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.

Homesteading, News, Preserving

From Doom to bloom -Rose syrup recipe

We’ve had a emotional few days here as our much loved Rhode island red passed away. For those who follow me on instagram you may have already seen the story this story but for the rest of you I’ll share again.

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Almost five and a half years ago Russell came into our lives by chance. We were living in the blue mountains and saw her walking along the road outside our house so we herded her into our very bushy overgrown yard. Unable to find her owner she lived in our yard for weeks while we fed her scraps and bonded with her. She would sit on Danes shoulder and wormed her way into our hearts.

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Eventually we converted a green house into a coop and got her some friends. She remembered she was a chicken and gave us eggs, taught us about broodiness on hens and hatched some babies thus our chicken addiction was born.
This addiction led to us to moving to Oberon in rural NSW so we could breed heritage chooks and then led to Dane studying and obtaining a cert IV in Permaculture through Tafe.
Russell taught us everything we know about chickens, gave us food and many wonderful memories. She really was a major instigator in our self suffiency journey and has cheated death many times. Russell was also the reason we brought 9 chooks from the mainland to Tasmania when we had originally planned on taking none. As we couldn’t bare the thought of leaving her we had hoped she would make it to the next chapter in our story when we buy our own land but all the recent rain and damp proved too much and it was with great sadness we said farewell yesterday morning. We converted her body into bio-char and have her stored so when we are in our own place we can buy her some fruit trees and she can be one with the earth. 

With all of this life must go on. We’ve welcomed new chicks, filled the greenhouse with seedlings, planted out lots of vegetables and been fermenting lots of the spinach and winter greens we were lucky to inherit when we moved here.
We are also lucky enough to have large amount of roses so I have been looking for ways to utilise this resource. I’m hoping at the end of the season to try and make my own rosehip oil but for now I’m experimenting with the petals. Lots have been dried for tea and later use but some I’ve been making into syrup.

The syrup is incredibly easy to make and I follow the same principles as making the fruit cordials or other herb syrups that I’ve shared in previous recipes.

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Rose Syrup

1 bucket of rose petals
2 litres of water
Sugar
3 lemons
Tartaric acid

Wash the rose petals and put them in a 5 litre food grade bucket
Boil the kettle and pour 2 litres of water over the roses.
Pop the lid on and allow to steep for 24-48 hours
After it has steeped cup measure while putting it into your large saucepan.You can strain the petals or leave them in and strain them at the end.
For every cup of liquid add 1 cup of sugar. Sometimes I do a few cups less and boil longer so experiment to your liking
Stir to dissolve sugar
Add lemon juice and bring to boil then simmer stirring occasionally until you reach desired syrup consistency. I like a thinner syrup as I use it to flavour drinks but if you want to make a dessert syrup simmer longer for a thicker syrup.
Once consistency is met add 1tsp tartaric acid stir and pour into your bottles.

Preserve using your preferred method. I pressure can as it uses less energy and gives me a longer shelf life but you can water bath can or store in the fridge for months without canning.

Enjoy 🙂

Homesteading, News

Birthday Blessings

We have been enjoying the cooler weather and a more relaxed time. There are still things to harvest and process as we get some light frosts but we are definitely enjoying the slower pace. The fire has been going which makes the house really hot but without it the icy air triggers my asthma. I’ve noticed little Mr Hunter Gatherer coughs too and I hope he hasn’t inherited my infliction.
May is a special month in our house as little Miss Forager had a 4th birthday.
We had a very low key celebration this year and I made a delicious Angel food cake decorated as the requested cat.
I’d never made Angel food cake before and it’s definitely a new favorite. Scrumptiously light and fluffy it’s a perfect match for my temperamental oven that will not bake a regular meringue and is a great way to use up egg whites.

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In the garden we have been busy planting out the brassicas and turning the pumpkin patch into a root vegetable patch. Mr Hunter Gatherer usually does the tilling and patch work but it’s been down to me and the kids this year to get it started. I’ve let the chooks in help loosen the top soil and will soon be planting turnips, mangelwurzal, salisfy, parsnip and a few Chinese cabbages.

The cold windy weather has had its challanges after the long summer but it’s been great to enjoy baking again and my sourdough starter is very happy to be nurtured after months of neglect.
We bake a big loaf twice a week and I’m getting better at making it lighter and fluffier. Our favorite flour is RYE so we’ve invested in a 20kg bag to keep us going.

