Poppy’s Day Out

Butter wouldn’t melt in its mouth, right? This dear little Poppy puppy of ours. “Not a nasty bone in her body” says I to the dog groomer a couple of days ago when I dropped her off for a hair cut.

Last time she was groomed (elsewhere) she was just very nervous, so much so she needed to be anaesthetised.

The groomer this time was wonderful and had no trouble with her at all UNTIL she touched her chin. Poor lady ended up with two bleeding thumbs from severe nips delivered by this little “angel”.

I hope the look on her face here is one of shame, though I highly doubt it. Robert and I have ‘homework’ to do to get her used to being held by the chin for future visits.

She does look very cute now though, I must admit. Far better than the self-propelled mop head she resembled beforehand.


Catch-up time

So much has been happening that time has flown by, with no post entered here for several days at least – time for a catch-up of news from this little farm in the valley.

Many classes have been happening in the cooking school over the past week or so –  Preserves, Easy Cheese Making and the first run of Confectionery.  Daughter Stephanie conducts this class.

It’s the season to be thinking about celebratory sweet treats, and so lots were made – honeycomb, triple decker marshmallow, raspberry snowballs, toffee apples, nougat, many kinds of toffee, several kinds of taffy, peanut brittle, fruit jellies and so much more. It was great fun, as indeed we hope all the classes are here.


I’ve been preparing another book, due to be released next April – it will be called “A Kitchen in the Valley” and details are available on the HarperCollins/ABC Books website.  This hard cover book will contain lots of colourful photos.

The garden here is growing astronomically, though the lack of rain and wind is drying out the grass rather alarmingly.  The garden beds are pretty though.  I have implemented a system, perhaps a little unorthodox.

I’ve taken to ‘adopting’ poor forlorn plants sitting on reduced price trolleys at garden stores and hardware shops. Most of these specimens are unlabelled, and I like the mystery of what the plant might turn out to be.

I’d been going through a planting purple stage here recently and asked a young shop assistant if the sad little ground cover would (if it survived) produce lilac or mauve flowers.  “Oh yes” she said “Definitely!”  Well they actually turned out to be orange, but that’s ok, it’s a very pretty little plant. I’ve since been told it’s called Monkey Musk.

IMG_2851 A plant that was promised to be chocolate mint was in reality golden oregano, but it’s a nice green ground cover, edible even I expect, so that’s welcome to grow here for sure.


We take cuttings too, of agreeable people’s plants.  This has led to some wonderful carnations this year.  My Nan used to grow them, and even as a child I thought that they looked like they’d been painstakingly planted by some unseen hand. (The reason this photo is a bit off-centre as the wind’s blowing the carnation every which-way).


Dianthus are another surprise flower from the $2 trolley at a hardware store – what a show they make, and require very little attention.


I apply the mystery box of gardening to seed planting too.  I choose two or three packets of seeds and strew them out over the garden beds under the trees and wait to see what comes up.  This year Sweet Williams have thrived and are making a lovely show.


Last winter the snow took its toll on some of the shrubs here.  The two lovely acacias that sprawled alongside the front steps were among the casualties.  I replaced them with small lavender plants (still in the purple planting phase) and they are thriving.  Rather mysteriously tiny tomato plants keep appearing alongside them.  I then transplant them elsewhere in the garden.  (If you look closely, you can see one hiding under this lavender plant).


We have dozens and dozens of tomato plants now, between these and the great number Stephanie grew for us from seed that have been planted out in a specially prepared bed in the far paddock.  All-in-all it should be a good year for chutneys, sauces, dehydrating and bottling them all. Plus I do also want to try making my own tomato paste this year.

So, despite this random way of gardening (and the considerable amount of weeding that must be done very soon), it’s all looking quite attractive.

Our sheep were shorn a day or so ago too, an event unto itself, but that’s a story for another day.

Sheep Capers

The things you’d see when you don’t have a camera. Actually, just as well no-one did really. Doris the ewe and Ramekin the ram found a way to jump over the electric fence tonight. They’d been enjoying a sojourn under the trees for a couple of days, mowing down the grass for us.

First the ever-wilful Doris was out and unceremoniously sent back in, then Ramekin, then Doris again, with the other 3 sheep looking on and about to try the same caper. Obviously time to return them all to their paddock.

And so … back to the blessed lack of camera, there was Robert clapping his hands to herd them down through the gate. Usually they would obey, but tonight not. So out I ran to the rescue (in pyjamas) racing and waving like a mad thing with one small Maltese Schitzu and ginger Tom taking up the chase behind me.

