Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Farewell from the Farm

It's with a degree of sadness that I write this last post from this Blog.  We've sold our farm.  With nearly 5 acres of land and an old cottage farmhouse we decided that the next phase of our lives should be more coastal than rural, and a little less weathered house history to repair.  We're pleased to be relocating but sad to say goodbye to the country view from our front porch.  I'm still intending to continue writing and blogging but will no longer call myself a farmer (ahem!!).  My new blog will continue on (and on and on) about eating great produce and being more self sufficient.  I encourage you to pop over to A Wiser Woman Said if you get a chance.  You'll see some familiar furry faces and the food theme will be quite strong.  I hope to see you there....

Thursday, 2 January 2020

We're getting the bus outa here

They might be waiting for a bus...who knows what goes on in chicken land.  I didn't like to ask.  Summer brings a new batch of baby chicks and a very protective mother.  She's probably the only hen we've had that didn't lose the majority of her chicks to the Butcher Birds.  They're dynamite on defenceless chicks.  I wish I could prevent this cruel theft but nature is a hell of a lot smarter and faster than I am.  One of our more mature age hens called Doris sat on eggs for weeks and weeks waiting for them to hatch.  She sat there through some of our hottest days, wildest gales and a thunderstorm.  And unfortunately was only able to hatch one chick.  She came out so proud.  But by the afternoon she was childless and beside herself.  I felt so sorry for her.  She was screeching blue murder when I went to see here with feathers all up while going around in circles.   I gave her some rind off the Christmas ham to cheer her up but pork fat didn't suffice on this occasion.  People often curse cats for their destruction on wildlife, but nothing measures up to the cruelty of wildlife itself.  We've got Quolls here who remove heads from chicks and leave the rest, like some sort of delicacy.  And to make matters worse Quolls are a protected species.  They'll be furry mittens if I ever catch them!  No wonder my chickens are looking to hit the highway.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Make-do Mince Pies for the non designated driver

No matter how many times I tell him, it's no point waiting by the chimney.  He's not coming TODAY.  At the earliest sign of tinsel and Santa stockings, he's sniffing and poking around.  Bennie just loves Christmas.  He knows it's a time of more food than usual.  More baking, more leftovers, more likely loose items of food fallen to the kitchen floor.  Having just done another round of mince pies, the kitchen floor now has a slight pastry coated film about it and those loose raisins have a way of hiding in corners until you have someone come and visit, then they suddenly appear.  This was my first attempt at fruit mince pie baking.  Having decided to spend a little less this year, I decided that baking my own would be this years challenge.  
I've had some monumental yuletide disasters over the years including Christmas Cakes that would hold up ancient ruins and berry tarts with pastry so hard you could dry wall your house with it.  So this year I set out with realistic expectations (meaning none).  I'm using a triple tested recipe and one that doesn't require rare ingredients from some unpopulated island in the Pacific or some alcoholic beverage that is only available by travelling more than 24 hours on a plane.  So my first batch was undertaken with a somewhat distracted approach, and as a result turned out semi decent considering I left out only two of the ingredients.  It's always when you later go back to the fridge then you wonder why that particular item is still there. Oops! I also didn't have the right baking tins and didn't have the right size star cookie cutter so my first batch fruit mince pies were renamed 'make-do mince pies'.  Not a bad result, certainly edible.  So gave the second batch a serious go with all of the ingredients and even the right pans and star shape cutter.  My only substitute was whisky for brandy, and only because that's all I had.  Other than being a little bit lethal and not recommended if you are the designated driver, I'm happy with how they turned out.  So is Bennie.  Oh, he'll just sleep it off.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

TV's dinners are to blame

In name only.  That's what the vet said in response to meeting Minnie.  Nothing mini about her.  Rude veterinary comments aside, she's a picture of health, just a wide screen one.  What can you do?  She loves her food...and everyone else's.  The weight issue is not something we focus on too much around here.  Enjoy good food in moderation we say.  She just didn't hear the moderation bit.  We eat, pretty well everything that we like, but largely our dinner is home made so we know what went into it, and we don't eat anything that is handed to you through the car window.  Meals for me are something you sit down at the table and have, even if it's just for one.  Sitting with my dinner on my lap watching television would only end up with me in a spilt food mess.  Watching TV whilst easting just makes us eat faster with no conscious act or acknowledgement of what we are putting into our mouths.  No thought to where it came from, the time and effort put into it and the decision whether to bother with that recipe again or not.  The concept of TV dinners appeared around the 1970's when bringing out the metal folding tables became a sign of a modern family allowing everyone to turn their attention to their favourite program instead of each other.  Get Smart won over your parent's day at the office on most nights and The Brady Bunch, with their good intentions and moral dilemma's beat real life ones any day.  The convenience con had begun.  Television of course also brought us advertising to digest along with our digestives and packaged TV dinners to accompany our folding metal tray tables.  Here we could learn about getting food faster to our door with little or not much effort at all.  And from there it became even easier.  Convenience nowadays is any number of choices of takeaway meals chauffeur driven to your door so you don't even need to drive up to a drive through to get it.  It comes with it's own driver.  My God, I hope Minnie never discovers this, she won't fit through the door.  I'll stick with the dining table for now.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019


