Strange Things on the Farm

There are strange things that happen here at times. You might recall that we were given an old ram; Ramekin I named him. His owner said he was no longer any good for breeding, but as I had been so fond of him when he’d visited on occasion, he could now come to us for his forever home, to live out his days.

Now this suited me perfectly. I loathe lambing season, and am devastated when one lamb occasionally doesn’t make it.

And so Ramekin was perfect. No lambs last year at all. Generally, he has been looking better. His limp is almost gone, his wool much improved and he has become quite fat.

HOWEVER, on the coldest, frostiest morning yesterday, this is the sight that greeted us – a ewe with a brand new lamb. I feared that it would die from the cold, but it looks in good condition and feeding well.

IMG_1943It’s been interesting to watch in a way. Puppy Poppy was puzzled and stood on the rock wall (behind the electric fence) and barked and barked at the new arrival. There’s no way she can get near it.  The sheep, with the notable exception of Ramekin, instantly huddled around the lamb as if to protect it.

In the paddock keeping the sheep company is an old brown possum. We caught him once when we borrowed a (humane) possum trap from a friend, when we were trying to ascertain who was the marauder of the rhubarb. He just sat there in the trap, quite unperturbed. He has only one eye and the other is failing, though not infected.

What can you do? We let him out, down by one of our trees. I asked the vet about him and they said he is ok, and will just fend for himself in this safe environment here. He must be almost blind, because he comes out in the daytime, digging corbi grubs from the paddocks. At night he feeds on the rhubarb patch or shrubs.

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I love to watch the animals here, and getting back to the sheep – I am now wondering if the other ewes are just fat as I had assumed, or are there more babies on the way?

Meantime, I’m having fun with my ‘freezer garden’, next best thing to making jams from fresh produce in summer. Gooseberry jam now made, apricot so far today, then blackberry in a few minutes, and redcurrant with raspberry later this afternoon.

IMG_1945IMG_1947Not a bad place to be on a cold wintry day, though Poppy and Rose are not too keen on getting their feet wet in the sodden paddocks. They would rather watch Robert pruning the trees in the orchard from the front verandah poor babies.

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Pet Treats recipe

Now, speaking of pets as I was earlier, you might recall that I posted about the little biscuity treats I make for ours. Although this will be coming out in a book early next year, I now have permission to share it anyway.

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Dogs, cats and even people like them, truly. After all, they contain all good ingredients, supposing you like liverwurst, which I most certainly don’t.

A final word on pets – naturally ours are all inside dozing in their spot of choice for a rainy day. In the top of some shelves we have placed two cat beds, and a carpeted post for them to climb up to reach there.

It’s old Tom’s favourite spot, but he won’t sleep inside the bed, only on top of it- he’s pushed it down to suit. Here he is laid out in style, on his back with only back feet and tip of tail visible. Should either of the other cats try to climb up there, woe betide them – they get a hook claw come over the edge to welcome them, a pretty effective deterrent.

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And so to that recipe…

Pet Treats (for dogs or cats)

1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons vegetable or rice bran oil
1¼ cups plain flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
¾ cup cornmeal (polenta)
½ cup chicken stock
100g liverwurst
60g finely grated pumpkin

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line 2 biscuit baking trays with baking paper.

Mix all ingredients together well, adding a little water if need be to bring the mixture together.

Turn the dough out on lightly floured surface & knead briefly. Roll out to 8mm thickness.

With a small cookie cutter, stamp out biscuit shapes. Place on prepared trays.

Bake for 15 minutes or until firm. Cool on wire racks. Repeat with remaining dough.

Store the treats in an airtight container in the fridge.

From My Freezer Garden

It was high time to visit my freezer “garden”. The stall at the gate was getting low on preserves and the freezer full to overflowing.

The cooking school was in great need of a tidy, and I think making jam always lightens any task. Combining the two would balance things out.

By the time the jam was cooked, the tidying was done, and indeed the cleaning didn’t seem nearly so bad with the aroma of the jam filling the kitchen. Is there any fragrance quite so good as raspberry jam in the making? I sincerely doubt it.

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So now there are fresh, still-warm jars of raspberry jam on the stall at our gate. Should the jars seem smaller than usual if you come to purchase one, they still contain the regular amount (250ml), just different shaped jars.

If the jam is all gone when you arrive, simply ring the phone number on the sign at the gate. There’s plenty more jars in the school that I can bring out for you.
I have plans for Sunday – gooseberry jam. I have loads of fruit in the freezer still. It means frozen fingers of course in the topping and tailing on Saturday night, but the jam always warrants the effort.
I wonder what else I’ll find in the depths of the freezer – redcurrants I know, and apricots. There’s my recreation sorted then for the next few days.

Our Rose

Books were threatening to overtake the house, covering tables and work surfaces everywhere. We decided it was time to buy a couple of small bookcases for the lounge room.

It has worked really well, especially for Rosie, our middle cat. She is a dear little thing, friendly and lovely to all except Truffles the kitten, whose presence she has always taken great exception to, and she never misses an opportunity to harass her.

She is devoted to Robert, in fact we call her his ‘other dog’, and this is why, I think, she loves her new perch so much. It is next to his chair so she can climb down onto his lap anytime. We’ve bought a little carpet mat to sit on top of the bookshelf for her extra comfort.

She never sleeps anywhere else now, except at night on the bed of course, and has even stopped chasing Truffles. Strange how a solution to a nasty ongoing battle can come from the most unexpected places. Funny little cat.

