Sunday, 30 June 2013

Doing A Stock Take And A Clean Out

For a few months now I have been meaning to clean and do a stock of my pantry.  I have been putting it off.
I even had a good reason to do it a few weeks ago when I knocked over a bottle of balsamic vinegar and poured half the bottle on the shelf below and then onto the floor. But I still didn't do it.  I just cleaned up the vinegar and closed the door.  It was however 5.30 pm and I was in the middle of cooking dinner.  That's my excuse anyway.

It has taken me another 3 weeks to actually get around to emptying the entire pantry doing it properly.
Here in QLD one of the pests that we face on a constant basis are cockroaches.  And because we live in an old house that is not 100% sealed mice can be an issue as well.  This means that all food must be kept inside a well sealed container and even then I have had a hungry rodent try and chew through a plastic container to get to the contents.   Anything left in just the packaging it came in, even if it has not been opened, is at risk.
We have not had any issues with mice this year so one of reasons to clean out the pantry was to get rid of any food that might attract them as the weather cools down and they head indoors.  However once I removed everything from the first shelf the evidence of cockroaches was plain to see.  YUCK!!

Yuck, just look at that mess.  The paper also helps soak up the oil that
seems to find it's way onto the outside of the bottle
My pantry is built into the old cooker recess but the shelves have not been lined or painted so I like to line them with butchers paper or newspaper.  This makes it really easy to just fold up the old paper up wrapping any litter and mess inside to be thrown in the bin.

First job was to empty the pantry.

Spices out for checking a topping up
Second job sort through everything and top things up instead of having half packets inside storage containers.
Check expiry dates and discard anything out of date.  Make a mental note, or list if you prefer, of anything you have a lot of, close to expiring or cannot match it with anything.
In my case I discovered I have 2 packs of sushi paper that I need to use up, a few spices that I am out of and a few things that I had to through out.
I have topped up containers where I could, added to things I am out of to the shopping list and planned to make sushi on the weekend.  I also threw out half a block of compound chocolate that was hiding in the bottom of a container and was well out of date as well as a few other things.  Thankfully there was not a lot to throw out.

Then it was time to vacuum and wipe down the shelves before re lining with paper.

Ahhhh nice and clean
Then it was time to put everything back in.

Placing things that need using up first towards the front and at eye level will remind you to use them up.

Now all I have to do is sit back and and enjoy my nice tidy pantry.  Or bake up a storm, but that might mess up my organisation.  Oh well can't stop cooking.

I feel much better having done this and my next project is the filing cabinet, and that will be another challenge.

Do you have any areas that you are considering clearing out or taking stock of?

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Removing Stains on Formica Bench Tops

Can you see that pale pink mark right in the middle of the first photo?
Well that is purple permanent marker.
Right Up Close
I took a frozen meal out of the freezer yesterday and left it on the bench to defrost.  When I moved it a little while later there were 2 bright purple spots on the cream/beige coloured formica bench top.
It had been sitting on top of another container inside the freezer and somehow the label written in permanent  (apparently not) marker had transferred to the bottom of the container on top of it.  Arrrrrr bugger.
Straight away I tried to wipe it off using dishwashing liquid and it did clean it off a little but even from 2 metres away you could see the pink marks.  I really wish I had taken some photos so you could see how bad it was but at the time it is not what I was thinking.         But that is close to what it looked like.

To remove the mark I used glycerine ( glycerine can usually be found in the supermarket near the medicinal things or near the cake decorating things) and poured about 1/2 a teaspoon onto each purple spot.  Then over the next 24 hours the glycerine gradually drew the purple into it and I was able to wipe it away then re spread the remaining glycerine or add a bit more as required.
The faded spot right in the middle of the photo
I am not sure how it works but it does.  I have used it to remove turmeric stains, rust and ink for a pen that leaked.  Turmeric has proven to be the most stubborn but even it's marks can be dramatically diminished.
Glycerine is not expensive so grab some when you are next at the supermarket and then you will have it on hand for next time a stain threatens to ruin your bench top.

So can you see the pink spot now?

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Easy Chilled Cheescake

This is a really easy dessert to make and there is no baking required.  When I was growing up we grew blueberries that we sold to the public and had people come and pick their own.  Because of this mum had a lot of recipes in which blueberries were used.  When I made this recently I used morello cherries and although it was tasty blueberry is better.
Also when the recipe advises to use 2 x 20cm tins you should.  I thought I would wing it with 1 larger tin but moments after I took this photo the side collapsed and a third of the cheese cake slid off the base.  It was still really tasty but not very pretty.