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I’ve also been enjoying crocheting and have undertaken a huge project of a mermaid tail blanket for little miss forager. I’m loving how it’s turning out and now I’ve discovered the local wool shop has really good quality wool and is very affordable I think everyone in my family is destined to be given crochet items for pressies this year!

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In the chook yard we are enjoying a abundance of eggs again. Our young pullets have started to lay and we are very excited that our project of crossing Brahma with Araucana has produced not only gorgeous looking placid hens but also the goal of olive coloured eggs! This has always been one of our goals and we certainly feel accomplished. Now all I need to complete my ‘rainbow dozen’ is for the Maran hen to start laying her dark chocolate eggs.

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And last on the agenda is kisses moo. We have just changed the milking system as her milk was drying of. The calf was getting lots but us zero so we have switched to morning milking which is better for all of us. Seaweed is such a affectionate calf and let’s us pat him. He’s certainly inherited his mother’s temperament and it’s going to be a real challenge when it’s time to butcher him.

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Today we are considering mushroom adventures. The heavy rain last week and sunny weekend make it the perfect day for it and I really want to face my demons of the pickled mushrooms in Poland but I’ll save that story for next time.

In the meantime keep hunting gathering and foraging!

Fermenting, Homesteading, News, Preserving

This Week

This week I am focussing on preserving our harvest and abundance of local produce available. I’ll also be foraging lots as blackberries are everywhere and I’ve seen a few rouge Apple trees around. Kisses is going to calf any moment now (I know I know I’ve been saying this for ages) and I’d love to give her some buckets of Apple’s and molasses.

I’ve decided to empty out the freezer I’ve got so much fruit in there and as there will be even more available to freeze soon I feel it’s better to get it ready sooner rather than later.
My preserving list for this week is huge so tonight I’ve been making more Worcestershire sauce, elderflower cordial and dandelion syrup, plum bbq,mixed raspberry and blackberry jam and plain Blackberry jam .

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Earlier today we went and filled another two big buckets of blackberries and I started on 10litres of BlackBerry sparkling wine. I hope it’s as delicious as the raspberry wine was!

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I’m still drowning in squash so will pickle more of these and maybe experiment with some fermented vegetables.

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Dane has been enabling my chicken collection and brought me home these gorgeous salt and pepper shakers. Growing up I used to collect cows and they were always my favorite animal (still are!)but my cow collection disappeared in my late teens and early 20s. Perhaps if I’d paid more attention to my young selfs obsession with farm animals my path in life would have become apparent sooner. In any case now I’ve turned that obsession to rustic furniture and chicken paraphernalia.

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Now I must end my ramblings for today and get back to the task at hand!

*Edit * Everything is processed and canned now. I’ve cleaned up and cleaned down and am enjoying a relaxing drink before a shower and bed. We still need to be up at 6am to start the homestead chores.
I forgot to mention previously that this weekend is our regular market at Tarana. The following weekend we will be doing a new (for us) market in Bathurst called the riverside market. We’ve visited this market before and love it the only problem is it clashes with out local farmers market in Oberon. We weighed up the pros and cons and decided to try Bathurst. We don’t sell enough at the Oberon spending more than we made last market. The riverside market is shady and has play equipment we can take the kids too plus there is a amazing op shop (thrift store for my American followers) I do hope we sell more product there. Really I don’t care about the money although it’s all adding to our goal of buying our own farm but really I just love sharing my passion for food and preserving with people and I’m running out of storage space!!!!

Homesteading, News, Uncategorized

New Arrival Gypsy Love!

2016 is proving to be a very busy year with the days on the Calendar filling up already. We have visitors coming every week this month which is very exciting! We don’t often get the chance to get away these days as to homestead properly is a full on commitment. We don’t mind as we love our lifestyle but we also LOVE seeing people who have enriched our lives in the past and to be able to share our life with them now if only for a short time is something truly wonderful.

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On the 2nd we had our stall out our local Farmers Market it was quiet as was to be expected being the holidays but it was still a lovely day.  Sunday the rain came and it has been gray, cold and drizzling ever since but fortunately we have had a lovely little distraction in the form of a 7 week old German Shorthaired Pointer puppy who we have name Gypsy Love (Batwing)  – Originally Miss 3.5 wanted to name her Chocolate batwing but we agreed as a family on Gypsy. She is a lovely little bundle and we had done much research into what breed of dog we wanted. We did consider rescue but with all the chickens, cats and young children we wanted a breed who was a all round friendly farm dog.  The German Shorthaired Pointer is a high energy and highly intelligent breed who is often used as a birding or hunting dog. We won’t be training her on birds but we will consider rabbits.

