Thursday, 27 April 2017

It's a long way to the top if you want a sausage roll

We soon discovered that just because you have a book titled 100 Walks in Tasmania, doesn't mean you are equipped for bush walking.  But we decided to give it a crack anyway.  My idea of a walk of several kilometres would usually involve a large shopping district and a civilised lunch at the end.  Knowing that we were going to be a few hours at the mercy of nature with no Sherpa to carry the silverware, I buttered the date slices and packed the thermos.  Heaven forbid we find ourselves at any destination without access to life saving cups of english breakfast and cake.  So on this day of Anzac remembrance we put on our shiny Kathmandu outfits and headed off towards Mt Wellington.  We hadn't been driving long when we realised we had forgotten the milk and the tea bags.  We had hot water.  So having pulled into a nearby service station we now had milk, all two litres of it (they had nothing smaller) and a box of tea bags to add to the pack.  So off we went.  From Fern Tree at the base of Mt Wellington we walked the Pipeline track towards the Silver Falls.  Through eucalyptus forests with a steady climb for unconditioned legs like mine, I did at one point consider why we opted for this over a perfectly acceptable stair master at the gym, complete with off button, but soldiered on regardless. By now Tenzing Bowers, carrying the catering was far ahead of me.  After about an hour and a half our resting place was the Springs.  Only no springs that I could see.  We crossed a busy tourist road where the Springs Hotel once stood and now housed an information centre, covered gas barbecue areas and a coffee shop.  Yes, a coffee shop complete with not only coffee but tea and milk.  Nonetheless we sat down at the picnic table, made our tea and ate our date slice.  Although we couldn't resist a look at our summit cafe offerings complete with homemade cakes, pies and sausage rolls.  They looked too good to pass up.  We walked off with two steaming hot pork and fennel sausage rolls, with excellent buttery pastry.  We ate them out of the bag.  We were in the wilderness, after all.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Candle light dinners in the back paddock

That's Rambo, our visiting ram (left).  Off to chat to the girls.  He was dropped off last Monday.  Just for a short stay while we host a Suffolk sheep version of the Bachelor.  He belongs to Chumpy who gave us the five minute overview on how to breed sheep as we stood beside the ute asking a lot of 'definitely not farm folk' questions.  Our girls have been living the good life for well over a year now and unfortunately, are probably more suited to an episode of the Biggest Loser rather than any lamb creating dating game.  We've tried saying they are just big boned or that it's probably just all wool, but we're kidding ourselves as our barrels on skinny legs stomp around the paddocks blocking out the sun.  Hopefully Rambo won't have any major reservations and will appreciate them for their sparkling eyes and vibrant personalities. He didn't take long to introduce himself and was soon part of the group munching away on the small sprigs of oats that are coming up again in the paddock (yes more rain please).  He will very soon appreciate the fact that those who are born to, or even unceremoniously dumped on this property, even for a short time do very well indeed.  Minnie being the perfect example of an unwanted dumpee was smart enough to steer her dumper towards the house on the hill with the robust farm animals.  I could just imagine her peering out of a box on the back seat of someone's car saying 'not that one, not that one, yes this one'.  From day one she called us home and we've served her well since then.  Now, Minnie by name only, she's maxed out in all the wrong places.  Now her only exercise seems to be moving from one comfy bed to another.  I counted up recently, she has about four.  All with hand me down fleecy high viz vests and flanno shirts, she does alright on the sleeping arrangements.  But lately it's the laying boxes in the old shed. So to outsmart her I moved them to the chook pen.  Didn't work.  No wonder we have no eggs!

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

How do you like your mouse tails, poached or fried?

It's officially mousing season according to our Head of Farming and Chief Mouser, Minnie. We know this by the array of headless corpses displayed by the back door mat every morning.  Perhaps she thinks she is required to produce evidence in the form of mouse tails to receive food and lodging.  Vigilant as she is, it does appear that one may have escaped her.  Have you ever smelt that dead mouse somewhere smell?  I have, and I've never forgotten it.  And somewhere around the kitchen wall or in the ceiling there is a hint of rotting rodent that will either go away eventually or temporarily sent us away eventually.  The colder weather has brought them out as Autumn gears up with some much needed rain.  It's also moulting season for the chickens as our back garden starts to look like someone has lost a fight with a doona.  The raw chicken neck is not their greatest look and the egg laying has come to a sudden halt.  With currently about 40 odd chickens of many breeds, including some I think we've invented, I still only have one egg in the fridge.  I'm putting the lack of eggs down to the season but I may be wrong about that.  It could also be that we've moved the chook pen around to face the other way to give the ground a bit of a rest.  This means that their indoor outdoor room is now not facing east, and hence they can't watch the sun come up.  It could also be that we've introduced Guinea Fowls into the flock who don't assimilate at all and aren't the slightest bit interested in dinner time protocols about girls eat before boys. To them Fowls eat before everybody.  It could also be that the Head of Farming and Chief Mouser has now taken to sleeping in their laying boxes in the old shed.  The other day I headed out to hear Doris clucking hysterically in the doorway of the shed protesting that her warm, dry laying box was now occupied.  We'll need to move it.  While the tail count is admirable, we can't exactly have them poached on toast. 

