Monthly Archives: April 2014

Vegie Garden Update

We had some wonderful WONDERFUL rain last week.  It wasn’t a lot, only 17 mm, nearly 3/4 inch for those not up with metric.  But regardless, it is AMAZING how quickly the paddocks are greening up.

It has also given the vegie garden a real boost.  I haven’t been out there a lot lately, just a quick check every now and again, to make sure no critters are eating it to pieces and to pick some tomatoes or strawbs.

This is one corner which as quite a few of my autumn vegies.

Vegetable garden photo

I am still picking quite a few tomatoes, and I literally have hundreds that are still green.  I may be making green tomato pickles yet – still hoping they might turn red though, so holding out as long as I can.  I am picking celery and lots of baby spinach.  I have stolen a few potatoes out from under the plants, leaving the smaller ones to grow bigger hopefully.

In other corners of the garden I have my brassicas.  The brussel sprouts and broccoli are healthy, in fact I have a couple of broccoli heads nearly ready for picking.  The brussel sprouts are still a long way off.  My cauliflowers are recovering after a bout of being attacked by aphids.

Broccoli photo

 

The pumpkins are still ripening nicely.  I have butternuts and another one which I think is a type of Queensland blue.  The Queensland Blue’s are enormous, as you can see in the shot below….

Pumpkin photo

 

I also have some peas germinating and even the odd spear of asparagus still popping up.

asparagus and peas photo

 

There’s lots of jobs I want to get done over the easter long weekend.  Some of my peas have been eaten off by snails – hence the snail bait I’ve sprinkled around, so I want to plant some more to fill in the gaps.

I also want to spread a lot more mulch around before the soil starts cooling down too much.

There is a bit   a lot of weeding to be done after the rain.

Finally, I want to have a go at over wintering some of my capsicum plants in the glass house.  They were very slow this year, and most of the bushes still have little green fruit on them, which I’m pretty sure won’t ripen before the frosts come.  So I thought I would have a go at digging them up, and putting them in pots, and moving them indoors, with the hope that I might be able to encourage those little ones to grow and turn red.  I haven’t done it before, so we’ll see how it goes.

 

We also want to do a bit of wood collecting.  We have lots of fallen branches around the farm, and my sister and her family are coming over from Adelaide for a few days over easter.  Many hands for carting logs!!  Ha ha.

Hope you all have a wonderful Happy Easter, and a productive one too, if that is what you are aiming for!

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Our Lunar Eclipse – or lack of!

Unfortunatly we had a massive cloud bank block the early stages of the Lunar Eclipse.  We had set our alarm for 6pm (that was when the moon was supposed to rise for us here in Western Victoria) so we wouldn’t miss it.  The kids and I traipsed up the hill, with the binoculars and the camera, only to be confronted with grey, grey skies in the east.

At about 7pm I was able to get this shot, which I was still pretty happy with.

Lunar Eclipse Photo

Earlier in the evening we did have a pretty impressive sunset in the west.  Our old tractor and a big gum were silhouetted quite nicely.

Lunar Eclipse 02

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Rabbit Run!

Last Easter we bought Danny a rabbit.  Archie already had fish (that’s a WHOLE long story for another day!!), and Jasmine had claimed the cats, so Danny thought he needed a pet too.  Being Easter, of course it had to be a rabbit.  My previous experience with rabbits was that they grew so big, with such powerful back legs, that kids couldn’t really handle the adults rabbits.  So I looked into the different breeds, and we decided on a dwarf lop.  They only grow to about half the size of other breeds, and their floppy ears make them very cute!!

So meet Coco!

Boy and His rabbit photo

This was Coco last Easter. Danny Looooved him!!

Anyway needless to say, he still grew up, and although he is still not as big as other breeds he still has very powerful back legs, and as such was getting less and less cuddles.  His cage is not terribly big, and we thought that so we could still enjoy him we would build him a run on the back porch that we could carry him out to regularly.  So yesterday Danny and I brainstormed and we came up with some wire panels, covered in chicken wire, that are attached together with cable ties.  The advantage of this is that it is easily dismantled and put up again, so that we can put the run away in between uses.

boy and his rabbit photo

Here is the result.  Its not exactly pretty, but it is very practical.  An added benefit of using connected panels is that we can change the shape of the run.  Some days we can make it long and thin, other days it could be wide and round, and today, we made it go round a corner, so half could be on the grass and half on the bricks.

Rabbit photo

Shed Cat thought it was very interesting, and spent a good half hour following Coco up and down the run.   But before too long, they were both ready for a nap.

We are hoping that by having most of the run on the bricks we might wear down Coco’s back toenails a bit……We’ll see!

He seems really happy with his run, enjoying the ability to really have a good hoppity hop!  A perfect Easter Present for a Hoppity Rabbit!

Categories: DIY Projects, Lifestyle, The Menagerie | Leave a comment

5 Ways to know if you are cut out for rural living……

It sounds idealic – eating fresh food you’ve produced yourself, looking over green paddocks, setting your own time table, maybe even slowing down your lifestyle a bit….. And it certainly can be like this, but there are times when things fall in a heap, and you wonder if all the hard work is worth it. If your living in the city and contemplating a “tree-change” here’s a few points to keep in mind!

