Saturday, 26 May 2012

What has been going on in our little world

So much has been happening, so much is being planned, so much has been about daydreaming and plans for the future, so much swirling around in my head. Rather than blog each individually I am going to do a summary of what has been going on in our world.

What has been started...
Our fireplace!! Woo hoo!! Although the near freezing daytime temperatures here at the moment would lean perfectly toward a red in front of a blazing fire...I shall have to wait a little longer...but maybe only about a week!

Here is the base!

Hubby has started home brewing and has done two batches so far - a pale ale and a Kilkenny-style beer. The bottling of the first batch started off horribly (faulty tap, beer all over the floor and walls, and free ranging chickens INSIDE the house with crazy screaming kids while we are trying to clean it all up!). We are bottling the second batch tonight - chicken and child free - fingers crossed. 

As  Miss 5yo is off to school next year and the twins will be starting preschool, I have decided to head back to study with the aim of maybe becoming a teacher. Ultimately I would like to work with teaching kids how to grow and cook their own food, and maybe even work with the Stephanie Alexander program in the future. Definitely a work in progress with even a permaculture design course or horticulture course thrown in as well. Hmmm...'cause the prospect of free time with the kids at school just seemed downright quiet and boring!

My first attempt at making 'weed tea' fertiliser. Its very smelly so I am not sure I am doing it right. Need to put some fresh weeds in again and do more research on what it is supposed to look like. Have ambitions to spray this across our block to hopefully aid in soil conditioning. I can only try. 

What I have been collecting...
Free Poo! I finally got around to placing a 'Wanted: Free Poo' sign up at the local Murrumbateman noticeboard in the hope that some nice farmer would allow us to come and collect some free sheep/cow poo for our compost and veggie gardens. Someone rang! So last weekend we went around and collected some free alpaca poo and have placed it in the compost to break down.

What is being planned...
Sheep! Although my Dad has warned me away from them as they can be too much work, we are definitely in the process of turning our front area into Paddock 1, and in time when the fruit trees grow a little more, creating Paddock 2 up the back. My plan is to rotate the sheep through the two paddocks as lawn mowers but also to fertilise and condition the soil. They are not going to be named. Which means, yes, our plan is to kill them for meat. A lot of our friends are betting that we can't do it. I think we can. At this stage I would like to try and prepare the soil better (maybe through some liquid weed/compost tea fertiliser), plus plant some shade trees, and obviously build some fences. I have also been mulling over ideas for a movable sheep shelter (similar to a chook tractor concept) to move to whichever paddock the sheep are in. Nothing concrete yet.

I want some with black faces!

A cellar (or root cellar or larder). We have been considering building a 'pool house' (certainly NOT a second dwelling and hence double the rates, Mr Local Council Inspectors), which potentially a cellar underneath to store beer, wine and produce in more climate controlled conditions. We recently received a quote back from a builder - ridiculously expensive - so the planning and alternatives are shelved still being explored.

Collecting fallen leaves to attempt to make some leaf mould. I have been watching the trees at the recreation grounds and their leaves are starting to turn so it won't be long before the kiddies and I are out with the rakes.

What I have been attending...
I attended the monthly Urban Homesteader's Club last weekend, which was a Soup Swap. I love going to these meetings and speaking with like minded, passionate people. I always come away with so many ideas and suggestions and knowledge swirling around in my head. My latest ploy is to send hubby fishing for some carp to plant under my fruit trees.

What I have been reading...
'Folks, this Ain't Normal' by Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm. Been having a lot of 'Yes!' moments and thinking more about applying some principles to our little piece of dirt. About to read 'The Guernsey and Literary Potato Peel Pie Society' by Mary Anne Shaffer for Book Club.

Hubby has been reading about the health benefits and medicinal applications of honey. I hope the kids and I don't cut or graze ourselves too bad in the near future as I think we are definitely going to be lathered in honey!

What I am cooking...
I have sort of got back on my little 'chemicals are bad' bandwagon and I have been trying to cook more things from scratch. A little while ago I blogged about the frozen pastry I used to buy for my quiche and a nice reader called Jess suggested that I try Maggie Beer's sour cream pastry recipe. Well I have and it is really bloody easy!! I switched the white flour for wholemeal flour (kids can't tell the difference hee hee!). I have made it a few times now and I won't be going back to store bought pastry.

I have also been making the Taco Seasoning Recipe from Picklebum's 'Cooking from Scratch' series. Apart from a little heavy handedness with the chilli powder the first time, again really easy, and the kids have adjusted just fine. I have also started to use our own homemade tomato sauce with a few modifications for the taco sauce. Again no complaint from the kiddies.

Although I have yet to make a proper loaf of bread (I have all the ingredients and the loaf pan but just haven't done it), I have been making bread rolls for burgers and accompliments to soups. Miss 7yo actually prefers my rolls (yay! Big internal fist pump!).

