News, Uncategorized

Spring 2017

Spring has arrived and we’ve got lots of little seedlings popping up in the greenhouse. I was feeling low on energy and almost wasn’t going to bother this year as being in this house now feels so temporary. We know we can stay until our lease ends next July but things are never certain while your renting so I’ve decided to keep lots in pots just to be on the same side.

Our chicks we hatched from the eggs of our murdered hens are growing well. It seems like there will be three roosters out of 10 chicks so I am pretty happy with those odds considering most of the eggs had been in our neighbors fridge. There was no justice for the parents. The council returned the dog to the neighbor who never apologised to us for the loss of our birds and three weeks later he was selling unregistered puppies at outrageous prices from the dogs. These poor hounds were never played with ,walked or exercised. I don’t blame the dogs they are Huskies and they were bored. I feel for them and it makes me angry that people keep animals as lawn ornaments and money generators.

The chicks have softened the blow of loosing our girls and our three remaining hens are very spoilt but we have been contemplating our future in the valley. We love the community here but work is unreliable, full time jobs required to get you a mortgage just don’t exist.  The are is fast gaining popularity as more and more people chase this lifestyle and being on the highway we have noticed the roads becoming busier.  Adding to all this is the fast rise of property prices so we see our dream of a house with a few acres in this area getting further and further out of reach.

Luckily we are never ones to give up and months ago I was hunting across opportunities that might help us take a step towards our Homesteading dreams when I came across Cultivate Farms (https://www.cultivatefarms.com/).

Cultivate Farms is a new initiative that matches young aspiring farmers with retiring farmers. When I found the website it was really new and had lots of glitches. It took me applying three times over a few months for our application to be registered and I only knew that the registration hadn’t worked because I had hopped onto the facebook page and saw they had advertised a 100 acre farm in Tasmania and were looking for interested parties. I commented on the photo and asked Sam to send me the details. When he did we realised our previous application had disappeared and I had to rewrite it for him to send to the owner.

Around the same time this happened I had a new friend add me on Facebook who was in a few of the same homesteading groups as me. I didn’t think much of it when she added me and as I often use social media to connect and chat with like minded individuals and some of my best friends I have met this way.

After a bit of back and forth I mentioned to Jody that we had applied for the cultivate farm opportunity and she admitted it was her farm and she had seen my comment on the post and was sussing us out. Call me naive but I was genuinely shocked! We had built a bit of a rapport and I really enjoyed chatting and sharing ideas with Jody. We decided to go up and have a look at the farm and see what we thought. The farm was beautiful in a part of North East Tasmania 1 hour from Launceston and 20 minutes to the beach at Bridport. The property had a farm house where Jody and her partner Geoff live and weatherboard cottage. There were great views and lots of shedding and it was a joy to meet all Jodies lovely animals. My heart sang when the Jersey cows came and licked my hand with their scratchy tongue and I was reminded of our old cow Kisses and what we had left behind but could possibly have again.

Jodys farm is a ex dairy property and was used as a small piggery as well so it is set up for all kinds of potential farming and homesteading pursuits. If you would like to see for yourself what it’s like she has her own blog – http://oaklands-farm.blogspot.com.au/2014/

We said our goodbyes with a lot to think about and we have had months of thinking but have decided to take the chance.

It will be a 12 month rental arrangement initially and if we are all happy after that then we will slowly buy into the farm.

When we first agreed I was filled with panic “What have we committed too” “We will have to say goodbye to all our friends here” but once everything settled down we could see the true benefits of this opportunity. This isn’t just a chance to have a home and be settled it’s a chance to build a sustainable future for our children and with things so uncertain in the world there is a chance they won’t have the chance to buy a home themselves one day but if they can stay on the family farm and have a life then they have security.

I don’t know what the future holds but I am excited to find out.

News

And Then there were Three

We’d had a beautiful day. It was unseasonably warm at 17C in the middle on winter. We had spent the whole day in the sunshine gardening and grooming Dandy the English Angora who is going through his moult early. Blossoms were stating to show and we were feeling spring coming along.
We decided around 2 oclock to treat the children and go to a waterside playground about 20 mins away and then have a early dinner out nearby.
This is a rare occurrence for us we are generally disappointed when we eat out because we love cooking and have high standards but it felt like that kind of day and we had the savings so it wouldn’t put us out.
After feeding and watering the chooks we checked the electric fence was on and headed out. The kids had such a lovely time at the park in the sunshine and were really happy and behaved well at the restaurant.
We were only gone 2 hours but what we came home to will sit with us for a long time.
I opened the gate and found a note tucked into it. Dane had already driven up the back to the turning circle as I read.
” Don’t take the kids up the back the dogs got in”
Dane came round a look of horror on his face parked the car , jumped out and ran. I ran too leaving the kids strapped in the car. What we were faced with was our electric fence knocked down and the neighbors huskies who I had mentioned were getting into our yard in a previous post. They were standing over the bodies of eight of our beloved chooks. Dane started yelling at them and one started snarling at him eventually deciding to bolt ,while the other fled through the front gate.
The neighbor was not home nor have we heard from him in the hours since.
I went to break the news to the Children. Nyah 5 let out a primal scream of devastation that her beloved chicken Lemons who she’s bonded with in the summer was gone. Her tears continued through the evening and she is still feeling it this morning.