You know those days when you realise that the only one who understands you is a rooster?  Ok, well perhaps it is only me but Crossbeak was a dear friend.  When you had a day that left you wondering what the hell is wrong with the world and why don't people just do what you would expect them to do, Crossbeak was right there with you.  He'd stand next to you, right beside your feet with that funny little squawk that said 'oh yeah, life's crap sometimes but you just get on with it'.  And so you would.  Crossbeak started out in life with a serious disfigurement to his beak that meant that the top one was headed in the complete opposite direction to the bottom one and almost impossible for him to eat.  Me, in my great wisdom took him off to the vet for some minor surgery.  The vet was able to clip his beak a bit shorter so he could eat.  When I got him home in the box he was in shock and couldn't move.  I thought I'd almost killed him.   I should have just sent him off to one of those resorts in Asia that people go to and come back looking like a completely different person.  But Crossbeak didn't need a little freshening up, he needed to survive.  And that he did.  The other chickens didn't care about his peculiar looks, there was even the odd (short sighted) girlfriend but they never lasted long (we're talking minutes not months).  As he struggled to eat off the ground I always hand fed him what I could before getting into trouble from Lewis the head rooster, and always had a special treat for him at the back door.  He'd follow me around the property like a pet dog and inspect every weed I pulled.  He'd make a mess of himself with the leftover sponge cake and couldn't get the cream off his face before getting found out by the others.  Unfortunately he went downhill recently and his tail feathers were getting lower and lower.  He was struggling to swallow food and yesterday he quietly passed away.  Farewell Crossbeak.  I'll miss our little chats.  The world is a lesser place without you (wipe the tears off the keyboard now...).

Monday, 4 November 2019

Nurse Minnie to the rescue - of her own bed

Could have been something he ate?  Not sure.  A night in the emergency Vet Hospital and $1200 later, he comes home to sleep it off as Nurse Minnie oversees the sleeping patient.  And whilst I'd like to think that his nurse is more concerned about his welfare than the fact he's on her bed, I could be a bit wrong.  It's so hard when your beloved animals are unwell.  They can't speak to tell you which bit hurts so you have to make a lot of assumptions and pay a lot of money to have every possibility eliminated.  We thought it might have been something he stole from the chook pen, like too much bread, pastry etc., or could have been some of the old eggs he finds around the property, that only he knows the location of.  Either way, he wasn't travelling at all well and didn't get up for an entire day.  He was not eating or drinking which was not his style so we needed to make a call.  He seemed to be in some sort of pain in the rear end region but we couldn't say exactly, which made us think it could be a bite or injury.  We know if it was snake bite we wouldn't be standing around scratching our heads, and he most likely wouldn't be still around to see us do that.  So a late night visit to some wonderful staff at the Hobart Vet Hospital who kept us well informed during the night.  X-Rays, examinations, medication.  Nothing found, a few digestive issues but at least we could rule out the sinister possibilities.  He's home now and fast asleep as the medication from this morning will keep him confined to bed for the day.  As for his full time carer - unfortunately she's asleep on the job and officially stood down.  Very unreliable.

Friday, 1 November 2019

No fire today - hopefully

There will be no fire stoked up tonight in the old tin shed out the back.  It's a day of no lawful outdoor fires (total fire ban).  We built this shed from bits and bobs and put in a black fire burner to keep us warm while the slow turning pork cooks away on the other side.  We always say it's pork. Particularly when there are chickens around.  We've got strong northerly winds today that are fuelling fires around the central areas of Tasmania.  It's worrying to smell and see the smoke but you really feel for those who are living close by.  It does raise the question of what do you pack to leave in the case of fire emergency.  We're in an 140 year old weatherboard cottage that would go up like a stack of newspapers.  There would be little point trying to save her.  My first thoughts would go to the immediate family. Us.  Cats.  Dog.  But chickens and guinea fowl would just have to follow the instructions of the fire warden and do a role call at their own evacuation point.  I guess you need to take passports, photos etc., but then you start to think of what could you not part with?  The Kitchen Aid would be a big ask.  I'd probably take food - because that's what I mostly think about.  It's something you hope you never have to face.