Self preservation. Oh and peaches and other fruits and veggies too.

It’s harvest time. Well, it’s harvest time for most other people. My own meager harvest is battling against the risk of early frost which is no immediate risk with 9 days straight in the high 20’s or low 30’s and more heat to come. But the farmers around us are in harvest mode and our co-op is in Β hardcore produce mode too. Yesterday saw me picking up 60 cobs of corn (ok, so I left 30 at my friends house which they kindly dropped off at a half way point at 9 this morning), 6 cauliflowers, 10kgs of white nectarines, 10kgs of peaches and 2 kgs of blueberries. Their house looked like a very selective fruit sellers and smelled amazing too as they were bottling peaches when I arrived. My house now smells the same. Yum.

Hence, insanity struck last night. With a glut of beans offered to me for sale I topped and tailed then chopped up several bunches of beans, blanched and froze them, then 6 cauliflowers received the same treatment after being carefully de-caterpillared *shudder*. I fell into bed sometime not long after 11. This morning I woke at ridiculous o’clock (sorry Fran but 3:35 is an insane time to wake and 3:55 is no improvement for a get up and dressed time either. After some ‘sit like a vegetable, read emails and wake up a bit’ time I got stuck into peeling the corn. Again I discovered caterpillars. Bleuch! Once they were done I hit the peaches with a peeler before the arrival of one small and very talkative daughter came out and joined me. Yes, she takes after her mother. πŸ˜‰ I had time to start filling jars before the inevitable “I’m hungry” breakfast gong sounded, by which time I had been joined by an ever so slightly less talkative elder son so I retrieved the quietest family member from his cot, fed them, filled the Fowlers Vacola with peaches and got it running, jammed the kids in the car and off we went for my meeting for the corn. We had finished and were on our way home again by 9am. A short visit to the Ballan Farmers market for a few supplies and then back home again. I’m exhausted and it’s just gone 10am!

Corn ready for removing from the kernel and then pressure canning

Corn ready for removing from the kernel and then pressure canning

Tis the season though when fruits and vegetables reach ripeness. The time when preserving must be done to capture that peak nutrition and peak colour. Over ripe fruits don’t bottle as well and won’t last as long and underripe ones lack taste and in the instance of fruits, sweetness. I like to bottle in water rather than syrup as my kids all react poorly to sugar and we are a 99% sugar free house. We do use rapadura (or jaggery as it’s also known) which is dried sugarcane juice but it hasn’t been spun to change its shape, hasn’t had the molasses and mineral salts removed (the good stuff) and it hasn’t been bleached either. It looks a lot like brown sugar but brown sugar is just white sugar with molasses added back in. Rapadura has an amazing deep caramel flavour and is a little more textured but I don’t like the syrup it makes for bottling. It’s not as aesthetically pleasing and it has left a sediment in some of my jars. So, I bottle in water when and wherever possible which means I really want that peak sweetness.

So, I think it’s time I shared a “how to” on bottling. I highly recommend reading other blogs and also official web pages or the Fowlers Vacola books before embarking on your bottling adventure. The more knowledge you have the better you can judge what to do.

So, how to bottle peaches.

First things first, check your equipment. I often fail to do this and run short on rings or lids. It can be very difficult to bolt out to grab supplies in the middle of bottling and nigh on impossible with 3 young kids so do as I say, not as I do. πŸ˜‰ This time around I’ve just bought a whole lot more lids, rings and bottles (mostly 2nd hand) so I knew I had the supplies I needed. The jars need to be clean and sterile so you can either boil them (you would need to look up the times for that), put them in the oven (again, you’d need to check what temperature and for how long or, as I did this morning at 4:30 am, load them in the dishwasher and run them through at the highest temperature possible. Our dishwasher has an intensive run (65C) to which I added the sanitise option. Leave them in the dishwasher with the door closed whilst you prepare your fruit.

