Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Garden Preparation

Have kicked the chooks out of the main garden and now getting things ready for the coming 2014 growing season. The chook tractors had a great time kicking everything around and pulling out the weeds (saves me doing it!).

Didn't take long to get it back into shape, 20 minutes to scrape the mulch off the paths then about 1 hour to hose them off .... love hosing the paths, find it relaxing.

Here's a video link of the garden preparation  (you'll have to excuse my sniffles as I have a cold in the video)

The beds are covered in grass-fed animal manures & mulched leaves each year once harvest is finished and then the beds are allowed to rest for a few months which is very important as it gives time for the soils to recover. The chooks are allowed in for about one month to pick out any bugs & weed seeds and to gently till the soil

We grow the same things each year in the same beds such as corn, broccoli, beans, peas, carrots, capsicums, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cauliflower & cabbages and this particular main garden patch has been in use for the last 7 years. We do have separate strawberry patch, separate pumpkin patch & separate garlic beds which are not shown in this photo

We grow approx. 1 tonne of food each year and the amount produced varies depending on amount of rain water available etc. We live in a "Rain Shadow" so have installed a series of water tanks which are used exclusively in the garden.

The photo below shows our storage tank bank. We have tanks connected to the house and when full the water is pumped to these storage tanks which are used in the garden via a series of taps & pumps

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Chicken Babies

Bit of excitement this morning, checked on my broody hen and heard babies chirping. No matter how many times my hens go broody and hatch out a clutch of eggs I still get exited about it. Naturally I had to take some photos and a video of them. This is a link to the Chicken Baby video.

I am not sure who's the Mother or father of these chicks ... could be Rodger (Rhode Island Red) or could be Stanley (Light Sussex) .... I wasn't actually going to start breeding with any of them until next month however  this hen went broody and I just couldn't resist grabbing some eggs from the other hens and shoving them under her. None of the chicks are actually hers but have come from the other Rhode Island Hens, Light Sussex Hens and Coronation Hens

The photo below shows a hen (not the actual mother of the chick just happened to go broody so shoved eggs under her) with a baby chick that is crossed-linked. The Father was Rhode Island red and the mother was a Coronation Sussex ... the baby is white in colour (when compared with the babies in the above photo) .

The baby in the above photo grew into a very handsome rooster even though he was part RIR and part Sussex he did have some beautiful markings on him. If I had more room I would have kept him because I liked the light brown neck markings plus he was incredibly gentle. Below is a photo of him (he's in the front and about 3 months old in that photo) ...  you can see some of the Rhode Island Markings coming out. I wouldn't have used him for breeding but just to keep him as a pet.

But I didn't have the room for another rooster and he ended up going to my friends farm. She has taken 2 of my roosters now which is great and they live a pretty happy life ... the last time I spoke to her she told me they basically run the household.

The photo below is of a Rhode Island Red hen with her Rhode Island Red chick. Beautiful. They are incredibly gentle & placid. The problem I have with them is that they are such big birds the mothers tend to accidently squash the eggs so have only managed to hatch 1 to 2 babies each time. This hen in particular can manage no more than 4 egg at any one time. This is a video link of her with 2 babies from last year

I have finally given in an purchased an incubator & brooder. did cost me a bit of money but it is something I have been thinking about for many years and after a lot of researching etc I have settled on  Maino Incubator & separate Brooder. I like them because they are made from stainless steel which is easy to keep clean plus able to get replacement parts. I have never used an incubator before so the next couple of months is going to be a massive learning curve.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Garden Bed

I've just uploaded a video of our main vegetable garden

The video was taken early this year (January 2014) and is a walk through past the corn bed, beans, tomatoes, carrots, onions, broccoli, potatoes, capsicums, plus separate strawberry bed. The pumpkins are grown in a separate area on the top block and are not shown on this video neither is the garlic as it has already been harvested.
Last year was difficult because it was so dry, we didn't get much rain during winter or spring so started the growing season with our tanks half full. Ended up having to buy water. We still managed to get a decent harvest of fruit and vegetables.

I planted approx. 80 corn seeds and harvested approx. 200 cobs , some of the plants had 3 to 4 cobs per plant  ... I grow "Honeysweet" Sweet Corn. I like the way it grows and I like to harvest them all at the same time because I blanch and then freeze them so we can have corn during the winter months when the garden is resting.

