op shop hunt and the open mind that you must have too. You may not get exactly what you dreamed of but that’s the joy, the flexibility. πŸ˜€ Well, bartering is the next level up from that! Not only are you searching for what you want BUT you must have something to offer in exchange that the items owner wants. It all of a sudden becomes a dual challenge. You find yourself assessing your goods and services, what you can offer, afford to spare or are willing to give up. Recently I had made a wonderful barter swap with a fellow blogger and hippy Narf7 from Serendipity Farm in Northern Tasmania. Steve carves the most amazing and wonderful spoons from locally sourced timber, some even from their own farm and I have been gagging to get my hands on one of these amazing works of art. But what did I have that I could swap. Turns out I was rich in 2 things that Narf7 was after, sourdough starter and knowledge and kefir grains. We faced the potential problem of customs as Tasmania is pretty rigid regarding the importation of anything that could harm their beautiful island so seeds and plants are out (sorry Narf7, otherwise I’d split my mangel wurzel seeds 50/50 with you) but after discussing the issue with my local postmistress I was pretty sure it would be ok. I bundled up Audrey the sourdough starter into a couple of leak-proof layers and did the same with the offspring of Kiefer our kefir grains, threw in a handknitted dishcloth and some rye flour which I pulled out again. I figured it wouldn’t clear customs and rather than tempt fate it was better to leave it out. It arrived yesterday and both the kefir and starter as settling into their new homes. πŸ™‚ MY parcel arrived today. πŸ˜€ In exchange for my items I have received not 1 but 2 hand-carved spoons and some parsnip seeds (the ban on posting seeds only works one way πŸ™‚ ) To say that I am happy is a major understatement! I AM STOKED! My salt spoon is the sweetest cutest and most practical little spoon perfectly suited to its job. It now lives in the vintage ceramic salt cellar I purchased off eBay a while back, helping to spoon Himalayan salt into my cooking and baking. As or my second spoon, I am not sure what its purpose will be quite yet but rest assured it will be an honoured position. I feel very very proud to be the owner and recipient of not 1 but 2 of these gorgeous spoons.

My new celery top pine salt spoon. :D

My new celery top pine salt spoon. πŸ˜€

It's so little and cute and perfectly sized for its job.

It’s so little and cute and perfectly sized for its job.

My second piece of art.

My second piece of art.

 

LOVE how the spoon "bowl" sits proud f the handle. Your attention to detail and craftsmanship is amazing Steve.

LOVE how the spoon “bowl” sits proud f the handle. Your attention to detail and craftsmanship is amazing Steve.

Well, here’s hoping for an early night. I AM trying to get to bed before 10 and be up before 7. Truly!

Tired

I am tired. Exhausted, pooped, weary (my Papa used to say he was weary – sorry, nostalgic moment πŸ™‚ ), 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 πŸ˜› ).

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

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

TheΒ radishesΒ 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 Β in the half wine barrel of water. They’ve had bike washes (they had their balance bikes and rode them through their bike wash πŸ™‚ ), 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. πŸ˜‰

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. πŸ˜€

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. πŸ˜‰

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?

Operation Homestead: I forgot the photos

Today was another crazy amazing day. Friends of ours were having a major blitz to get some of their house built and Martin was up helping them for Β the day so it was just the kids and I along with a head full of plans. And as per usual, the best laid plans and all that… lol

Started off baking up a storm Β 72 cheese and vegemite scrolls and 2 loaves of sourdough bread. Finally got moving and up to pick up some more compost. Arrived at the house and started to take down the dog shelter which will be repurposed into a temporary hen house and later a wood shed. In the mean time, the reinforced mesh had to come down so we can finish cleaning up and then mow in there. To my surprise, I found an egg! A quick float check in a bucket of water revealed that it was fresh so I returned it to its rightful owners, our neighbours whose Isa Brown houdinis had been finding their way onto our block. Looks like the fence was fixed just in time, well as far as it goes for their egg supplies at least.

I was interrupted in my work by the arrival of my kitchen. MAJOR SQUEEEEE! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ Installation will happen next week but every beautiful piece of it is here.

The afternoon was made considerably easier by Orik having a nice long nap and the kids playing relatively nicely. I dug 2 holes for my veggie garden gate posts and laid in my last no-dig garden bed (just need to get some more mulch to top them off) – a long one to run alongside the veggie garden fence, using the fencing for trellis for this years beans. I am hoping to sink in another post and string up some fencing wire, possibly ringlock (I’ve been having lessons in fencing terminology) this week. I also finished ripping down the last 2 feet of wooden fencing so that is FINALLY done. Another job knocked off the list.

The best bit was the kids running around in the garden, helping to wet the paper for the garden beds, jumping on the trampoline like fiends and helping dig the post holes too. We had some funny as moments – I caught Jasper trying to cram 4 pieces of slice in his mouth all at once, Allegra’s major fixation with an indigo blue plastic bottle she found somewhere and her love of tipping out water (usually into car seat cup holders or internal car door handles 😦 ) and Orik who is loving playing in (and probably eating) the dirt. I just can’t wait until we are moved in and they can play in the garden every day.

Anyway, given everything that was going on (add a trip to Trentham and dropping some compost off to friends) I kinda sorta forgot to take any photos. So, despite getting nearly everything done that I planned, my plans for a photo montage post just didn’t happen. So in the interest of having SOME photo’s…

Ringlock fencing

An Isa Brown chicken

The post hole digger I used before I found that friends have a petrol powered one. Looking forward to not needing to use this again.