Dishwasher sterilisation

Dishwasher sterilisation

Take your peaches, peel if you prefer. I have left the skins on most of mine but these peaches are just on the edge of being nice and ripe and hence they’re still quite firm. I’m able to peel them with a potato peeler, rather than cutting a cross in the end, blanching in boiling water for 30-60 seconds then plunging into icy water for the same time. The skins will usually come off although I rarely bother going to that effort. In this case though the peeler is working a treat and I can read blogs or watch a movie whilst I peel. Multitasking at its best. πŸ˜‰ Once your peach is peeled, cut it in half and remove the pit or stone. You can bottle them as peach halves, peach quarters or peach slices. It’s totally up to you and dependent on how you use them. I’m slicing this time as I have apricot halves and nectarine quarters. And I felt like it this morning anyway. πŸ™‚

Peeling peaches

Peeling peaches

If I remember I put the rings in warm water to soak before I start slicing peaches and the lids need to be sterilised too. I usually just fill a bowl with boiling water and plonk them in that. Just remember that the water IS boiling though when you go to get a lid out. Yes, I’ve done that many times before, this morning included. I find it easiest to put the rings around the bottles before filling them but afterwards is fine too. Make sure there are no twists in your rings. I gently flick them down with my thumb if they’re twisted when they go on.

Fill your jars.

Once they’re full to a bit under the rim – about 1-2cm from memory (yeah, I make these things up as I go along which is why I’m an unreliable (at best) “how to” person. Do NOT rely just on my instructions, please!) then fill them with boiling water or your syrup. If you’re using syrup you need to prepare it before the slicing part too. once your bottles are filled, put on the sterile lid (without burning yourself on the sterilised lids, their water or the now boiling hot jars of syrup/water and peaches) then put on the clip. Fowlers Vacola lids will not stay on the jar until after processing without the clip. They’re not screw on or press down, that’s the job of the clip. Make sure it’s properly in place then put your jars in the water bath unit. Once it’s full (don’t cram your jars in, make sure they have a little wriggle room) then put in some cold water. Watch that you don’t overfill it and end up with water either pouring or boiling out of the thermometre hole. Turn on your heat, lid on your unit and take a break or prepare more jars. The temperature needs to reach 100C and stay there for an hour. Once it’s done, turn off the heat and in best case scenario, let it rest and cool in there. If not, remove the bottles carefully. There are specific tongs you can get but I hate them. I’ve heard that the Ball mason jar lifters are better to use but I’ve not tried them. If I’m really struggling with using the tongs I grab my washing up gloves and work using them and the tongs. Do NOT lift the bottles by the clips or lid as it can damage the seal. Also, do NOT put your still hot jars on a cold bench, board or anything. I put a tea-towel, folded once down first. Even if they’re cool, it’s prudent.

My Vacola unit on the stove

My Vacola unit on the stove

Once your bottle have sat, undisturbed and not touching each other for 24-48 hours (I leave them 48 as that’s how long it usually takes me to get back to them) you can slide the clips off. Lift your bottle by the lid with your other hand ready to catch and see if the seal is set. If the lid comes off, pop it in the fridge for immediate use. If not, you’ve just bottled your first peaches. πŸ˜€

Nectarines, pears, plums, apricots and any other stone fruit I have forgotten is no different. You may need to peel or core but there is no difference in the bottling. Tomatoes require a little more as many modern tomato varieties are low acid and hence need a little extra acidic help so add some lemon juice or vinegar. Again, please google this or check out bottling books for amounts as it differs per bottle size. And the final disclaimer, do NOT bottle vegetables. Veggies, like beans and corn etc don’t contain sufficient acid to preserve them safely. If you have a pressure canner (not a pressure cooker) then you can safely preserve vegetables in bottles (the Fowlers Vacola bottles work with pressure canning too) but otherwise, please stick to blanching or dehydrating. I have a pressure canner so the chick peas, soups, meat stocks and vegetables that I put into bottles are all pressure canned and hence, safe. Botulism is not something you want to run risks with.

Well, as I finish typing this (after breaks to deal with the kids, feed and water the chooks and grab a bite to eat) the first round of peaches are ready. I will let them cool for a bit whilst I finish peeling these peaches and then it’s on to round 2.