Dane collected the bodies which we put in a safe place (so the dogs who returned to our yard yet again last night could not eat them ) We called council who said they would come out this morning to take photos and insect the yard. Apparently no one in the valley is registered to have 4 dogs as you need to be classed as a kennel and as we have young children it is dangerous that they continue to come into our yard.
We feel so angry and upset we foresaw this we tried for weeks to get him to do something on his side of the fence to stop them while we did all we could on our side. We’d already fixed the fence, bought electric fence and checked the chooks regularly. They were not just livestock they were our family some of whom we had brought from interstate with us.
We lost eight of our twelve chooks
Rosemary the Faverolle rooster died defending his girls
Cher the first chick we ever hatched who taught us so much about poultry keeping and was the smallest but top of the pecking order


Aniseed a beautiful quiet silver laced Wyandotte who’d just started laying
Lemons our 5 years olds special white Wyandotte

Ginger one of the Maran twins who layed big beautiful brown eggs. It took us 5 years to get Marans and her sister Pears survived and is lost and lonely


Smokey a very special Olive egger Brahma x Araucana who had the most interesting feathering of smokey blue grey


Fire Cracker a special one indeed she was the daughter of Cher and Bear the first chickens we’d hatched. Firecracker would go broody 4 times a year and was a fierce mother who fluffed up like a turkey if you went near her chicks.
Goldie the weird Wyandotte was also lost. She had really interesting lacing and the wrong comb but came from our pure bred lines when we bred interstate .

And then there were three. Minty our least favourite chicken who seemed really stupid but now I wonder if we hadn’t given her enough credit. She is a Olive egger and was hiding in the Nesting box. Pears also must have been hiding in there and Bendy our last Brahma was in isolation in another coop for some rest as she was having trouble keeping up with the flock. I have dubbed the trio Destinys Child as they are the surviours and it feels poignant that we had 3 chooks in the beginning of our journey to homesteading and now have 3 when we are at a crossroads.

Homesteading, News, Preserving

Weekend news plus Lemon Syrup and marmalade recipe

We’ve had a lovely week apart from all being sick we’ve managed to get a lot done. Our trip North has breathed new life into us and we’ve been feeling inspired and making plans for the future.

The lemon tree has burst into life so the children and I have been busy preserving. So far we’ve made lemon syrup for summer cordials and as we used the cold press juicer to juice the lemons we were left with a large amount of pulp. I hate waste so I decided to experiment with a marmalade by using the pulp and adding some ginger, extra lemons and a orange. The result turned out well so I will add both these recipes to the end of the post.

Another use for the lemon peel has been drying it and then blitzing it in the bullet processor to save as zest for cakes when lemons are scarce. I’ve also been adding it to cheap white vinegar to distill for a green cleaner.

Over the next week when I’ve built up a egg supply I’ll be making and canning lemon curd. Of course this will mean a lemon meringue our is on the cards.

Over the weekend we have been out in the garden making plans, I’ve ordered a new cheapie greenhouse to get us through the summer veg production and spent $50 on seeds from a local seed seller called Seed Freaks. We’d met him at markets and he and his wife are lovely and really know their stuff. They often run workshops around Southern Tasmania. http://seedfreaks.com.au

Our other challenge is dealing with a slight emergency. We have new neighbors on one side of us who has 4 big beautiful Huskies. They are incredibly friendly but unfortunately quite keen on the chickens and have been trying to get through the top of the fence which looked not far off falling over. Mr Hunter Gatherer quickly went out and bought some chicken wire to hold the fence up. We hate spending money on a rental but our chickens who we brought from NSW with us are more than our pets and we didn’t want to risk loosing them. We had hoped this would be the end of it all but last night the dogs dug a hole under the fence and had a party in our yard.

 The chooks thankfully were safe in their coop and the owner was very apologetic but we still need to fix the problem. We’ve spent all day today trying to fix our fence charger for the electric netting working but it looks like we need to order a new charger. I really hope we don’t lose any birds as we hope to take them to our forever farm.

