Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A little tour of Tassie

'That'll teach you for saying 'Are we there yet?' for the 2000th time!"

We decided to have ourselves a little mini-break over the Australia Day Long Weekend.

We headed North to explore the area that produces so much of the delicious dairy and vegetables we enjoy. It seemed a long way (especially with a chorus of 'Are we there yets' from the back seat...)

The Ashgrove Farm Cheese Shop proved a huge hit with the 5 year olds - they'd declared recently that they didn't care much for, and would not be eating any type of Tasmanian Cheese... but having tried about a dozen types at the shop they decided that Creamy Lancashire and Rubicon Red were acceptable exceptions to this rule.

We did a bit of pre-planning and bought an Eski full of goodies with us to help out should we have difficulty sourcing local food. We enjoyed home-cooked meals the first few days in our self contained accomommodation, which was a lovingly restored shearers hut near Clarendon Estate in Evandale. Johan made the most delicious homemade bread rolls with eggs, ham, and relish...

... and there was no hassle on days 3 & 4 as Johan's daughter (and soon-to-be son in law) made us a scrummy meal in Burnie, and we were able to find a great Fish & Chip shop with local produce. We did choose to deviate from our self-imposed rules by indulging in some Valhalla Tasmanian-made icecreams (it was hot, and they were so delicious!!!) much to the delight of the younger travellers.

A visit to Tasmazia, with its beautifully constructed gardens and amazing hedged maze left me wanting to come home and create order in my little patch - but on getting back here there were 101 other things that seemed more important than weed-free garden paths and boxed gardens :) We are still talking about creating our own 'balancing' maze at home though... or perhaps make one out of hay bales in the shed... (another project to put on the list!)

I am so happy to be home. There's really nothing like time away to heighten your gratitude for home, sweet, home, is there?

Check out those hedges!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sunflowers are here....

This week our tall sunflowers have finally come into flower.

It seems a bit ironic that they flowered a week after the goats left, as I planted them as a tasty goat treat. I'm sure the chooks are going to be delighted to have them though....

We're trying to grow beans up them - looking a bit iffy at the moment as the beans seem to be struggling despite Johan's best efforts to get more light to them by removing a large number of sunflower leaves.....

Friday, January 16, 2009

Secrets and Lies.. and spinach

It has come to my attention this week that we're all a little bit guilty of game playing (and only 1 1/2 months into our little challenge!).

I'm a serious offender - sneaking about in the kitchen, inserting no-go vegetables, such as spinach (which brings back supposedly hidious childhood memories for Johan)into food. Spinach is currently bountiful in our garden and I've been adding it to salads and hot meals. Last week I snuck spinach into a veggie lasagna, and have being strategically chopping it up fine in mash potatoes so he can't avoid it. He's been remarkably good humoured about it.

Yesterday, mid-cuddle with Johan I felt an unusual hard lump under his shirt. After a brief wrestle (I won!) I discovered it was a brand new, quite pricey, magnifying glass (So much for not buying anything new for four months!!!). Many excuses were given (Jake - age 5 - lost the last one, it was a work expense, he's getting older so he NEEDS it to see, it was an unfortunate result of having to pick Katelyn up from the dentist wich was above an optic shop... and so on, and so on...).

I must admit my main reason for feeling slightly peeved about it was that during the last few weeks I've been wrestling with my own hypocrisy having signed up to get a new in-built storage space (I have lots of 'reasons' too - but I'll save that for another time...)I'd been to-ing and fro-ing, asking Johan what he thought I should do, whether it was too much given this journey we're on.... and here I was discovering that he was up to the same sort of caper, albeit a less expensive one, but he's chosen to conceal it (sort of)... after much teasing of each other I think we're back on the straight and narrow (:

On a more positive note: I'm really pleased with our latest energy usage - we've used less thatn 3kw per day over the last fortnight - so I'm confident that if we actually get a bit of sunshine this summer we'll get to grid neutral.

Another big achievement is that last week I completely paid off the $7500 approx investment in solar energy. I had planned to pay it off within 12 months but managed it within 5 months - yippee! - a great feeling to be debt free on it.

Of course my little consumer self immediately went into planning the next stage - another 6 panels - which could make us completely self-sufficient for power next summer - at a cost of $8000.... spending in my mind already... how long does it take to break that habit????

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Tinkerbell's tots

I've neglected to mention that prior to Christmas our wonderful Wessex Saddleback pig, Tinkerbell, had her first litter of piglets. We've had her since she was 8 weeks old and watching her transformation from piglet, to a mother of 9 (!) has been amazing. She's a great mum, very mild mannered (unless she thinks the young 'uns are under threat), and willing to share the experience with us by letting us interact with them. The piglets are a mischevious bunch, turning up in various spots around the farm, before racing back to Mum when they've been spotted.