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Although she is young we are starting training already and I will update her progress on this post as time passes. Right now we are doing simple things like keeping her on the lead while out the back with the chickens and making her walk behind us so she knows we are pack leaders.

We read a wonderful thread on Backyard chickens about a gentleman who trained his GSP to become a guardian dog with chickens. It’s a wonderful thread and we will be taking some tips from it for Gypsy. You can read it here.

http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/426408/planned-poultry-guarding-dog

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Day 1- We Picked Up Gypsy from Cowra and as soon as she was handed to me she snuggled into my neck and was so content. We drove home via Carcoar which is a beautiful little town in Central West NSW. Here we picnicked under a bridge and Gypsy did her business. I was very impressed she hasn’t had any accidents . We made it home for play and snuggles. She has a very calm personality and isn’t at all interested in the chickens or cats….YET! D slept with her in the spare bed day 1.

Day 2- We are onto toilet training  as soon as she wakes from naps she is taken outside to do her business. She sleeps through without accidents which is great. We have started simple training and will be buying treats to teach basic obedience. The hardest part is when the kids are grizzling and she wants to play with them. We have started putting her in her crate to sleep after we nurse her to sleep. I’m reminded of having a newborn baby!

Day 3- Dane slept in the spare room again and managed to get her into the crate for half the night. She had no accidents and did her business in the morning. We are very impressed. The cats are curious about her but are keeping their distance. Whiskie still hides under the bed but I’ve been spraying pheromones everywhere.  She has managed sit a few times with treat leading but her attention span is still scattered. Still no interest in the chickens. When she is out the back on the lead she is “working” so no running or play is allowed.

1 week in – Gypsy is still doing great. We’ve now seen her point twice once at the cow and once at the cat. She still isn’t that interested in them but we have corrected her a few times for chasing but she always stops when told which is a good sign. Today she is resting as it’s very hot and we just took her for her vaccines. It’s very important where we are to vaccinate as their is a particular virus Parvo that many dogs in the area die quickly from and we don’t want to risk it. Gypsy now sleeps the night in the crate and usually wakes up around 6am when the kids do. We will be changing her to our routine soon so she can accompany Dane on his morning chores and have her nap after.

I will keep updating this post as we progress 🙂

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Foraging, gardening, Homesteading, Preserving

Kale catch up!

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Spring is such a busy and beautiful time! We’ve had lots of lovely visitors and have been so so busy in the garden. I recently had a friend say to me “Do you ever get bored at home with the kids?” I had to giggle to myself! We always have so much to do that some days I long to be having a rest. At the moment our Kale is starting to go to seed and we need to get our patch ready for the Spring/Summer Vegie crop. I’m only just going to start sowing these today as frost is still a risk here until November!

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So back to the Kale wow do we ever have a lot! I really didn’t want it to go to waste (not that it ever does as the animals get our “waste”) So I’ve been googling and experimenting to develop some more products for market. I’ve nearly sold out of last seasons preserves and the freezer is now empty of fruit but I want to still be able to sell products where the base ingredient is either home grown or sourced locally from friends and local farms. I think it’s important to show case the wonderful area we live and also show people the variety of things you can do with a simple base ingredient.

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This brings me to Experiment 1. Fermented Kale Pesto at first I was thinking of just making a regular kale Pesto and canning it but the information on Canning pesto is a little vague some say it’s safe while others warn against due to the garlic content so I thought to be safe bottling and refrigeration as the best option. I stumbled across a recipe for fermented kale pesto and then had a chat with my fermenting guru Zoe from Warinyan farm and off I went with my experiment. One 5L bucket of Processed kale, local apples,balsamic caramelized onions, vinegar,orange, lemon balm, garlic and rosemary infused olive oil plus 5 days and YUM the experiment was a success! We ate ours with home made pasta and bottled the rest for sale. I’ve now started another batch of Garden Pesto and added some brassica leaves for a different depth of flavor.

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The other thing I am experimenting with is Kale powder. The kale is dehydrated and then crushed to a powder which can be added to smoothies, sauces or whatever takes your fancy. I used a Dehydrator at  55 degrees but you could also do it in a oven at a low temperature. I added a teaspoon to our pasta sauce the other day and YUM intense kale flavor so I think this is how I will process the remaining plants (we still haven’t managed to harvest it all!) I’m not yet sure if I will sell this but through my research i have actually discovered you can buy kale powder from health food shops so It’s something I will definitely consider.