This is a photo of last years Elephant garlic approx. 100 plants. I dried it on the veranda and when reasonably dry I cut off the tops and roots and then separate the bulbs into cloves. This year I picked out the biggest and best cloves and used them to plant this seasons crop which I have increased to 180. I love growing Elephant garlic because it grows so well here and is very easy to grow.

I was given Elephant Garlic from a garlic farmer however you can buy it from Green Harvest. It has a milder flavor than normal garlic and that's because it isn't really a garlic but a relative of it.

We grow 2 types of potatoes which are Sebago (white) and Desiree (red). We harvest approx. 70 kilo

The Jarrahdale pumpkins are grown in a separate bed and sometimes they cross with the neighbours pumpkins so produce all sorts of shapes and sizes. Not that it matters because I buy new seed each year anyway. Last year we got 14 pumpkins with one of them weighting in over 8 kilos. One year we grew 96 of them so ended up with a lot of pumpkin soup that year!. I love pumpkins and most of the time I use them in soup or as roasted vegetables.

 The strawberry patch is in a separate covered bed to stop the birds from getting to them. In a good year we harvest approx. 21 kilo over the season. Usually 500 grams every day

I grow a variety of beans from seed saved "Old Homestead" climbing beans to shop bought dwarf bean seeds. They are easy to grow providing the strong wind doesn't dry the leaves out.
I normally plant enough seeds to produce approx. 27 kilo of beans which I blanch and store in the freeze for use during the winter months
I love onions so every year I try to plant as many as I can. Some years I've harvested up to 800 and other years only 200 just depends on the water supply and growing conditions. We use a lot of onions through the year. My favorite is onions soup. Once they are ready for harvest, I place them on the veranda to dry completely before storing out the back room.
The tomatoes are grown on a wire mesh setup which is about 1 metre off the ground. The tomato plants grow up through it and then lay over the top with the fruit hanging down through the mesh. I start the tomatoes as seeds in punnets but also have little wild "tiny toms" coming up from previous years so I just let them grow as well. The tomatoes are harvested and place in bottles using the "Fowlers Vacola Bottling Kit" . I like using this kit, I find it easy to use and does a great job. I store the preserved bottles in the cupboard and use them during the winter months in spaghetti and stews etc anywhere tomatoes are needed. I try to grow enough tomatoes to fill approx. 48 large jars
I also like to grow broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage & capsicums and they are harvested and then frozen to be used at a later date. Of course some of the produce we produce is eaten fresh but the bulk of it is processed in some way by either drying/cooking/bottling/freezing or storing for use later through the winter months when the garden beds are empty and resting

 This year I plan to make Sauerkraut with some of the cabbage. I have never made it before but I have purchased a crock so will be giving it a go this season. I love Sauerkraut.

We have an old Apricot tree and old plum tree which give us lots of fruit. We planted another 4 apple trees, 2 more plums, a peach and persimmon plus I took a seed from the old apricot and have grown a tree from it because I really like the apricots from it. It's not a graphed tree so the one I have grown from its seed should reproduce true to type ...I hope so because its no longer possible to buy this variety of apricot from the shops.

Here's hoping that this coming growing season will be just as productive as all the previous seasons

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Garlic Video

Just done a walk around of the garlic, looking good. Had some decent rain over the last few days which has been a big help. This lot of garlic was planted in March and I've been relying on tank water the last couple of months so was pretty happy to see the rain this week.

Took a video this morning and have just uploaded it onto Youtube . It's called Growing Garlic. This year I've increased the amount to 837 cloves planted and 5 varieties. Elephant Garlic, Small Pink Garlic, Purple Monaro, Glen Large & Italian White. Its growing well considering its been quite a mild winter, the lowest temp so far has been -4 whereas some years it drops to -8.

I'm looking forward to this years harvest just to see how the new varieties turn out. Last year I grew the Elephant garlic and small pink so curiosity has got the better of me and I am becoming impatient to see how the others turn out. Still a few more months to go. The garlics will be ready around October/November and the Elephant garlic sometime November/December .