After reading 'Sweet Poison' by David Gillespie, I have endeavoured to cut out white flour and as much sugar from our diets as possible. I have been cooking with wholemeal flour and honey and the kids are still happy. Actually they can't even tell the difference. Now I know that honey is a liquid form of sugar, but it is lower in fructose than normal sugar and hopefully we will have an abundance of it that I can use for free!

What I am daydreaming about....
Free ranging pigs on our block. And ducks on a pond that I don't have. Growing an experimental patch of wheat. Where I can fit a big potato patch to grow enough to last us through winter next year. Our first lot of honey from our bees. When it will be warm enough to go for a swim again.  

How cute do they look!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Campfire Cooking

It was a gorgeous weather weekend here in Murrumbateman. On Sunday after Hubby returned from collecting some more firewood (fireplace installation will hopefully start this coming weekend - exciting!!), we decided to light the fire in our yet to be fully utilised firepit that Hubby built last year.

The fire was smouldering beautifully so we decided we might cook lunch out there - sausages and onion in bread - and was cooking beautifully.

For afternoon tea we toasted some marshmallows.

For dinner we decided to cook roast chicken and veggies in the camp oven. Hubby tossed in a bunch of herbs from the garden and let gently cook for a couple of hours. Unfortunately we didn't take any pics but it was cooked to absolute perfection!

It was so nice not to have to rush off and do jobs and just sit with the family next to the fire in the beautiful sunshine. I hope everyone elses Sunday was as perfect as ours :)

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

New Years Resolution - Run 10km Event - CHECK!

Well - I did it!!!

Early Sunday morning, in absolutely FREEZING Canberra weather conditions, I ran the 10km Mothers Day Classic around Lake Burley Griffin - in 58mins and 30 secs - woohoo! under an hour!

It has taken me a couple of days to get over the stiffness - damn ageing body! - but I am so glad a friend convinced me to change from the 5km to 10km.
  • Run in at least one 10km event - looking at either Mothers Day Classic (May) or try again for Canberra Fun Run (September). Anyone up for it? :-)  DONE!
Feels good to achieve something on your New Years resolutions list :)

Monday, 7 May 2012

How the Bees are travelling - Autumn

Not long ago, I blogged about the very exciting addition of bees to our place. A couple of months on and they are doing OK, they have made some honey and have an active queen and the colony has grown. Although the Bees now have a lot of honey in storage, being our first year at this, we are still a little worried that they do not have enough honey to last them over winter. We have decided to help them along a little by feeding them some sugar and pollen cakes. We have tried to plant as many autumn/winter flowering plants as we can but they are still young also.

Here are some pictures from a couple of weekends ago. Hubby had Miss 5yo helping him inspect the hive.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Projects and Plantings

School holidays are over and we are into Term 2 - and May! - already! The weather is getting decidedly colder here, and Mother Nature kicked it up a notch just around ANZAC Day. We held out until the night before ANZAC Day for the heater (the 'rule' around these parts is the heater doesn't come on until ANZAC Day) but we were pretty close! On the heater issue, I blogged previously about wanting a wood heater - well council approval is in, heater has been ordered and picked up and due to be installed in a couple of weeks! I am so excited at the prospect of sitting in front of the fire on a cold winter day and curling up with a book - I'll keep you all updated.

During the school holidays, Hubby and I decided to tackle a job that's been on our 'To do' list since we moved in - build a fence between the house and shed to block off the kids play area so the little kidlets won't run out into the driveway and garage. Handy hubby did all the work himself and I was the go-fer and sometime painter. We are very impressed with how it turned out :)

Who's that good looking hunk of a spunk :)

OK, only half finished the second coat of paint here but looks good!

Quick paving job

Look at my passionfruit vines! We built a trellis for them as part of the new fence. We have had one frost already this season - so far so good!

Here is the current state of my veggie garden. It looks even more bleak today as its raining. Starting in the bed closet and going clockwise we have one bed of garlic; red onions, celery and some lettuce, pak choi and parsnip seeds that haven't come up yet; a bed full of peas with a row of snow peas and broad beans; last bed in this row is brown onions and shallots filling in some gaps; next bed is empty at this stage as we just moved the chook pen onto the next bed; some old leeks that have started resprouting; and in the final bed is shallots, cabbage, broccoli, Wong bok and cauliflower.

I have plated some more veggies in the greenhouse. Now we have some mignonette and cos lettuce, rocket, some silver beet seedlings that haven't come up, carrots (in the long terracotta pots at the front, bit of an experiment), tomatoes in the round pots at the back, some strawberry off cuts growing for the kids school fete in a couple of weeks and some oregano, parsley and zucchini seeds which have yet to come up. I am also attempting to grow ginger for the first time (completely wrong season I know but thought I would give it a go) and I also have some potatoes in bags which are behind me in this picture.

So if all goes well this winter, we should have a good veggie haul to get us through :)

As I write, the rain is bucketing down on our tin roof - love it! - good for the veggies and water tank!