Thursday, 6 April 2017

The fruit formally known as Quince

We discovered a quince tree on our property last year.  It took us a while.  I had walked past the fallen quince on the ground on a number of occasions and never questioned it being there.  In fact, for a while I thought it was Bennie's tennis ball.  Eventually it was picked up and marvelled at.  And later we discovered there were two.  Not quite enough to rush headlong into a quince jelly making exercise, and not even enough to produce the smallest sliver of paste, so I elected to bake them.  There aren't too many recipes for baking quinces in such minimal quantities and the end result was similar to having them placed them for a long period of time in an aluminium smelter.  Let's just say there is now a permanent scar on that baking tray.  What a mess.  So this year, again this neglected tree has somehow produced another two quinces despite of us.  I won't be baking them this year as I have a decent recipe for a chicken casserole with quinces and green olives (a Matthew Evans one I think) that I know won't injure any baking dishes.  This morning I noted that Lewis our 2IC rooster was on quince minding duty and expect he would probably alert me should said quince fall from tree.  It's amazing to think that fruit trees can still produce despite our neglect.  Maybe it just likes Lewis's company. 

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Don't suppose Manolo Blahnik does gumboots

Autumn mornings have arrived.  A great time of year in Tasmania.  No wind, cool nights and spectacular sunrises.  We had a downpour last night to remind us about rain, and the rainwater tanks got replenished just a little.  If it's one thing we have learned about living here it's that cold nights arrive early and unannounced.  From then on the cold weather preparations swing into action.  Wood loads are gathered with neatly stacked piles appearing in sheds and along fences, well before we stop saving the daylight.  The getting ready for winter activity is a formal topic around the dinner table as the vegetable patch needs working over and the worn dusty pathways to the chook pen needs stones to stop them from turning to mud.  Things have certainly changed for us.  Before coming to live here, getting ready for winter meant a spin around a MYER fashion floor with a view to a mild wardrobe update and some shiny shoes.  Not because it was necessary, more just because you thought you should.  Now it's about warm layers, woollen socks and anything thermal that can go under cover without stopping you getting easily through doorways.  The good jeans I bought then are only good for the dog's bed now and the puffer jacket lacks sufficient puff to get me out into less than five degrees in the morning.  The gloves need to be leather and lined for driving as well as water proof.  The early morning ritual of filling up the chooks' bowl with water becomes painful when icy water comes into stinging contact with blue fingers.  And of course, the obligatory gumboots at the back door.  Come to think of it, I haven't seen them for a long time, they may be in the old shed.  I dread to think who or what has moved into them over summer.  Might be time for a new pair.  MYER perhaps?

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

I'll take her for walks and everything...

Fortunately she just wouldn't fit in the ute, or the calf for that matter.  A trip to the Small Farms Expo on Sunday gave us a chance to see what else we could add to our little farm.  While the tractors were smaller than Agfest some of the livestock exhibitors weren't.  The chicken pavillion showed brothers and sisters to our own little collection of weirdos and the sheep yard had a few black faced Suffolk like our very own but not quite as...ahem, round. I was successful in convincing the head farmer and husband we shouldn't come home with a donkey, or two turkeys or any more goats (we've just adopted out the last lot). As our own little patch of demanding domestics is enough to handle and every time a new set of hoofs or beaks arrive, I see another holiday in the distance, sail away.  Animals are a tie, but very rewarding as I'm constantly reminded.  However the, let's not get any more goats argument was easily won with the nearby goat fence display a timely reminder that if you want goats, you'll need Guantanamo style electric perimeters between your cute little Billy goat and your prized rose bushes.  Chooks free ranging all over your garden is a picture of cottage heaven but the bigger the chicken, the longer the legs, and the longer the legs, the further they can send your stone and bark screenings in every direction.  What was once a cottage garden in my backyard is a pile of mulch as our mother hen shows her eight fluffy children how to dig for grubs by removing annoying daisies and violets. But the opportunity to meet the breeders of all these amazing animals gave us a great day with the warm sunshine on the Huon oval at its best.   I do really like those highland cattle though.  Lucky we didn't bring the trailer.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Slow food and a month of afternoons

I had to move my almonds in under the verandah. Of course now being a nut farmer (ahem..!) I dry my nuts in the sun.  Well the sun has disappeared and they didn't tell me about that when I Googled how to be a nut farmer.  With my limited knowledge about growing almonds I have two almond trees that have produced large quantities of nuts.  We did manage to get more water to the trees this year and the trees produced better fruit than last year's effort which were a bit thin and sad looking.  The green parrots are dead keen on them and it's a race to see who can get them off the quickest.  We've netted the two trees as best as we could but it's a pain in rear end as the prickly branches make it almost impossible to get the nets off without tearing them and the birds know where the holes are.  So other than letting off a cannon shot every hour we will just have to appear to be generous.  We put in a reasonable harvesting effort with plastic bucket in hand and found the nuts came off really easily.  Their soft velvet olive green coating had opened to reveal yellow or the riper brownish nuts inside. Each one has to peeled.  There's an afternoon gone.  Sitting there shelling nuts the parrots look on at me and politely decline from laughing.  The chickens walk up beside me perched on the church pew under the verandah wondering why I'm throwing away perfectly good earwigs.

Our first lot of almonds had been on their wire trays for a few weeks.  The wire trays, which we will now refer to as our almond trays as they were meant to fit the windows as fly wire screens but were the wrong size and instead were perfect to allow the air to get to the nuts and dry out.  I wasn't sure how long you were meant to dry them for but after a few weeks of serious sunshine I thought it was time to take them to the next stage. Peeling them. Again.  Another afternoon gone.
So after that and about 20 minutes on a baking tray in a moderate oven they came out roasted.  And pretty marvellous might I add.  They were crisp and smokey (really must clean that oven one day) and much better than any you can buy in a packet.  Fresh and crunchy with so much flavour.  My next lot will be coated in a spice mix, just to get ahead of myself.  I'm a bit proud of our own roasted almonds.  Just don't be in a hurry for them and don't run out of afternoons.