Peaches

Peaches

Just some updates

Lots happening here. Lots of little bits and bobs. A few big things too. πŸ™‚ I made our first harvest from the greenhouse garden last night. I harvested a nice big spicy peppery handful of rocket from the greenhouse garden for our dinner. It’s a little immature but I couldn’t resist the verdant greenery any longer. We had chicken cacciatore (or something similar to cacciatore) for dinner last night and in lieu of spinach to throw in, in went the rocket leaves. It was delicious. πŸ™‚ The tomatoes were home bottled (down to my last few bottles now) and the olives and onions bought via Highland Heritage so it was a mostly local meal. Sadly the chicken was dug from the depths of the freezer where it has been sitting on it’s polystyrene tray for some time. 😦 Like the lamb we had for dinner the other evening. It was a freezer find but I think that’s the last of it. πŸ™‚ I diced up turnips, potatoes, pumpkin, onion and garlic (all locally sourced and organic) and threw them in the schlemmertopf with 2 lamb shanks and a bottle of tomatoes. YUM! Absolutely delicious. Both of them are wintery meals I know but call it practice. πŸ˜‰ I can get the meals right before I have to learn to cook in Ignisa. πŸ™‚

And someone put herself to bed.

Someone put herself to bed.

Asleep on the dining chairs. I reckon we might have worn them out!

Asleep on the dining chairs. I reckon we might have worn them out!

We’re also a house under construction again. We are currently building a small shed where Martin can keep a few of his bits and bobs and we can store the boxes of stuff we have until we have the time and space in which to unpack. We are also building a woodshed, something we are in desperate need of. hopefully we can then clear up the random piles of wood dumped around the place which are both unsightly and snake havens. My plan for today is to get around to building my raised garden beds with their hugelkultur concept and hopefully purchase some compost and get the beds in and rotting down. I want to be planting out garlic in a few weeks! I would also dearly love to have our back garden resembling something other than a council tree cut down site. 😦

The giant moth next to Allegra's hand.

The giant moth next to Allegra’s hand.

We had some wild weather over the last 2 days too. Thursday the kids and I were privy to Mother Nature throwing a small but intense hissy fit in which I think she threw several large items of furniture down the stairs given the sounds of the thunder that rolled and rumbled around overhead for nigh on 5 hours. Most of them were quiet rumbles but we did have the dubious pleasure of jumping out of our skin after several intense flashes of lightning immediately followed by large loud cracks of thunder. For someone who really doesn’t like storms all that much, I think I did a pretty good job of not frightening my kids. That’s one of the things I hate about parenthood, having to hide your fears so as not to frighten your kids. Given Jasper’s reaction to the large moth that was on his foot I would say that my fear of bugs hasn’t been sufficiently well hidden. 😦 Best bit about our wild weather though was the heavy rain accompanying it. I believe there was large hail stopping traffic only a few kilometres away on the freeway but the only hail we saw was small enough to melt within seconds of reaching the ground. Still, hail in February?

Helping themselves to Daddy's breakfast. I hope you weren't hungry honey.

Helping themselves to Daddy’s breakfast. I hope you weren’t hungry honey.

The crazy weather has done something strange here though. Autumn has come early. πŸ™‚ Our poplar trees are changing their leaves to yellow and dropping them down over everything. πŸ˜€ As much as digging wet and soggy leaves off everything is annoying I am looking forward to raking it all up. Raking I hear you say, oh how fun (insert sarcasm there) but I see it as finely scattered compost! πŸ˜€ Once they’re raked up I will be mowing them which is the closest thing to a mulcher I have, them laying them on top of the branches in the garden beds before covering them in soil. The rest will mulch the garden beds or go into the compost bin to start breaking down for next Spring.