Tinkerbell has had a big week - one of her piglets has had to be taken to the vet twice with an abscess under its chin, and she's been had a problem with lice which have hatched on her. I'd left her with lice eggs on her as my usual treatment method was not recommended while she was suckling piglets - but yesterday I could see she was getting uncomfortable so I did a ring around to the vet and livestock store and have found a spray that disposed of the moving lice, and the vet will come during the week to give her an injection to deal with the egg cycle. She's already a much happier pig. Lice are very common with pigs - apparently 60% of the national herd has them (just writing about them is making me feel itchy!!!)

On a more cheerful note Tinkerbell is potentially set to be a star on the small screen. Today we had a camera crew filming her and her little ones - all performed brilliantly and were completely unfussed by the attention - Tinkerbell even let them have a cuddle of one of her litter. Might have had something to do with the bunches of cabbages and lettuces I'd provided for morning tea.......

The other exciting event of the day was the news that Johan's daughter, Sarah become engaged to Ben... Congratulations!!!!!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Tassie Scone Recipe

This is proving a great alternative to bread for us during our local food challenge - whilst not strictly 100% Tasmanian - it's pretty close, and very delicious. While there is cheese in the recipe, this serves to help bind the flour, which is low in gluten, rather than providing a cheesey flavour.


1 1/2 cups Tasmanian Wholemeal Flour (from the Bignell Farm at Oatlands)
3 tsps baking powder
dash of salt
30gr butter (such as Elgaar Farm Unsalted)
about 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (such as King Island Stormy Bay)
3/4 cup milk
extra flour for dusting bench

Rub the room temperature butter into the flour (including baking powder and salt), then mix all ingredients together - makes a fairly wet dough. Press gently onto floured surface (I tend to scatter flour on top to stop my fingers sticking to the dough) til about 2cm thick. Cut with scone cutter (or similar), brush top with a little milk - place on baking tray close together. Put into hot oven (180 degrees in my fan forced oven) for about 15 minutes.

My very sophisticated scone cutter!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Slowing Down

Johan kindly bought this road-sign at the local Tip Shop. He thought it would be useful to put up along our dirt road as we've a few people who are hooning up and down, seemingly oblivious to the number of young children and animals about.

When I saw it I thought it symbolised for me perfectly the need I feel to slow down... sometimes I feel I'm travelling at 100km/h - trying to fit too much into too little time - and it's becoming clear to me that for the benefit of us all I need to make choices that reduce my speed (a pace of grace!). So... the sign will be hung in the hall outside the bedroom, and I will endeavour to take a moment to reflect on its relevance as I head towards the shower each morning (no more 50 metre dash!).

It's ironic that during the lead up to this Challenge, which was about getting back to basics and and celebrating the simpler things, I've managed to make life more complex, by adding additional responsibilities and activities to our daily life.

Some of these activities, like more gardening and the cooking I'm doing really inspire me and give me energy (and the family loves the results!). But I must be honest and admit that others, such as the twice daily milking of the goats, is not enhancing my (or our lives) - no one is interested in drinking the milk, preferring cows milk instead. I've also found that I haven't had the time to convert the milk into cheese as I'd planned to. At the moment all the milk is going to the pigs - who seem very grateful of the treat - but it doesn't seem worth the amount of effort and the ongoing time commitment.

Muriel and Fatso (the goats) are gorgeous animals with great temperaments, easy to milk, and in the prime of milk production, so I've decided the best thing to do is to try and rehome (sell) them to someone who has enough time, energy, love, and and can use the milk they produce.

So if anyone knows anyone who might be interested in 2 very friendly registered British Alpine milking goats please ask them to make contact! It would be greatly appreciated :)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Raspberries and Pikelets

I had a spontaneous moment today (a shock to my family who are used to my over-planning most things) whilst reading the classifieds in the paper.

Our local berry farm, Peacehaven (isn't that the best name!), was advertising raspberries for $6 a kilo on a pick your own basis. I organised the troops quickly and we jumped into the car, with buckets and bowls galore, and a hoped we'd get a few berries before the rain came again.

We were lucky - and enjoyed nearly two hours of happy, relaxed and dry! picking - returning home with 6 1/2 kilos of luscious fruit, including some yellow raspberries (the cultivar is called Venus I believe). I've put about half into the freezer, and the rest is going to be made into jam or sauce.

We did enjoy some of the finest berries with our lunch also - a decadent pikelet feast.... here's the recipe we've adapted so that we're using mainly Tasmanian ingredients, plus a few left over pantry items.

Pikelet Recipe:

1 cup Tasmanian wholemeal flour (from the Bignell farm at Oatlands)
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch Salt
Pinch Nutmeg
1/4 cup of sugar
1 egg (free-range!)
1/2 cup of milk
1 tablespoon of butter, melted

Put all ingredients into a mixing jug or bowl, whizz with a bamix til combined, then drop spoonfuls of the mixture into hot greased pan. Turn when brown. When cooked take straight to table, or deposit into waiting mouths!

Our favourite topping of the day - mashed ripe raspberries (with a smidgin of icing sugar mixed in) and whipped cream - scrummy!

The triumphant berry hunters head home....