Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Wet, Wet, Wet

It has again been very wet in our part of the world with over 150ml in 48 hours at our place and much more up in the ranges above us.
On Saturday morning we woke to find ourselves again cut off with torrents of water crossing roads and creeks in flood.
For us this is not uncommon and generally the waters have receded within a few hours or a few days.
I wanted to go to craft classes on Saturday afternoon (these things are important you know) so Hubby and I took a bit of a drive to see what conditions were like.

There were intersections with minor flooding...
 Roads with major flooding...
And paddocks turned into inland seas...
Then we came across signs of just how high the water had been, and a very helpful farmer clearing the road so residents could get out.

In the end the water dropped off in time for me to go to craft and I spent a rainy afternoon chilling out doing some scrap booking with good company and a few cups of tea.  A perfect wet afternoon.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

A Bit More Preserving

Well I have been trying my hand at using my Fowler's Preserving kit again this time to use up the cherry tomato's that seem to be everywhere and a few of the imperfect larger tomato's as well.
I cooked the tomato's with a couple of diced onions and a bit of garlic and have bottled it up to replace the tinned crushed tomato's that I would normally buy from the supermarket.  I seem to be getting the hang of it all but still might invest in the latest version of the Fowler's book as the one I have is from the 1950's when my preserving kit was made.

I also made up some Lime Cordial.  This is my mums recipe and even though the recipe calls for a lot of sugar it is a concentrate so you only need a small amount in the bottom of a glass.

Home Made Lemon or Lime Cordial

Juice and Zest of 8 large lemons or 12 Limes
3c Sugar
6c Boiling water
4tsp Tartaric Acid
4tsp Citric Acid
4tsp Epsom Salts

Add zest and juice to a bowl large enough to hold all ingredients.  Add sugar, acids and salt then pour over boiling water and stir till dissolved.
Pour into sterilised bottles and cap.

I just corked my bottles and stored in the dark pantry and they have not gone off before we use them, but I am not sure how long it actually was.  Next time I make it I will date to bottles so that I know but I do remember mum having them in the pantry for months.

And finally I picked up these 2 baskets for $3 each a while ago and they have now been washed and are ready to go.  I am going to make a lining for the lidded one so that I can store all of my crocheting things in there and the other one will be used for collecting produce from the veggie patch.
I seem to have a few baskets around the house, nana baskets Hubby calls them and I find them usefull for so many things.  Is it just me or are you a basket lover too?

Friday, 17 February 2012

Velvet Cupcakes

As I mentioned yesterday I made these for my best friends birthday and they were a hit.  They are really easy to make but not that good for the waistline so save it for special occasions.  This is a Jamie Oliver recipe from his "Jamie's America" cookbook.

Velvet Cupcakes

50g Unsalted Butter                                150 g Castor Sugar
1 Egg                                                      1Tsp Vanilla Extract
3Tbs Natural Red Food colouring           2 Heaped Tbs Cocoa Powder
150 g Flour                                             125ml Buttermilk
1/2 tsp Baking Soda                               1 1/2 tsp Vinegar

For the Icing

150g Cream Cheese                              50g Unsalted Butter
100g Icing Sugar                                   1/ 2tsp Vanilla Extract
Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon

Preheat you oven to 180 degrees and line a 12 hole muffin pan with cupcake cases.
Cream your butter and sugar until light and fluffy then gently beat in the egg a pinch of salt, the vanilla extract and food colouring.
In a separate bowl sift together the flour and cocoa.  Fold half of the dry mix into the butter mix , followed by half the buttermilk.  Repeat with the remaining dry mix and buttermilk until you have a smooth mix.
In a small bowl mix the baking soda with the vinegar so that it fizzes up and then stir into the cake mix.
Divide the mix between the cupcake cases and bake for 20 - 25 mins.  Test with a skewer and when it come out clean they are ready.
Let them cool 5 mins in the tin then turn out on a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

To make the icing mix all the ingredients together till smooth and creamy, spoon onto cupcakes and serve.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Sewing and Celebration

It was my best friends birthday last week and so now that it is finally past I can show you what I made her.

