gardening, Homesteading, News

In the Garden

In the garden my stresses melt away. When the kids or I are feeling grumpy and start snapping at each other some time out in our oasis feeling the soil is always soothing. There is so much happening in our garden at the moment and I hope I don’t fall behind and miss out on this amazing weather we have been having. I’ve been watching the weather predictions and I fear another long drought may be on the way with El nino so I am even more conscious of preserving this seasons harvest in case next year we have more difficult times.

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I am doing a trial Ferment with the purple sprouting broccoli these will be used in salads as the weather gets warmer. I think I will also try and do some jars of Broccoli pickle as I’ve already frozen a bunch and I’m not sure we would really use it dehydrated.

I’ve decided for the rest of this post I’ll take you for a walk through our front garden. I’ve had a lot of friends say they are interested in gardening but aren’t sure where to start or always manage to kill everything. I’m by no means a expert in gardening but I have come a long way in the last 3 and a 1/2 years. I too used to kill things but a big factor in successful gardening it learning from mistakes and of course growing and nourishing!

Our first successful gardening attempt was with seedlings bought at the local market. This was a good starting point because really we just had to stick them in the ground in a sunny spot and water them everyday. We now grow everything from seed unless we want something established like a fruit or berry plant.

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^ These are my Nasturtium plants. These were planted by seed which I raised in mini greenhouses last summer they self seed and Miss N has been taking great care of them. They are by our front door and look lovely when full and flowered.

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On the other side of the path next to the Nasturtium I have a huge crop of apple mint (and some nettles) I’m planning on making some cordial with this Apple mint (Actually I’ve been planning this for 2 years!) In the next few weeks I will make a batch. We brought these roots with us from our old house in the Mountains and when we buy I will do the same and spread the seed!. Next to them I have some daisy and marigolds which I have just transplanted.

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^ As we don’t have recycling collection in our town we recycle our milk bottles  as mini green houses or clotches when I first transplant into the bigger beds or pots I pop one of these on for a few weeks to help the seedling survive the elements.

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Beans and Peas coming up we have some old fencing posts a friend gave us to help them climb.

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^This is my ” Transition house” a old bird cage partially covered in builders plastic but still so the plants get partially exposed to the outdoor temperature.

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Our Greenhouses the old covers got lost and damaged when we moved a few years ago. I have recently re-covered them in plastic and they are working wonderfully for raising our babies.

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Lilac flowers I am about to make a cordial out of these flowers and I can’t wait to taste it!

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^Radishes, Baby spinach, Borage and Daisy

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^Beetroot and silverbeet seedlings, Lemon Balm and Beetroots

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^Chammomile and Marigolds^

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^ Parsley, Chives and chard – Lettuce and rocket^

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^carrots and the beginning of my accidental chamomile lawn!^

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^Old storage boxes make great mini greenhouses for baby beet^

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The “Berry orchard” Blueberries, Logan, Black and red currants and a peach tree.

Well I hoped you enjoyed looking at our garden there’s plenty more happening out there I haven’t mentioned. Now I’m off to re-pot some seedlings 🙂

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.

Homesteading, News

Spring is in the air!

I’m excited! Although it’s been raining heavily and the house is leaking in multiple places there is something in the air. It is the promise of spring!

Before the rains started we had a gorgeous sunny and WARM day. I’m really not someone who enjoys the heat but it’s been brutally cold this winter and I can’t wait to start doing more in the garden and for the flowers to come into bloom. We can see the buds of the blossoms starting to show on the fruit trees and Dart our Silky X one of the first chicks we hatched has become a mother to 3 beautiful little chicks!

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One of the chicks was actually hatched by Orpie our Black Brahma but she only hatched two and as she is so large managed to squish one so we rescued the other little baby and gave her to Dart who happily adopted her. The first time Orpie hatched when we moved here two years ago she had 18 babies and didn’t lose a single one. Orpie was the best mother we had had but last year she manged to lose 4 to hungry magpies and then her daughter stole the other 3 from her and she was confused for weeks!. We are hoping to give her another chance later in the year if she goes broody again.

As well as the watching nature unfold we have set the incubator with Araucana and Gold laced Wyandottes 20 of which are developing and due in 2 weeks! We also have 6 duck eggs set but only 3 have developed so we are keeping our fingers crossed and will be setting another incubator soon. I am desperately hoping the quail will start laying soon they all seem very content running around and hardly ever fight which I was told to expect so I definitely think they are happy enough so hopefully once the weather warms up I will find a nice spotty egg to incubate and we will have some teeny tiny chicks!

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We have decided this spring/summer to do the Market thing properly and do at least two a month this should balance out well with my other work doing Dreadlocks. I’ve been busy making up batches of preserves to sell so far we have Zucchini pickle,  Yellow Plum & Vanilla bean Jam(Taste like apricots), Spicy Rhubarb BBQ sauce, Worcestershire Sauce, Cherry Plum Jam, Apple Paste, Mandarin Marmalade and I am tossing up if I should do a Cherry Plum cordial or Plum sweet and sour chilli sauce and Sweet chilli Sauce. We will also have a few baked goods as well and possibly offer our cordials by the cup when the weather is warmer. All the main ingredients in the preserves are sourced locally and I can’t wait for late spring when we can go foraging and picking around the area and local Orchards.

So although the rains have hit hard ( I’m not complaining just in case we don’t get any more!) it already feels warmer 🙂

gardening, Homesteading, News, Permaculture

Milk Bottle Greenhouse

The task at hand this week is to use all our old milk bottles we have been hoarding into a greenhouse – I’ll update this post with our progress once we start but for now sit back and enjoy the tale of how we came to the decision to do this.

Before we started milking Kisses moo we would go through a huge amount of milk probably about 6 litres a week and at this stage we were just two adults and a toddler (who seemed to consume the most!!)

As we are out of town we do not get town rubbish collection and instead have to take our rubbish to the dump. Recycling is free and we don’t create much “waste” the way we live but we dislike driving to the dump the amount we were creating milk bottle waste. I was feeling guilty looking at the ever growing pile of plastic bottles and started researching different ways I could recycle them at home.

I made a Plastic Bag holder such as this one

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not the prettiest but hey it does the job

I also made some watering cans like this one

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but that only took care of a few bottles. I needed something bigger and then I stumbled upon these!

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Ours won’t be as elaborate as these but it’s incredible what can be achieved using “rubbish”

We are planning on using a frame of a old broken greenhouse the type that you get cheaply from bunnings or ebay that come with the plastic cover. We will be using the milk bottles to build around this. My hope is that this should use all of our remaining plastic bottles as we no longer buy milk now we milk our Jersey.

Stay tuned for our progress!