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Time for Medlar-ing

A couple of days ago we had a neighbour call in with some medlars for the bletting, wonderful! They are ‘finishing their time’ in a box of straw in the shed. It won’t be long before they are steeped in vodka and sugar to make this year’s supply of medlar liqueur.

IMG_1918Next day our neighbour returned with medlar ‘cheese’. He removes all the pips from the ripe and bletted medlars (no small task), mixes the pulp up, places it in a tray and sets it in the fridge. He then cuts it into bars that he freezes, to serve as part of a cheese platter.

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We only had a little actual cheese, but a good one, so matched it straight away to the bar of medlar cheese he’d brought us. Wow. No more to say, it’s amazing! Think I’ll need to keep back some of the medlars for this purpose.

Meanwhile, our ‘feathered ladies’ have been busy laying a huge supply of eggs. Time to make ice cream then.

Believe it or not, the photo is of vanilla ice cream, just churned. No artificial colours here. The bright yellow custard is courtesy of the egg yolks provided by those ladies.

IMG_1919Robert is a big fan of custard of any kind, ice cream as well, so he was the first to sample it. Poppy the Puppy thought it looked quite good also, but didn’t get so much as a lick, poor darling.

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The Snow Returns

Snow!

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We had been told that last year was exceptional, that snow hadn’t settled on our property for 30 years.

In scenes reminiscent of last winter, it’s showing every sign of sticking around for an hour or two yet, hopefully more.

The sun is trying to break through, but so far the snow is keeping the upper hand.
Obviously Herman’s ‘hat’ was finished just in the nick of time….

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Treat Time for Household Pets

So Poppy’s treats jar was empty and given the weather, it’s a good day for baking. I decided to make a double batch of the little dog biscuits she likes so much.

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Two hours later and the task is finally finished. It seems, and I know I actually did, cut out hundreds of them – felt more like thousands.

IMG_1897It’s not only Poppy Puppy who loves these treats. Not long after I started baking, their savoury aroma filled the house.

Rosie, the fat cat of large appetite, then hung about at my feet with Poppy, waiting for the first of the biscuits to come from the oven.

IMG_1899IMG_1900She is a terrible mischief this cat. She ate one or two of the treats, then kept one just under her nose. Poppy who gobbled hers in a flash, thought she might help herself to that last one of Rosie’s.

You can see the stand-off that ensued.

IMG_1902Rosie soon delivered a couple of claws-out swipes to the side of Poppy’s head and then gobbled them up in front of her.

Old Tom, settled in his bean bag because of the rain, is very partial to the biscuits too – though he prefers to have them hand delivered to wherever he happens to be resting.

IMG_1903Even sleepy kitten Truffles disturbed her snooze to sample one or two.

IMG_1904Just another day in the household of pampered pets. I hope that liverwurst is good for the skin – I used two packets in the mixture. If so, my hands should be good for a while.

A Hat for Herman

Herman the Bread Oven is getting a roof over his head, to serve as protection from the rain, frost and snow, to keep ‘him’ in optimum condition.

IMG_1892Robert has been hard at work for days now.  The timber from the old rickety and as it turned out, unsafe, carport that stood in front is gone, repurposed for the greater good to form part of the framing for Herman’s roof.

Yesterday son-in-law Nat came to give a hand, so with two working for the cause, even greater progress has been made.

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Robert has risked life and limb back on the roof this morning, anxious to seal the gaps before the forecast bad weather strikes.  And just in the nick of time – here comes the rain …..

We now are confident that this wonderful oven will keep on baking as well as it has so far, for many years to come.

Feathered ladies, take a bow

A salute to these celebrated feathered ladies of our property. This is how they wait each afternoon for Robert to take them their top-up of grain before bedtime, to keep them warm during the cold winter nights.

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Some might consider them demanding as they wait and pace under my study window, but I am happy to say that I have only had to buy one dozen eggs from the supermarket this whole year past. I think that’s pretty good going considering how many eggs get used in cooking here.

They are especially fond of their breakfast, with vegetable scraps cooked up into a mash overnight on the old wood stove, then mixed with dripping or leftover vegetable or olive oil plus bran and wheat next boring. Served warm of course.

They are cunning too – quite intelligent it seems. Two of the mother hens know that we collect eggs of course, so they lay their eggs just over the fence. When the resulting chicks are hatched and still just small enough to fit through the holes in the chicken wire boundary fence, they bring them back home, occasionally more than a dozen at a time.

They must sense that their babies are too cute to cull.

Is it worth all the feed and effort? Well, that one dozen commercial free range eggs I bought were partially used in the cakes Charly and I baked last weekend.

The top layer of the Victoria Sponge, as I hope can be seen in the photo, was much lighter, made as it was from the commercial eggs. The vibrant yellow bottom section was made with our own chooks’ eggs.

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So this is why these lovely feathered girls are so pampered – for the colour, flavour and quality of the eggs they unfailingly provide us with each day.

Preserving Jar bread’s keeping factor

Had a phone call from the lovely Jessie from Paradise, the original source of this method, who solved the question of how long the preserving jar bread will keep without spoiling. She told me that the bread will keep for 10 to 14 days. During this time she keeps the jars in the fridge.

Sounds good to me, having more than a week’s supply of bread ready to hand.

It is so delicious toasted too by the way – just the right size to serve nice runny-yolked poached egg on top.