Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Here comes the light - winter solstice



I have never celebrated winter solstice before, I think because if it's ever advertised it's put forward as a pagan religious festival full of chants and spells. Winter solstice is the night when the earth turns back towards the sun for us southern hemisphereans and we experience the longest night of the year, but that means the light is coming back! 

A friend of mine was going to a solstice lantern walk on a property near where I live. Her two children had made lanterns and there were lots of families with different creations. An almost magical time was had of playing games about Jack Frost followed by quiet walking through the woods leading to a fire with lanterns strung around where stories were told and songs sung with the children before eating sun cakes and hot chocolates for all. 

A lovely night, so glad to have shared it. Do you or your family do anything to celebrate winter solstice?

Hannah :)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Chestnut, walnut and mushroom picking

There aren't a lot of pick your own farms near where I live, but every April the gates open to a small nut farm in sassafrass, about an hours drive towards nerriga. http://sassafrasnuts.com.au/ has a thousand chestnut trees of different varieties, and a few hundred walnuts.



You can drop in on weekends, but have to book for midweek visits. They have prepicked nuts that you can purchase too. 

There's something special about being outside on a brisk autumn day, under the lush green leaves, magical toadstools scattered around, picking fresh chestnuts, then taking them back to the picnic area where the owners have a fire going for you to roast straight away! 


 
A picnic with friends, sharing yummy food and working up an appetite!

Yet one of the most exciting things was the mushrooms, learning how to recognize and pick the edible varieties growing in the pine windbreak, and collecting a bag full to take home.

I would reccomend only picking mushrooms with an experienced guide to  make sure you avoid ending up in hospital.


Slippery jacks and saffron milk caps, aka pine mushrooms.... Pine mushrooms are orange with concentric circles on the top, and only need to be wiped with a damp cloth to prepare, 


Slippery jacks have a yellow flesh with a brown slightly slimy top, which has to be peeled before cooking.


Sautéed with butter and garlic in toast. My favourites were the pine mushrooms. I might have to go back after it rains next!

The rest are at home waiting for us to get home after church for dinner, with garlic, cream and braised rabbit ala Stephanie Alexander. Just have to chuck some nice pasta on...


Thursday, April 10, 2014

How to build a worm farm for almost nothing!


Hi blog people, 
This is me, relaxing on milkwood farm http://milkwood.net/ out near mudgee. Went with a friend who won a prize, very blessed to spend time out here under the stars, with like minded ppl, immersing ourselves in the world of vegetable growing and market gardening.




Spending time under here around the fire, and in the classroom too.


One of the things I learnt was that worm castings are an important ingredient in potting mix, and that worms will happily subsist on a diet of animal manure and coffee grinds... And already knew the worm liquid is amazing foliar spray - you dilute it and spray in leaves of plants...

At milkwood, their worm farms were made from old bathtubs raised on star pickets with some aggregate in the base, then a large piece of shadecloth over that, filled with all the worm food, the worms, and big enough that it can fold over the top to keep the worms shaded and moist.

The following week I headed out to our local tip which has a buy back centre. I came home with a pile of star pickets, a stainless steel industrial double sink and a garden kneeler for weeding for under $20!

Cleaned out under the rabbits, visited a local coffee shop for old grinds and a friend from permaculture who has worm farms was able to share some and hey presto - a worm farm for almost nothing :) a bucket under the drain collects the liquid, and the worms seemed to have fully settled in after a couple of weeks there!


Home sweet home!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Being tourists at home

The other weekend John and I went to Sydney, we had bought tickets to the lion king with my sister and enjoyed our nieces wonder and amazement at the giant animals on stage and the beautiful singing and show, 

We stayed with johns parents and went to church with them, then had tickets to the rugby, but first we thought we would be tourists in our own backyard, going to bare island fort, at la perouse, Sydney.


We had seen the fort whilst visiting la perouse for a swim on a recent Sydney visit and had seen that the fort was only open for tours on Sundays, so seeing as the game wasn't until four on that side of town it seemed the perfect opportunity.