Easy Chilled Cheesecake

1 Packet of Plain Biscuits
1 tsp Cinnamon
75 gm Melted Butter

Blitz biscuits in a food processor to break down a bit then add the other ingredients and blitz again.
Divide between 2 x 20 cm spring form that have been lined with baking paper and press down firmly.

3/4 Cup Boiling Water
1 Packet of Strawberry Jelly
Juice of 1 Lemon
350 gm of Evaporated Milk (chilled in the freezer for an hour until it is really cold before making)
250 gm Cream Cheese
1 Cup Sugar

Dissolve jelly in boiling water and add the lemon juice.  Meanwhile beat evaporated milk until it is thick like whipped cream (this will only happen if it is really cold).  In another bowl beat the cream cheese until it is smooth then add the sugar and cooled jelly and beat to combine.  Fold in the evaporated milk and pour half  over each base.  Chill overnight or until set.

2 Cups of Blueberries
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 Cup of Sugar
1 Dsp Gelatine
1/4 Cup Water

Dissolve gelatine in water.  In a small sauce pan combine all other ingredients and bring to the simmer then turn off immediately.  While bringing the fruit mix to the simmer gently crush some of the fruit to release their juices and stir gently to dissolve the sugar.  Cool completely then pour over the two cheesecakes.  Chill for until topping has set.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Our New Farm In New Zealand

While we were in New Zealand recently for Mums 60th we visited the property we purchased late last year. Hubby's parents were also able to come travel over for the party and after spending a few days with us they headed off to do some touring on their own.
Since purchasing the 5.5 acres block we have not done anything to it.  We let the grass grow and then had it cut and baled into hay.  We sold it off and made a few bucks which was good but we do not want to just keep doing that.  We are hoping that my mum and dad will be able put some cattle on it to keep the grass down but we have to set up a water supply first.
There were a few things we wanted to investigate while we were there including organising the planting of a wind break down one boundary with a new fence to stop any animals eating it, take some soil samples to see just what our soil was like and to have Hubby's dad (a retired architect) have a look at the land as he is helping us with our house design.
Mum and Hubby (tape measure in hand) surveying the land.
On a clear day you can see Mt Ruapehu in the distance to the right of the pine trees.
As you can see there is not a thing in the land other than grass.  Not a single tree.  This has it's advantages and disadvantages.
The land had previously been used for sheep farming and some cropping.  A few parcels of land (1 x 4.5 acre, 1 x 5.5 acre ours, 2 x 10 acre and 1 x 8 acre) have been subdivided off and all but one are sold and 2 already have homes on them.  Ours is the last block of land at the end of the road with only one neighbour so should be quiet.
This is the view south looking over our land
While we were there I wandered the paddock taking note of what was growing there.  Along with the soil samples the type of plants that grow will give you a really good idea about not only the health of your soil but also the pH and moisture content.  There was quite a bit of buttercup growing which tells me that the soil has a high moisture content, there was at least 3 varieties of clover growing and heaps of it, there was quite a bit of plantain, at least 4 types of rye grass, some dock and a whole lot of other things I could not identify.
I will be looking at this whole process from a permaculture perspective so this is Observe and Interact stage of the cycle.  You can read more about it here on Liz's blog where she has written a great piece about it.
Being over here does make things a bit tricky in terms of regular observation but on the positive side we also have a long time in which to plan and consider all our options.
We will be planting the windbreak down this fence line which is our western boundry.
For the most part the whole 5 acres is flat so when we get around to building we are lucky that we can sort of plonk the house down where we want it.
I think I know how we are going to orientate the house (just have to work out if it should be true north or magnetic north???) but trying to work out the placement is slightly more difficult.  I do not want to be too close to the road nor too far.  I am trying to imagine how we will use the house and garden area into the future and what our requirements will be if we have more pets and /or kids.  I know that you can change things as you go through life but I want to have put some thought into it now at the designing stage.
The view East

I am a planner, investigator, organiser so I will be asking for your thoughts and feedback throughout this process.  I am open to all thoughts and suggestions and love getting diverse opinions of how things should be done.

So not that you have seen you have seen the blank canvas we have to work with what are your thoughts?
Have you built a house before?
What advice do you have in terms of planning for possibly having kids in the future?

Monday, 24 June 2013

The Garden Whip Around

I am waiting for most of my winter veggies to really take off and for my poor broccoli to recover from a white butterfly attack. Grrr I thought it had cooled off enough to be rid of them but I was wrong.

My beans are finishing up as are the last of the cucumbers.