Speaking of compost, I’ve decided that once I harvest my spuds I will use the 3 spud boxes as temporary compost bins until the spring. I can then empty them out to enrich and top up the garden beds and then have my 3 boxes back for more spud planting in Spring again. Waste not want not on the space I say and the opportunity to have 4 cubic metres of compost is way too much to pass up. πŸ˜€ I guess I had better get that wheelbarrow tyre fixed so I can lug some chook poo around. πŸ™‚

My pantry of preserves. Not enough. 'Tis never enough.

My pantry of preserves. Not enough. ‘Tis never enough.

Another one of our roosters has been tagged for culling too. The glorious bird started his cock-a-doodle-dooing the other day although he’s been quiet since. If he stays that way he can stay but we must be courteous to our neighbours. How things will change after peak oil. A rooster will be seen as an asset, not a nuisance. Yet another reason to look forward to the coming crisis. πŸ™‚

Valentine’s Day passed quietly for us here. I was given a small rustic heart shaped box (which I can and will reuse) with a few small chocolates inside and Martin received nearly 5 litres of piccalilli pickle which I made for him and bottled in the Fowlers Vacola. We then spent the evening watching an episode of Life on Mars, a British TV series we both love. It was a pleasant evening but not particularly commercial. I don’t hold with spending a small fortune just to tell someone you love them once a year. If you can’t say it on the 13th or 15th of February, or any other day of the year, why bother on February 14th? I don’t mind the small fuss made as I know our love isn’t something that only happens for 24 hours once a year. It is in everything we say and do throughout the rest of the year too. In fact, my amazing and wonderful husband believed in me enough to move from Spotswood to Ballan upon my whim (yes he believes in the dream too but he believed in me and my dream before it became our dream if that makes sense) and although he may clutch in fright at his wallet when I mention my next crazy hippy idea and panic at the long list of unfinished jobs we have, he listens, researches and supports me in my wild dreams. He also does a lot of the hard slog, without complaint. πŸ™‚ I’m such a slave driver. πŸ˜‰

Piccalilli success!

Piccalilli success!

Well, the day moves on and we are still eating breakfast here so it’s time to get a move on.

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.

IMG_5106

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!

A whirlwind weekend and some huge achievements

Wow! What a weekend! Again! We seem to be having a few “wow” weekends these days. πŸ˜€ First of all, let me just say….

Drumroll please…

 

 

Wait for it…

 

 

Wait for it…

 

 

Wait for it…

 

 

We bought a TRACTOR! :O

Trevor the Bolens tractor

Yes, we bought a tractor. Now before you get all “they only have a 1/2 acre, what on earth do they need a tractor for” on me, it’s ok. It’s not a big tractor. In fact it’s one of the most pint sized tractors I have ever seen that isn’t made of plastic. πŸ˜€ He is the size of a ride-on mower and that’s in fact the reason we bought him, but Trevor is in fact a tractor with a slasher/mower attachment that goes underneath. It comes off though and we will be able to use Trev for other things like towing a small trailer (still looking for that) which means he can haul wood, compost or anything else we can think of. The kids love him, and Jas helped name him.

Trevor the traction engine from Thomas the Tank Engine series.

Boys and their toys πŸ˜‰

Jasper loves Trevor

Allegra loves Trevor too

Boys and their toys starting young. Orik loves Trevor and we’re fighting to keep him from climbing up of his own accord.

In other exciting news… πŸ˜‰

We have a kitchen! Lee has finished installing the kitchen and I must say it looks absolutely AMAZING!

Old kitchen

New kitchen. Not quite completed in this picture but since finished

I am in LURVE! On the left are my pantries. There are 4 narrow deep drawers for storing bulk rice, flour, wheat and rye (or maybe pasta) and then the narrow but wider drawers above will hold potatoes and onions. Then there are the shelves for storing the bounty of our summers harvest (here’s hoping) through bottling, drying and pressure canning. At the moment I have taken up some of my Fowlers Vacola preserving jars but given the space in those shelves, I will need MANY more jars πŸ˜€

The rest of the weekend was filled with finishing (although not yet completing planting) the veggie gardens, digging out the grapes bed and planting about 150 Erlicheer bulbs (yes I know they’re VERY late but one doesn’t look a gift horse of 600 free bulbs in the mouth), getting 2 loads of compost and a bale of straw, setting the veggie garden gate posts in concrete and of course, the endless job of mowing mowing mowing.