Below is a photo of the Elephant Garlic growing in a Boarder Bed.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Fermented Vegetables & Fruit

Check out these bad babies... yup they're used to ferment vegetables & fruit. Just another way to preserve stuff

We got these 2 crockpots (?) from the Mudgee field day couple of months ago. What a great place that is! ...  anyhoo the little white pot on the right hand side is called a "Rumtopf" and apparently all I have to do is put some fruit and rum into it, wait for the magic to happen and Vola! Bobs your uncle .. Preserved fruity rumness *shrug* I don't really know, think the fruit is then used as a dessert and the juice can be drunk as a liquor or something like that ... I'm not a fan of rum (I'd sooner eat a mouthful of wasps) but if that's what goes into it then so be it. Who am I to argue with the mysterious ancient ways of preserving.

Apparently it is one of the simplest and most delicious ways of preserving fruits (I'm reading that bit off the info they gave me) How does it work I hear you ask? Well (again reading from the info) "Alcohol arrests the spoilage of fruit and, in combination with the sugar, has a powerful germicidal effect" .... hhmmm so there you go ... interesting .... "Many Cultures traditionally preserve fruit in alcohol"

The larger brown pot is for making Sauerkraut ... now I don't know about you but I love Sauerkraut and I cant wait to give this thing a spin .... from the instructions that came with it, I'm thinking  its reasonably easy to make .... add cabbage and mush it up by using the wooden thingy (technical term) then add some salt and again wait for the magic to happen (bit more to it than that but you get the jist ) ...

The other day I googled Sauerkraut and found that people are making it in Vacola jars (or Mason Jars as some people call them)  ....anyway its all very interesting and I cant wait to try it .... but first I have to grow some cabbage.

Here's some cabbage I grew last year ...although not much good to me now is it because I've already eaten it .... burrrppp!!!! ..... I love cabbage. These ones are called "Sugar Loaf"

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Quiche Recipe

If you have lots of fresh eggs then this recipe is a great way to use some of them up. plus taste great and very easy to make. Below is a picture of one I made for dinner the other night. Yum!
Link to more recipes

Bacon & Onion Quiche

3 – 4 rashes bacon chopped
1 onion chopped
5 eggs
2/3 cup cream
1 tomato
½ capsicum sliced
Salt & pepper
Quiche pastry / short crust pastry

Bake 180c oven for 35 minutes
1) Line quiche pan with pastry
2) Blind bake pastry for 10 mins
3) Fry onion until soft but not coloured. Add bacon and fry until golden.
4) Blend together egg, seasoning and cream.
5) Put the bacon and onion in pan. Place egg mixture on top.
6) Arrange tomato slices, capsicum and olives on top
Cook in med oven 180 for 35 minutes or until set

Cheese cake

Heres a cheese cake recipe that I use all the time. Its quick & easy and tastes great.
Below is a picture of the cheesecake I made last week (Also made fresh bread & date roll)
Link to more recipes


250g plain sweet biscuits
125g butter melted
250g packet creamed cheese, softened
400g can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
1/3 cup (80ml) lemon juice
1 teaspoon gelatine
1 tablespoon water

1) Process biscuits until mixture resemble fine breadcrumbs.
2) Add butter, process until just combined
3) Using one hand, press crumb mixture evenly over base and sides of 21cm springform tin. Cover, refrigerate 30 mins or until firm
4) Beat cheese in small bowl with electric mixer until smooth,
5) Beat in condensed milk, rind and juice. Beat until smooth.
6) Sprinkle gelatine over the water in small heatproof jug, stand jug in small saucepan of simmering water. Stir until gelatine dissolves. Cool 5 mins. Stir gelatine mixture into cheese mixture
7) Pour cheesecake mixture into tin, refrigerate 3 hours or overnight until set
Serve with whipped cream

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Snow & Frost

Hi there, how ya goin? Good? that's great me too!

We are in the middle of winter right now and I never cease to be amazed by snow. I just L.O.V.E. it ....there's something magical & mesmerizing about watching snow fall ... we don't get much here boohoo sometimes nothing more than a light dusting which = fun.

below are some pictures of snow & frost for your viewing pleasure ....

Woolly work space

This is a photo of my little work space where I make the different crochet & knitted toys. I find it incredibly relaxing and no two to...