I made her this shopping tote from some beautiful Japanese quilting fabric and bamboo handles.  I got the pattern from a Better homes and Gardens magazine and even for someone like me it was not too hard and is something that could be made in an afternoon.  It is fully lined and uses an interlining and interfacing.  I will probably make this bag again but next time I would use a heavier interfacing.  If anyone wants the pattern let me know.

Then of course there had to be cake, well Velvet Cupcakes anyway.  I will post the recipe for these tomorrow.
 We are both wine lovers so we decided that lunch at a winery was just the ticket.  We went to Flame Hill Vineyard in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.  It was a wonderful venue with great views overlooking the vineyard, the Sunshine Coast and the sea was on the horizon.

Best Friend enjoying a wine or 2,3,4... who's counting
  Both the company and wine were excellent and with a lovely breeze blowing in from the coast and a spot in the shade on the balcony it really was quite lovely.

Me enjoying the view
Lunch was a delight.  While not cheap the meals were beautifully prepared and presented.
Sticky Pork Belly, Scallops, Cauliflower Puree, roast apple and Red Wine Jus for entree.

Pork Rib Cutlet, White Polenta  with Broadbean, Truss tomato, Nectarine and Balsamic Glaze
(And a naughty bit of crackling)
After our very indulgent lunch we spent the afternoon wandering the boutique shops at Montville before heading home to my place for some more wine and a few games of Majong.

Monday, 13 February 2012

A Pictorial Update

I have been a bit absent from my blog for the last week.  In addition to my paid job I have a number of community projects that  I am involved in and one of them "Harmony Day"  has involved applying for grants and trying to performers and stalls for the day.  We are holding the event on Saturday March 10 in conjunction with the local markets and we are also hosting the "Shave for a Cure" participants as well. 

Back at home things have been hot, humid and wet.
The ground is soggy underfoot....
The tomato's are rotting...
Some plants are drowning...
The mango is loving it....
We have bagged 2 bunches of bananas so far....
And there are more bunches on their way...
My beans that I was letting dry on the vine for winter beans have gone mouldy...
And the grass will not stop growing, I hope it dries out enough to mow soon or we might loose Jessie the dog...
 Or we may get lost ourselves.
On the bright side I have gotten some more preserving practise and I seem to be getting the hang of it all.  No floating fruit this time.  Hooray!!!
It is still warm enough here to get in some more summer crops so this week I will be sowing some more seeds and clearing some overgrown garden beds.

What's happening at your place?

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Wedded Bliss

A couple of weeks ago Hubby's family celebrated with wedding of Hubby's older brother and my now sister in law.
It was a magical day and we are all glad that they have taken this step to commit their lives to each other.

We love them very much so here is just a few photos of the joyous occasion.

Promises made

Joining two lives

Together as one.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Slow Living 2012 Month 1

I am linking up with Christine for this post so head over to her blog to check it out.

Generally I don't set any resolutions until February giving myself time to get over the Christmas buzz and put some thought into what it is that I want to achieve.
This year the 1 solid resolution I have made is that I will do the the $21 Challenge one week each month until the end of the year.  In addition to this I would like to:
Garden more
Cook more
Preserve more
Save more
Craft more
And generally lead a more fulfilling life.

So how did January go?

Nourish:  I made sourdough bread most weekends and because we live in the country take out is not really and option so pretty much everything we ate was made at home and from scratch.

Prepare (stockpile & preserve):  This month I broke out the preserver and bottled Plums and Nectarines, Tomato's and Bread and Butter Pickles.  I also made some home made Lemon Cordial.

Reduce:  Rather than buying new preserving bottles I hunted second hand stores and picked up a bargain.

Create:  This month I made a gift for my best friend but more about that in another post.

Green:  Just like Christine I have been making my own laundry liquid and so far I am happy with the results.