Had a fish and chip lunch at lapa and then enjoyed a tour on the island hearing about this fort which whilst shoddily constructed by a dodgy firm and would have struggled withstand any direct hit, didn't see any wartime action, but has been much more useful as a watch point for vessels coming in and out of the harbour and has been used as a veterans home for a number of years. 

This gun was buried for years, until one of the vets told then where, basically right under where it is now, and a pool table was on top for the vets to use. I think it has the best view I've ever seen for a pool room!

Bare island fort.

Oh and the waratahs won so it all ended well too :)

Monday, February 17, 2014

A weekend of cheese

Had a wonderful weekend down the coast at a cheese making workshop in narooma. 

A makeshift cheese press

Communities of like minded people keep you excited about living slightly outside of the norm and this was no exception. Cheese making - at least outside of a factory/needing to earn a living variety - is an activity that takes a lot of time and yet not much time at all. The cheese making process lends itself to conversation as you wait for the starter or the rennet or the draining process to do its thing! There was ample opportunity to discuss all manner of interesting topics, mostly centred around food and gardens, meals shared together and even some time for me to take a long walk on the beach before going out for dinner with new friends. 

checking the rennet has set

Over two days we made eight cheeses including feta, haloumi and Paneer, as well as yoghurt and ricotta. These are cheeses we eat very regularly, and are not cheap. I had bought a cheese making kit recently from our local amazing hardware store but had been hesitant to make some probably for fear of totally stuff it up and waste a whole lot of milk :)

It was reassuring to see how forgiving the process was, so long as everything is sterilized, you dont overheat the starter and you have good quality ingredients. 

Now looking forward to the advanced weekend later in the year when we learn to make cheddar, mozzarella and Camembert! 

A book that another course attendee had which was reccomended by our teacher Geoff Southam 

Anyone on the south coast interested in attending they have other dates for the same course at ecotel narooma - or find it on the website for small farms network
http://www.smallfarms.net.au/UpComingEvents.html

Now to eat all the samples I brought home and then decide which one to make first :)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Off to the show

Well, for my veges, not me :)

I have entered some of my produce in the local agricultural show, also some crochet, some pottery and a kasundi sauce I made the other week.

A collection of herbs - no flowers allowed

While I love doing this and showing what can be grown in a small suburban garden, I experience a huge frustration when I go and them get told that I have presented things wrong. I get told i have failed by leaving one inch of rhubarb leaves not three inches, or am disqualified for having flowers in my collection of herbs - borage, which I grow specifically for its flowers which are amazing in salads.

Root veges must be presented with leaves attached
Cherry tomatoes in bunches
Zucchinis are less than 20cm long otherwise they are marrows
Herbs have no flowers
Rhubarb and silverbeet must be pulled away from the plant not cut, 
Pumpkins must have stems attached
Most specimens must be presented on plates, or in a shallow tray

Any other suggestions people are aware of???

After I explained my frustration and it leading to my not entering anything last year one of the stewards said he would take on the responsibility of drafting a guideline for presenting fruit and veg! They're going to put it on the web so I will post a link once it's up. 

Has anyone else grown fruit or veg for the show before?

This is the link to our local show http://www.nowrashow.org.au/ 

And our figs ripening in the sun :)


Happy gardening...
Hannah

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Content

This weekend was my old dads 60th :) I'm allowed to call him old now! We had a lovely weekend with a family dinner Friday night, a party yesterday and a trip to the beach with my aunts and cousins today along with my sisters, the kids and a stray husband or two. 


Honeymoon bay is seriously beautiful! And even though the wind was up as we drove in, it was magically calm and sunny in this sheltered bay. 

Snorkeling, sandcastle making, sharing afternoon tea, collecting shells, having water fights with my nephew. The things of summer!

Happy birthday to my dad, hope you too enjoyed this beautiful summers day xx