My grapes are bursting into leaf!

150 Erlicheer bulbs

The last of the veggie beds, my 3 spud boxes and compost bin. Along the left hand side is the beans garden.

We planned to choose tiles and carpet on Saturday morning but discovered that, unlike the Big Smoke, shops still close at lunchtime on Saturdays and don’t open on Sundays! It’s wonderful but it will take a slight mental adjustment. We did manage to get some floor tile samples and I think we have our chosen tile but having 5 minutes to run in and choose whilst the shop owner reopens the store for you is not conducive to a thorough search of the tiles. I need to choose splashbacks and bathroom tiles anyway so hoping I can convince a friend to come with us for babysitting purposes. Not sure taking children into a tile shop is a good idea. Well, not my 3 anyway. At least the carpet shop has a play area.

Moving day looks like it will be 2-3 weeks now which is scary and exciting all at the same time. I have a lot of packing to do and we have a LOT of stuff to move. At least now that the kitchen is installed I can start taking up excess pantry items and the rest of my preserving gear.

Fencing and the chicken run are our next big jobs. I need to finish the fence that sections off the veggie garden (mainly to keep the kids out) and now that the posts are sunk and cemented in I can attack that. Then once the gate is on we’re ready to go. A friend has offered to come and help/teach us to put up ringlock fencing along the creek. Martin is madly trying to at least mow a cleared swathe where we want it to go so that we can borrow/hire a post hole digger and get the posts in. I really don’t fancy digging them by hand after the hard yakka from last time. Mark will then help us with the star pickets and the ringlock itself. We have had to take a step back in regards to the chook shed though. There is a lean to kind of shed already on the property which we were intending to convert to a wood shed but with time constraints and other more pressing jobs, as well as it being absolutely perfect for the job, this shed will become the chickens home. I still intend to dabble in superadobe at some time in the future, just won’t be quite yet sadly. I need to add in a 2nd story (divide it in half) inside the shed, add perches and keep a space to add nesting boxes in the future (6-8 week old chicks won’t need nesting boxes for a few months) and then add in a door and fence off their run. We also plan to keep a couple of ducks so our half wine barrel will become their swimming area. Fencing the chicken run will involve more post hole digging and digging a trench around a foot deep so that the chicken wire will go down into the ground in an attempt to foil any crafty foxes that may come prowling. We hope that the presence of 3 large dogs next door may also help deter any members of the Vulpes family. It’s going to be a busy busy weekend over Melbourne Cup weekend. Thanks goodness for a 4 day weekend.

The beans bed and the fencing. And the shed in the background which will become the chickens new home.

Also got my pumpkins and onions planted, and their are even more potatoes sprouting up through their lucerne bedding. Zucchinis are starting to peek up through the soil and there are even more corn plants sprouting up like little green needles. My tomato seedlings are sprouting their second set of true leaves and the siberian tomatoes are starting to poke out of the soil too. My watermelons are still deciding whether or not to forgive me for transplanting them. Their cotyledon leaves died and the stems withered a little but there are some true leaves showing so I am holding out a little hope. My capsicum seedlings are doing well and looking lush and green in their punnet and I have HEAPS of broccoli seedlings that have nearly bounced up out of the soil too. My sunflowers are also beginning to grow their true leaves and the lettuces are continuing to provide a bounteous crop. I also have 4 strawberry flowers on 1 plant! I was going to pinch them off to give the plant the best go at doing its thing but reckon the kids will enjoy far more if I let them ripen. Next year I will plant a whole tonne of alpine strawberries I think – they’re the best cold climate strawberry and are supposed to be deliciously sweet. All my other plants are doing well and I am nearly ready to harvest my first few rocket leaves too. πŸ˜€ Spring has most definitely sprung!

Well, I’m off to enjoy the sunshine with my children. πŸ˜€