Eventually one way or another we did succeed. The sheep were duly shut in but then stood bewildered at the gate wondering why they’d been treated in such an unseemly fashion. They are like a bunch of naughty children – too spoilt for their own (or own own) good.

Confectionery class

We’ve had so many wanting to book into the Confectionery class that we are considering running another, in view of the upcoming festive season.   Early December, date to be confirmed later today.

We have also set another date, with Easter in mind, for February 24th.

We’re taking bookings now.


Tough life here on the farm (not). Each day we are able to pick this much asparagus from our comparatively small garden.

Robert’s specialty dish, right alongside poached eggs on toast, is asparagus drizzled with melted butter and salt.  I have to admit, it is truly delicious

It’s such a luxury as we were never able to grow it successfully at Eaglehawk Neck.  Here it grows like a weed, loves the conditions it seems.  Works for us…


Fermentation Time

Attended a Fermentation workshop at Teros last evening, which I have to say was excellent. I’ve made sauerkraut before, but with whole cabbages mostly and that’s been fine. However, I’d had only limited success (at best) with shredded cabbage version. Now I know why, so shouldn’t have any issues for the future.

Sitting on the bench here now I have Sauerkraut, Kimchi and Kombucha – these you get to bring home from the workshop.

IMG_2794A bonus for the sheep here this morning was the large boxful of leftover cabbage leaves. A very nice breakfast indeed they thought.

IMG_2778IMG_2788IMG_2789Tom watched on while the chooks and ducks were fed, not too impressed as Poppy had managed to get through the gate and he considers this to be his territory. Tom looks after the chickens, never attempts to kill a baby chick, ever. I think that’s astounding given the fact that he was once feral.

IMG_2792Poppy and Truffles have their morning romp as usual. It looks like Truffles is getting the worst of it, but they play like this by the hour – Truffles actually seeks her out. It’s Poppy every time who ends up yelping from a strategically placed claw.

IMG_2781And so to work, a ton of editing to do. Dinner of spiced corned brisket bubbling away in the slow cooker, so hopefully all for today is under control.

Confectionery Class

We’ve had a lot of comments made lately about the desirability of a Sweets Making class. As Christmas is coming on apace and candy making season upon us, we would like to gauge what may suit people best by way of timing, as we are quite busy. Can you let us know if a weekend or mid-week class is preferable?

The class would include things like nougat, taffy, toffee (and toffee apples), coconut ice, basic chocolate skills, marshmallow,Turkish Delight, jellies, fudges and more.


Raspberry Infused Beer

Robert and I attended a beer and cider making workshop yesterday at Teros in Hobart. We learned the principles of beer and cider making so today, armed with such knowledge, we made a raspberry infused beer. It remains to be seen how well it turns out, we kind of ad-libbed here and there, but hopefully all will be good.  We will find out in about four weeks, by which time it should be ready to drink.


After the juice was strained off from the raspberries, it seemed a good idea to turn the remaining fruit pulp into jam, which worked a treat, maybe just a few more pips in each jar than usual. As you can see, no-one could ever accuse me of being a tidy cook.


A day of gardening besides, so much to do, so little time. However, sitting on the verandah at the end of the day with the aroma of a dinner of roast lemon and rosemary chicken in the oven, drinking a glass of red (for me), and homemade beer for Robert, it was well worth it.


We are so lucky here, with bore water to keep the garden green and growing so well. It’s like a little oasis. New chickens in the hen-house completes the picture. And yet ….. I have this empty arms feeling. I most definitely need some more animals to share this idyllic bit of earth. Robert has mentioned mini-goats. Anyone know the contact details of anyone in the Derwent Valley who has mini goats to spare?

Truffles the kitten

On a day dedicated to writing this and that, I have my constant companion Truffles sleeping behind the laptop. The poor little thing is jammed in amongst the general mess of untidy paperwork, tangled cords and empty coffee cups. She doesn’t seem to mind too much, sweet natured little cat.


Nona Rosa’s Bolognese

This recipe was another that was very popular from the ABC radio’s Jams and preserves talkback last Saturday.  I am very keen to try this dish.

Apparently the addition of milk tenderises the meat.

Nona Rosa’s Bolognese

Olive oil (splash of)

60g butter

1 onion, diced

1 stick celery, diced

1 carrot, diced

500g mince

300ml white wine

200ml milk

400g tin tomatoes

Pinch nutmeg

Salt and pepper

Heat the oil with the butter and then sauté the vegetables for a few minutes. Add the mince and cook until well broken up and changes colour, stirring often.

Add the white wine and cook until it has evaporated off, than stir in the milk, tomatoes and nutmeg ad salt and pepper to taste.

Barely simmer for 3 hours.