Grow:  Cucumbers galore other than that not a lot was harvested but more seeds were planted including Rosella's, Capsicums, more Cucumbers as well as Pumpkins and the Berry Patch was planted out.

Discover:  At the Lifeline Book fest I picked up a number of second hand books to loose myself in.

Enhance Community:  I am currently working on a number of community groups including SCRAM a anti gravel and sand mine fight in my community and I am part of a group organising Harmony Day celebrations for our community.

Enjoy Life:  In January I took the step of requesting to cut back my work hours by 4 hours a week making me a part time employee.  When these new hours start I plan to use this time to get more out of life.

So that's what happened in month 1 and I am looking forward to seeing how I progress during the year.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Fledgling Farmers Strike Again

I like to think that I know a bit about farming, well some basics anyway.

One of these basics is that it is good farming practise to rotate your stock through a series of paddocks so that you rest the pastures and break the life cycle of some of the nasty bugs and parasites out there.  And with this in mind here begins the story.

At our place this is not really possible as on our 3.5 acres we have just one big 3 acre paddock that we will split up in the future, plus the house yard. 
When we moved in our paddock was being grazed by the neighbours 2 horses as well as grazing their own paddock of 2 acres (there is a gate that joins the properties).  We did not have any need of the grass and so the situation suited us fine.
At the end of  2010 we acquired a calf who we named "Freezer 1" (the name stops an attachment forming and reminds you what the animal is being raised for) who we have been fattening up and will be having butchered just before winter.  So for most of last year she shared her paddock with a couple of horses (that have now been moved elsewhere) and another cow of the neighbours. 
Because we plan to keep our supply of meat going we figured we had better get another calf no ready for next year, so now we have "Freezer 2" as well.  Coincidentally our neighbour had just picked up a couple of calves as well so now there is a merry herd of 4
Two weeks ago they were all locked in the neighbours paddock to give ours a rest and with all the rain we have been having the grass has really grown.  Then one day we were chatting with the neighbour across the road and he said we were welcome to put the cows in his paddock for a few weeks as the grass was over knee height and needed to be eaten or he would have to get it slashed.
Well you don't have to offer that twice.  So I spoke to the 1st neighbour about moving his cows with ours and asked for assistance in moving them.  We had to get them out of our paddock across and up the street about 40 metres and into the paddock across the road.
All good in theory.

The three calves followed me up the street (might have been that I was luring them with hay) and basically went into the paddock across the road one after the other.  "Freezer 1" how ever was having none of it.  She came out the gate with the others then decided that she really did prefer the comfort of home and jumped the fence straight back into the paddock she had just walked out of.  We tried to chase her out a second time but she was getting wound up and agitated so we figured we would leave her be.
"Hey where are you three going?  That's not home"
There was far too much going on to be taking photos so you will have to put up with my MS Paint pictures.

The 3 calves were happily munching away on the long grass and "Freezer 1" was looking at them longingly over the fence.  Then the mooing started.  It was clear that she wanted to be with them, but by now all of our helpers had gone home and it was 6pm. 
Hubby and I just looked at each other.  Do we risk it, just the two of us, trying to move "Freezer 1" to the others without letting the three of them back out?

"Moooo I miss yooooou"
Of course we do.  Yes we set ourselves up for the fall, took the risk, played with fire and all of that.

"Freezer 1" walked out the gate and crossed the road, then she crossed back again, and then back to the other side, up and down the fence line, she was getting agitated, and back across the road again, oh god she's just going to jump the fence again. 
Right then I had visions of us chasing a mad cow through the night up and down the street and then the three calves getting out oh my goodness what have we done....

So we stood back watching her watching us and let her calm down.
And then as if it was no trouble what so ever she calmly walked over the road and through the gate to join the others.

They now have 3 weeks to eat as much as they can and calm down before we have to move them all back again.  Hopefully they will recognise home and wander back calmly and quietly, I will have to let you know.
What I do know however is that we need to get our 3 acres divided up and soon.  That way we can rotate our animals with a little less stress, for both them and us.