With all things being equal

The day and the night that is. Happy Equinox hippies. 🙂 We are on the lighter side of it now and heading fast into Summer. 😀

True to form we spent the weekend in the garden, trying to get done all we need to do. Our fences are finished and had a test run with 5 kids under 7 on Saturday afternoon when my nephews came to visit us. Jasper, clever little fellow, showed us where the greatest weaknesses in our perimeters are within 5 minutes. The gates. They are easy to climb and we then had the chance to recite the poem “swinging on a gate, swinging on a gate. 7 little sisters and a brother makes eight” although ours was more like 4 boy cousins and Allegra makes 5 but oh well. 😉 We can easily put some chicken wire over the gates to stop the climbing but with them opening it we need to think about what steps we take.

Sitting on the deck eating hot chips for lunch. This is what we can see.

Sitting on the deck eating hot chips for lunch. This is what we can see. A LOT of mess!

And lowering clouds that threatened and pulled faces but didn't follow through on their threats.

A large woodpile to be moved and glowering clouds that threatened and pulled faces but didn’t follow through on their threats.

The fences have also opened a lot more of the garden up to us which the kids have been exploring and loving. 🙂 We have some cleaning up to do there with a huge expanse of roofing tiles that need to be cleared (some will be broken up and used to create a base for the 3000L water tank we’re putting up to catch shed run off) but they’re pretty brittle sadly and not much use other than to add to cement to stabilise it or as a rock base underneath something else as the edges are too sharp to leave exposed. Another shameful waste. 😦 If anyone can think of any other uses…

Over the fence and down near the creek.

Over the fence and down near the creek.

Saturday also saw me out in the front garden digging up the area where I plan to plant my asparagus. There is old lino underneath small white stones and copious weeds that need to come up. I’ve discovered though that despite some widely variable weed-mats (plastic, lino, carpet underlay etc) and other interesting gardening choices we have one thing really going for us. The garden has worms. Yeah, I was going to write that we had worms but figured a little bit of class wouldn’t go astray this once. 😉 The pebbles above the thick clay and lino layers are absolutely seething with worms. I feel like a murderer every time I dig as I can’t but help hurt some of them. So, I tried paying Jasper to collect them and move them to the hugelkultur and blueberry beds but even at 10c a worm he piked out after 40 worms.

So when I found out that my 6-year-old nephew is learning the value of money and saving up and was keen to earn his money I offered him the same deal. He collected just over 100 worms in a space probably 1×2 metres! :O We capped his earnings at $10 (as I was fast running out of money) which he was stoked with and he had a blast diving on worms like a hungry chicken whilst his dad (my brother) sat and watched (he’d hurt his back again sadly) and I dug. It was a really lovely time to be honest.

We talked gardening and worms although he prefers his worms hanging on a hook suspended in the water. I sent them home with various seeds and instructions on how to best plant them too as they are burgeoning gardeners, more for the curiosity than the intent of truly growing things I think, but I am stoked. 😀 I hope the green thumb bug sticks and Jayke continues to grow and then eat all the wonderful foods he grows. I hope for his sake the Summer is kind with warmth and rain in perfect balance (but this is Australia in a time of climate change so I’m not holding my breath) to give his garden the best possible start. I’ve also offered to buy some worm wee and castings from him when his brand new worm farm gets up and running. I spoke to my sister-in-law this morning too and after a few more jobs and a bit more pocket money Jayke had enough to buy what he had been saving for. 😀

He earned $4 and my garden is much happier.

Jasper earned $4 and my garden is much happier.

Sunday morning saw me finishing off the last few metres of chicken wiring under the edge of the shed to prevent escaping chooks and then for the first time in months the funny buggers were let out to free-range. They’ve been kept in to prevent garden damage as they have been marching straight under the house and out the front and have even headed towards the neighbours which, considering he trains greyhounds for racing is not in the best interest of the birds. They are now, with the fences in place and barrier wiring finished, safe and welcome in the garden. 🙂 We need to build another small free-range access door for them so they don’t need to traipse into Anna’s run and then out to the garden, and so they can wander in and out as they please (to lay and such) too but on the whole it was lovely to see them out in the garden eating bugs and grass. 😀 And destroying my gardens of course. 😦

A messy back deck and free-ranging Dorkings.

A messy back deck and free-ranging Dorkings.

We also spent some time moving wood from out the front around to the wood lean-to, finishing off setting the trampoline up and moving it back to open up the garden a bit more and just general clean up. I have 1/2 of the asparagus bed area cleared and am now thinking I will build 2 beds instead of 1 but we shall see. I hope to finish digging up the rest of the stones and weeds today but if there is no lino or other weed-mat I shall just pull weeds and build on top. MUCH easier. 🙂 I also simply MUST plant out my seeds today or I will have no tomato plants to plant out come November. So much to do and still so little time. At least I have a garden safe for the kids to run and play in. 🙂

The Hawthorn is putting out leaves. Spring must truly be here.

The Hawthorn is putting out leaves. Spring must truly be here.

One lone daffy (past its prettiest). I shall plant out other bulbs down there later in the year.

One lone daffy (past its prettiest). I shall plant out other bulbs down there later in the year and hopefully pull out some of the sticky weed.

We also spent some great time with the kids. They were stripped down for Vitamin D again for most of the day and in the later afternoon on Sunday we had 3 nudies running around the garden having a blast. We also built a pirate ship with them using a few fence palings, a bike tyre, 2 chairs and 2 kids camp chairs. They weighed anchor, had a flag pole and even caught a whale. What fun and what imaginations. 🙂

Our creek really does have some pretty little spots. Not bad for a storm-water drain with a glorified name.