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In Other news Our lovely mother of the year Straighty One eighty (aptly named as she is a Wyandotte with a straight comb) has hatched our 9 beautiful French wheaten maran chicks I am especially happy about this as this is the 4th lot of eggs we have had posted and the ONLY lot we have ever had success with. These ones came all the way across country from W.A so I’m very happy indeed! We have another lovely mumma due next week with our own Araucana and have set another 17 Gold laced Wyandotte eggs under our Black Brahma so we will have lots of new additions soon.

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On Friday Miss Nyah, Mr Banjo, Myself and the cats went for a walk around our garden and paddocks and collected Dandelions. Since last year I have been wanting to make Dandelion Syrup and Jelly. We foraged a big basket of Dandelions and made the Syrup which I have included the recipe for below. It is a little tedious but the result was surprisingly delicious and tasted just like Honey!!! I’m eager to try some on Pancakes and can’t wait to see peoples reactions to trying it at the market.

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Dandelion Syrup 

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Ingredients
  • As many dandelion flowers as you can pick (I had 3 cups)
  • 1 litre water
  • 2 – 3 cups sugar (or stevia or anything you prefer)
  • juice of half a lemon
Instructions
  1. Wash flowers then cup green bits off with scissors, cut off as close to the base as you can.
  2. Boil the kettle and pour all the water over the petals leave over night then strain with a muslin cloth
  3. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to steep overnight in a cool place. A cool counter or the fridge is ideal. Use the back of a spoon to squeeze out and extract as much liquid as possible.
  4. Return water to pot (or save in fridge/freezer until you get time for the next step), add sugar and lemon, and simmer on low heat for 1-1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  5. Check for desired consistency by dipping spoon into syrup, letting it cool a bit, then testing it with your finger.
  6. Bottle and store as desired -Canned in jars, pressure, waterbath or in plastic containers (3 months for plastic)

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Now I’m off outside to start our vegie seedlings and convert our old chook dome into a extra green house. I hope everyone enjoys their weekend and gets a chance to get out into the garden 🙂

Homesteading, News

Today

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Today I have been appreciating what we have. We are very lucky to be renting in such a beautiful spot where we have the freedom to pursue our homesteading and gardening goals without first seeking permission and I know many people would love to be in the position we are in right now.

Banjo is still sick but it’s a lovely warm sunny day and I don’t want to stay cooped up inside as Nyah is desperate to finish some of our projects we started in the garden. Thankfully one of the only places he will settle is on my back in the baby carrier so we are free to do our chores!

One of the projects we recently started is a raised bed made up of dead branches Dane pruned off a bush. They were sitting in a pile ready to go to the kindling basket when I had a brainwave to try and weave a garden bed out of them.

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It’s starting to take shape and it’s such a fun project to do with the kids as there’s many jobs involved that are easy for them to handle. This ones a bit chaotic but I plan to do some more around the garden and they are bound to improve. I hope to use this one for some of the medicinal herbs I’m starting so I can make my own tinctures.

After this we surveyed the havoc wreaked by the wild winds the night before. Sadly a few of my makeshift greenhouses had blown over and my seed pots all scattered about. We picked everything up and will replant some tomorrow. Nyah has been asking a lot recently to plant more carrots so we made a sandy little bed with her dutifully carting buckets from her sandpit. We have our fingers crossed  these ones won’t end up looking like mutants!

After this it was time to go in for a break and some lunch. I set Nyah up with some playdough and got stuck into making my own dough for bread and dinner rolls I didn’t use a recipe this time so I’m hoping I’ve done it right.

Back outside and we are checking all the chickens water and giving them some more food we’ve started feeding them less food but more frequently to try and cut down the wild birds as beautiful as they are they bring disease to our flock and tempt the cat (who we have now made catbibs)

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We talk about the beautiful blossoms and how we hope for lots of plums this year. Kisses is hanging around the fence so we let her in and give her some hay and a brush. Again I am struck by the beauty of this place.

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After our cuddles with Kisses we picked some Kale for the soup I will make for dinner where I will open my first pressure canned jar of homemade chicken stock. Now we are in for a well earned rest and later we will go back out check on all the animals and collect our eggs.