 

Lemon Syrup 

This recipe is for a large amount of lemons but you can reduce the quantity if you like

Juice 2kg of Lemons for every cup of lemon juice add 1 cup of sugar

add 1 litre of water

Slowly bring to boil stirring to dissolve sugar. Once boiling you can either reduce to desired consistency if you are wanting a thicker syrup or take off the heat and add 1 tablespoon of Tartaric acid.

Now you can either bottle and store in the fridge for 3-4 months or bottle for shelf life using your proffered method. Bottled correctly on the shelf it can keep for 2 years.

Use as a Cordial Syrup, dessert syrup, cake flavouring, with boiling water and ginger for a winter pick me up.

Annes Lemon pulp Marmalade

Now this recipe is using the left over pulp (not skins) from using a electric juicer to juice your lemons for the previous recipe. If you do not have a electric juicer just use 1kg fresh fruit sliced thinly.

500g Lemon pulp plus 1 orange and 4 lemons (or 1kg citrus fruit)

1.5 kg sugar

4 Tablespoons of powdered ginger and 20g fresh root ginger

Begin by slicing whole citrus fruit thinly or into small bits. Add with pulp (if using) to a saucepan with 5 cups of water. Cover with lid and boil until peel is soft.

Once the fruit is ready add the sugar and on medium heat stir until sugar is dissolved.

Leave to simmer stirring occasionally to avoid sticking or burning. When jam has reached setting point pour into warm sterized jars and bottle using proffered method.

 

 

News

Mid Winter Update

We have made it to Mid Winter in Tasmania. I’ll admit recently I cheated a little when in Early July the children and I went to NSW for a week to visit family. It really was a summer holiday in comparison to home but I wouldn’t want to deal with the hot sticky summers that are getting hotter every year.

It was good to see family but I was glad to be home. We still haven’t quite settled back into a routine as not long after returning home we all went up to Northern Tasmania on a short family road trip. We booked a pet sitter to come feed and check on the pets, got packed and hit the road!

Well the drive up wasn’t so bad the kids didn’t fight much and we stopped in Ross which is a lovely little historic town that is quiet and full of big stone heritage buildings. It has a bakery that resembles kikis bakery from the studio ghibli animated film Kikis delivery service. Unfortunately this was under renovation much to the childrens dissapointment but we did enjoy going into the  Tasmanian wool centre and buying some dyed wool tops ready to spin, some wool dye and some knitting needles for little miss Hunter Gatherer. You can look at the wonders of the wool center online here http://www.taswoolcentre.com.au/

I was inspired by my visit to research what sheep I would have if I was ever to get one for fiber and I have settled on English Leicester. We are limited by heritage breeds in Australia and even more so on our little island Tasmania and the English Leicester seems to tick a lot of boxes for a hand spinner as well as being available in Tasmania and completely adorable with their long flowing locks.

After Ross we headed to Evandale to stay with my Aunt and Uncle who have a airbnb and had some family time. Evandale is a sweet town just outside of Launceston. It’s very much a chocolate box town with lots of beautiful houses, heritage pubs, a penny farthing festival (yes really) and one of my favorite markets in Tasmania.

The following morning we headed off early to Scottsdale to visit a friends farm and see if we might like to live there one day to share farm. We are completely taken by the farm and area and I wish I had taken some photos to share with you but there was so much to take in as well as wrangling two tired little people. If you would like to see photos you can see their blog here http://oaklands-farm.blogspot.com.au/2017/ . I liked Scottsdale it has everything you would need in a town and Launceston only 1 hour away. It’s hard to think of leaving the Huon Valley where we have quickly made a lot of friends but with the reality of little full time work or a chance of getting a mortgage to buy our own farm here not to mention fast growing property prices we feel the pull towards a chance to build a farm for ourselves and our children.

After our tour of the farm we went for lunch at the local bakery that had delicious pastries and from there went for a play in the local park that had a wetland habitat and rainforest walk that was just like a fairy garden. We took our friend back to the farm and she sent us on our way with a big bag of merino fleece for me to play with as well as some of her own honey.

I will touch more on how we came across this opportunity in another post but for now I’ll say goodbye until my next post where I will include a recipe and book review 🙂

 

Anne

home learning, News

Sitting back 

This week I’ve been sitting back and watching the children learn. It’s hard to sit back and trust they are learning but I’m so glad I did as I’ve noticed things I might not have had I not been paying attention. 

Little Liss HGF has been sounding letters and can connect three letter words now. This is something she’d struggled with and was often frustrated by so I hadn’t pushed it but she’s been asking to practice and it was great to see it click for her.  

There’s been lots of different learning this week which I’ll share below for our records. I don’t take photos of everything but I’m trying to have a good record for inspection time when we register. 