My garlic is coming along and there are herbs galore.  I have managed to plant out successive rounds of fennel this year so that we have it reaching maturity over a few months instead of all at once..  It is the only vegetable I have managed to do this with as I am not very good at planting out just a couple of each variety.  I am a bit heavy handed in the seed sowing and then I cannot bear to not plant them on.
Do you plant successively?
We still have bananas for hubby to eat and my lemon tree is finally producing more than one lemon a year.

There is heaps of silverbeet as usual in fact I am growing enough to supply about 5 families.  I thought I was growing silver beet and English spinach for salads and sandwiches.  But no.  It is all silverbeet.

Oh well the chickens will be happy.

What's growing in your garden right now?

Monday, 17 June 2013

Rooster Wars

Have you ever seen anything like it?  What  bloody (quite literally) mess.
Big Red our 3 year old rooster
Little Red our 1 year old Rooster
So how did we end up with a couple of bruised and battered roosters?
Well the other day I was in the kitchen when I heard our dog Jessie barking in a really odd way.  All you dog owners out there will know what I mean.  Jessie has a specific bark for snakes, another for when she is worried about something and one for when she is being naughty and trying to round up your feet in gumboots.  This bark was not one I had heard before.
So out I go to investigate why she is barking and I hear a strange thumping in the chicken shed.  By the time I get out there I see that Little Red has some how gotten into Big Red's pen and Big Red is chasing him around the yard and attacking him.
It was a war zone and the hens had retreated to the safe zone inside their shed.  Meanwhile outside in their yard the two roosters were jumping up at each other kicking out with their claws and their spurs and pecking at each others combs.  They had obviously been at it for a while as they seemed to be exhausted.
I was shocked to see that Big Red was covered in blood so much so that it had soaked into his neck feathers and they were matted down against his neck.  Both roosters kept shaking their heads sending blood drops flying.
Now all I had to do was try and catch Little Red and get him back in his own pen.  Putting myself between 2 warring roosters was not something I was keen on doing but as they so tired it was not too difficult.
Thankfully neither of the roosters is aggressive so I was able to corner Little Red and grab him.
After checking him over for any major damage I was able to get him back in his own pen and then it was just a matter of fixing the hole in the fence that was clearly the root cause.
Both roosters had bruised and bleeding combs and Little Red had a bleeding ear but there was nothing I could do but leave them to rest and hope they had not been hurt too badly.
The next day they both seemed a bit stiff and sore but on the mend and my patching of the hole in the fence seems to have done the trick so lets hope we do not have a repeat performance any time soon.

Has this ever happened to you?

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Back To Life On The Farm

It seems like forever that I have blogged and I guess that a month away from blog land is quite a while.  And it is not just that I have not been blogging myself but I have not even been keeping up to date with what you have all been doing either.  I hope to spend some time catching up with it all this week.

Our holiday to NZ was not much of a rest so we have also had a few days away camping since being back.
I will post more about NZ later this week.
Off for a walk when camping
Posing for a photo
Jessie loves to chase sticks especially it that involves swimming

We have been straight back into life here since returning.  The days are cooler and finally drying out after months of rain.  As we are in a subtropical area from April to November should be our dry season.  But here we are half way through June and we have only just had the first 2 days of typical dry season weather.  In fact it is still so wet underfoot that the ground squelches underfoot and when you push a full wheel barrow over it you leave a muddy track in your wake.
The muddy track left by the wheelbarrow
We have been doing a lot of mulching over the last 2 days. We are creating new garden beds where it is inconvenient to mow and mulching old ones.  We have also gotten rid of our above ground pool and are creating a fire pit and seating area.
A new Garden bed under the bottle brush.

The fire pit.
We are using the break drum from a Mac truck to contain the fire
 Hubby has been busy too building a new arbor at the back of our shade house.  He and my dad built one a couple of years ago at the front of the shade house so now we have a matching (well almost) pair.
It is made from posts and slabs that he milled himself.  He is a arborist so these were made from some trees he cut down a few years ago.
Phase 1
Trying to get the other side to match on a sloping site.
The finished product
I now get to decide what to plant around it.
 Hubby has also spent a few hours dealing with the piles of wood in our paddock.  They have been cut into disks and drying out for the past 12 months.  I think they look really unsightly in the paddock and will be glad to see them gone.  So it was time to split them and get them in the wood shed or at least out of the paddock and against the back of the wood shed once it is full.
For this we organised a wood splitter from one of the locals who sells fire wood.  This was such a good idea and now it is all split and just has to be moved.
One pile done 2 more to go.
On to pile number 2 
 Well I better get going we are going out to lunch to celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary

What's going on at your place?.