Our creek really does have some pretty little spots. Not bad for a storm-water drain with a glorified name.

Last night saw me fall into serious unconsciousness around 10pm. Exhaustion and bed are a great combination and I love the feeling of being so tired that I’m melting into the sheets. Sheer bliss! 😀

Not much of our garden can be seen through the trees. I love our privacy.

Not much of our garden can be seen through the trees. I love our privacy.

What did you get up to on your weekend? Did you get stuck into Spring planting or Fall/Autumn clean up perhaps or just enjoy the sunshine perhaps?


Tuki Trout Farm – A family outing

One of the best things about moving to Ballan is the new-found family connection we have already formed. It’s just wonderful. We have come closer together and enjoy spending time doing activities all together. I intend on taking a LOT more family outings over the year and I’ve already earmarked a few activities for us. I am hoping to be able to go somewhere new with the kids at least every 2 weeks, although I may be biting off more than I can chew with that plan. We will see.

A rainbow trout – an introduced species that although it’s not a pest, does cause harm to native species.

Anyway, I love fresh fish, trout in particular. There really is nothing like the taste of a freshly caught, cleaned and cooked rainbow trout in my opinion and I’ve been keen to take the trip to Tuki Trout Farm in Smeaton for some months. However, the trip from Ballan is about 45-60 minutes so adding on another 45 minutes would have made it quite a long trip for the kids.

So on Saturday, with a packed lunch, kids whining about being STAAAAARVING in our ears (please tell me that all 4 year old boys are just an empty stomach on legs like mine is) and the esky with the ice packs in the boot we headed off. We took the scenic route via Daylesford rather than driving to Ballarat then out to Smeaton and it was just lovely driving down the narrow roads with nothing but paddocks and open spaces. It’s all looking so dry although I guess we are still viewing the grass with city slicker eyes. I’m sure it’s not yet all that dry really, just golden in colour. Either way, it was a brilliant drive. As a distraction when I’m driving and Jasper is doing his usual 20 questions thing I sometimes tell him to look for a white horse. So far he’s not seen one… Until Saturday! I hadn’t mentioned the white horse thing for at least a week or more when suddenly he yells out “A white horse! I saw a white horse Mummy!” I can’t believe the memory of this kid sometimes!

As we drove into Tuki the views were magnificent. There was this fantastic hill which was the highest in the nearby area over which the driveway meandered nearly at the top and we could see for miles all around. Spectacular! Then down the other side into the farm itself. The prices are quite reasonable – $8 for adults, $4 for children although our children all got in free given their ages (4 and under), a family pass is $30 for 2 adults, children and 2 rods and  rod hire is $5 which includes a large net to help you land your fish. Bait is included too (sweetcorn thankfully. I am NOT picking up insects, let alone sticking a hook into them!) There are 6 ponds, 2 of them heavily stocked which is great for kids who don’t have the patience to sit and enjoy the beautiful peace and quiet. We started on a lovely pond near the top of the hill but had no luck. We moved up to the 2 top ponds, the heavily stoked ones after we had nothing more than a small nibble as the kids were getting bored. We eventually ended up on the smallest pond which is the most heavily stocked where we had nearly instant success. The look on Jasper’s’ face as he caught his first fish was priceless! He went in with Daddy to have it weighed and cleaned and he certainly learned a few things about where our food comes from. Maybe not the easiest lessons to learn but vitally important in my opinion. He came back out with a lot to tell me whilst Allegra and I caught a fish together. She too was ecstatic to catch a fish although the life lessons were lost on her at this stage. All in all we landed 5 trout, each around 200-250 grams but with a fractious Orik in his pram (the ponds are all quite deep and he’s a liability around water at this stage so he had to stay put sadly) and getting on to dinner time we asked for 3 more trout from the staff there who were trawling the pond for trout to smoke and make into pate (they sell it through their shop and serve it at the restaurant). At $15.50 a kilo for the trout, all cleaned and ready to cook we took home nearly 2kgs of them!

Fishing is a serious business!

Fishing is a serious business! This is seconds before we caught our first fish.

Not so serious for the girls though. ;)

Not so serious for this girl though. 😉

Caught a fish?

Caught a fish?

A father with the patience of a saint

A father with the patience of a saint.

The trip home was via Ballarat with sleeping kids in the back seat and then I had the task of getting dinner sorted quickly for 5 hungry people and then getting 3 into bed quick smart as it was getting late. The trout were far less interesting to Jasper by now although he did admire their beautiful rainbow colouring. I spread some butter inside them, beheaded them before cooking (heads went straight into the stock pot) and sprinkled with dried dill inside too. Martin barbecued them whilst I cooked some brown rice and that was dinner done. It took seconds for Jasper to decide he liked it and he demolished 3 helpings whilst Allegra took some heavy duty convincing. Sadly Orik wouldn’t have a bar of it. Glad I cooked up 2 of the larger fish though. Best of all, no bone mishaps. 🙂 I took out most of the bones before serving them up and Marina and I triple checked what the kids were served. The bones also went straight into the stock pot. Cooking the fish up though was a thought provoking experience and the experience was different for me this time than it has been in the past. I’m a lot less blase about the choice to eat an animal than I have been in the past. The ethics of food I guess.

Now as I write this I have my fish stock in the freezer alongside my duck stock, both of which I eagerly anticipate using (it’s like getting double the bang for your buck so to speak – check out these blogs here and here on the benefits of bone broths or bone stocks) but I’ll need to check up my book Nourishing Traditions for some good recipes I think. I also know we will return to Tuki some day but for now I have 6 more trout to cook at my leisure. 😀