Her playdough and modelling work has really started to take form. We’ve been using lots of different types of modelling materials, poluclay, red clay, playdough, and a corn flour/conditioner experiment 

Collecting rose hips for a natural dye experiment on handspun yarn

She has a natural interest in sewing so has been practicing by sewing rose petals for fairy blankets eventually she wants to make clothes for her dolls. 

We’ve also been getting out in the garden whenever the weather is good and choosing produce for dinner. 

News, Uncategorized

The last days of Preserving!

It’s a good feeling when you come to the last of the produce to preserve. Satisfaction , Elation , Relief! It’s a hard job and now I have two active little children I understand why in the days long gone people came together as a community to preserve the harvest. It’s a shame in our day we have lost that sense of community even in Rural areas. There are some who try to revive it so maybe in time things will change but it is hard to step out of that zone and ask for help.

All I have left in the freezer now is 8kg each of Blood plums and Greengage to preserve and 4 kg of Apple scraps that I will make some syrup and apple cider vinegar from. Honestly we don’t need anymore apple cider vinegar as the cupboards are bursting but it will never go off and is very useful to have. I had plans to sell it at the Market but If we don’t then it will not be wasted. You never know we might have a apple shortage and I will be relieved to have a never ending supply.
On the bench I have 1 box of sour apples which I plan to make into Hard Cider for Mr Hunter Gatherer and some sour pie filling. I might even do some more apple and fennel chutney as it’s delicious and I’m sure we will eat all of ours.

Yesterday wasn’t the best day in terms of our moods we were all cranky and once Mr HG went to work we stayed like that. I decided that I wasn’t going to let the moods take over and it was a day to get things done. We made Silvan Berry and Peach Jam and 10 big jars of Chinese plum sauce, Gingerbread men, Did lots of craft and painting and worked together to make a chicken and vegie pie for dinner. By the end of the day we were in a much better space and it goes to show how busy work can really up lift you.

Unfortunately we don’t have photos to show you as my phone is on the fritz but I wanted to update anyway before I forgot.

I trust everyone is happy and homesteading. Keeping warm if in our hemisphere and planting out in the other!

Until next time
Anne

News, Preserving, Uncategorized

Weekend Happenings – Apple and Fennel chutney recipe

Well as predicted I couldn’t keep up with daily blogs but I am happy because it got me back towards blogging regularly.

We had a lovely weekend with Mr HG home. He’s been working so much recently that we really appreciate that family time. Although work at the Apple orchards will likely slow down soon we have some exciting prospects on the horizon but I won’t go into that just yet in case I jinx us!

On Saturday we were blessed with lovely weather so we potted around the garden as a group and all clipped the ripe rose hips together. The children go to use sharp scissors and garden shears so they were thrilled about the job. As we have so many roses at this house we’ve decided to dry the hips on our air dryer in the laundry over ysing the dehydrator. It’s a slower process but I feel like there is more “goodness” in the end product.

This last week the children and I picked the majority of the apples. I was tired of parrots eating them and wasps being attracted to the munched fruit so we thought it best to get the bulk off. We did a shout out on social media for free apples and had the lot taken. I still have a big box and 20 litre bucket to process ourselves, some left on the tree for the birds and one tree left with sour cooking/cider Apples I’ll get to shortly.

We also picked the last of the green tomatoes and pulled the plants up. I still can’t get my head around tomatoes being a Autumn fruit but Tasmania is a crazy place and the climate here is one of the things I love about it.

I decided to make some Chutneys a spicy green tomato and apple chutney and a Apple and Fennel chutney. The Apple and fennel was so delicious I made a second batch. It would be perfect on a pork roast but we stirred it into a spice chickpea curry and it worked beautifully in there too. We always save our own fennel seeds and the flavour is indescribable in comparison to store bought. In all honesty I have never managed to grow a fennel bulb but I’m great at growing seeds!

I’m adding the recipe to the post today I’ve found the blog is a great way for me to find my favorite recipes each season when it’s time to go back to them!

Apple and Fennel Chutney

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 kg  Apples
  • 2 large Onions
  • 3 Garlic Cloves
  • 50 g fresh Ginger
  • 1 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar ( or white if that’s what you have)
  • 2 Cups sugar
  • Juice and Zest from 1/2 Lemon
  • 1-2 tsp Dried Chili Flakes
  • 2 tsp Fennel Seeds
  • 1 stick Cinnamon
  • 1 Star Anise
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1.  Peel and core the apples I use a slinky apple peeler then just check them in and bash them with the spoon as they cook
  2. Dice the onions
  3. Finely chop the garlic and ginger then wack everything into the pot
  4. Slowly bring to the boil stirring every now and then to make sure sugar dissolves and flavours mix
  5. Simmer until very thick but don’t let the apples dissolve into sauce.
  6. Pop into sterilised jars and process using your proffered method and store in a dark and cool place it should last 2 years if processed and stored correctly.