1. Can you Cope with Mother Nature’s Unpredictability?

This is by far our biggest challenge every year. We do all our planning at the start of the year, working out what crops to grow, estimating how many calves and lambs we will get, what vegies should be planted and when. Then we reassess, and reassess – repeatedly through out the year. Rainfall is our biggest limiting factor. The first three years we were here were drought years – the dams dried up, and we purchased an absurd amount of stock feed. At the end of the third year, Cam decided to pay an excavator to come and clean out our dams, and deepen them. I remember having the discussion that I thought this was crazy, to deepen the dams, “It never rains!” Well of course in year 4 we had so much summer rainfall that our dams were all over flowing, to the point where the paddocks were flooded and our road was cut off to the north and south! Our crops were completely wiped out! Luckily the house is up on a hill!

Dry paddock photo

This is how our front paddock looks today!

2. Do you mind critters?

I’m not just talking about the little caterpillars that eat your baby broccoli plants – the critters here come in all shapes and sizes! The first wet year we were here absolutely over run with mice! Pick up a log, or piece of tin, and likely 30-50 would run out. Any bags of seed were eaten through in no time, and our sheds smelled horrific. My dad purchased 15 mousetraps, and was emptying them twice a day. We are very lucky that our house is mouse proof, but our previous house wasn’t, and we even had to transfer all our pantry goods into solid plastic containers!

Then there’s the spiders! We have a log fire place, which I love, but bringing wood inside means bringing spiders inside. Thankfully no one in the family is too worried about them, and quite enjoy seeing a big huntsmen on the wall (thinking about the flies and mossies he’s hopefully catching). Its when we have guests and they suddenly look up to find one at eye level, less than a metre away – my sister in law, in particular, doesn’t cope will with that – we’ve heard her screams from the other end of the farm!

Stumpy tail lizard photoWe also have lizards – not just little drop tail skinks, but gorgeous big stumpy tailed lizards. They can give you quite a fright if you are reaching into the strawberry patch, and you see this large scaly body move. More than once, I’ve jumped half a metre in the air, thinking it was a snake! We are lucky that we have only seen one snake within the house yard, and it was tiny – but certainly other families around here have seen plenty.

3. Are you afraid of hard work?

Look, to be honest you can make country life has hard or as easy as you like. We try and be as self sufficient as we can, in that we like to grow as much of our our own fruit and veggies as we can, our own meat and milk. This all takes time and quite often a fair bit of physical labour. There’s bags to be hauled, hay to be carted, work in the shearing shed a couple of times a year, where you are on your feet ALL DAY! The vegie garden takes a lot of digging, weeding, watering. Not to mention the extra washing from all the mud (or dust in our case!). Obviously we can’t supply all our vegie’s and fruit year-round, but we try to grow enough so that we can preserve as much as possible to see us through the winter, when the garden is not very productive. Preserving takes time and energy!

Most country homes also have a log fire. When I was pregnant with Jaz, it was over summer and we were sweltering, and decided to bite the bullet and put in a split system. We can use this as a heater, but a) it is EXPENSIVE to run, and b) it is no where near as efficient as the fire. I can have the split system heating running all day, and still feel cold. Then around 4pm, when I am sick of it (or when the boys are home from school to collect some wood for me…) we light the fire, and with half and hour the house is warm. Hence we hardly use the electric heating.

4. Can you cope with slow internet and unreliable mobile service?

Ugh! I hate slow internet. Where we live we have no access to Cable or ADSL – we rely on Wireless broadband. It is more expensive and less reliable. It is dependant on things like line of sight to your nearest tower, distance, and localised interference. Most of the time, ours is okay, we live on a hill so our line of sight is good. However it slows down at night, and also seems to on bad weather days.

Again living on a hill means our mobile service is very good, however we don’t have to drive far in any direction for it to drop out completely. I guess I’m use to it, and I know where the black spots are, but I know it is frustrating for our city visitors.

5. Are you (and your family) prepared to be flexible?

Because of all the reasons listed above, flexibility is paramount when you live in the country. Take yesterday for example. I was due to take my eldest son, and his friend from school to footy training in town. They had rushed in from the bus to grab something to eat and get changed into their footy clothes, giving us about 2 minutes spare before it was time to go. I head out into the living room after changing out of my farm clothes, into something respectable enough for public, and this sight awaits me!

 

20140404-160550.jpg

 

I know what you’re thinking – she needs to be flexible and make time to clean her windows – but I was actually thinking “holy heck! There’s a bull on the lawn”

Suddenly I had to race out, get him back to his paddock and work out how he got out so he doesn’t do it again. Luckily he had just got out through the small gate we use to get up to the sheds, so after hunting him back through, tying some twine around it to stop him bumping it open again, we headed off to training, and were only about 10 minutes late.

Flexibility comes into play on a daily basis.  You plan your day, and then realise the sheep are out of water, and suddenly you need to stop everything, to go and pump some water.  You think you have 10 young cows to sell, but when the truck arrives, two escape, and only 8 make it onto the truck – less income.  You plant three rows of sweet corn, and then two days after they germinate, a chook finds its way into the vegie garden, and chews every second plant down to the ground, and suddenly you’re replanting.  Just some examples from the last few months!

So how did you go, are you cut out for rural living?

 

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Bottling Tomatoes

Well finally I’m getting some significant tomato harvest – I was so sure they wouldn’t ripen in time, as the whole vegie garden has been very slow this year.  But I have managed to pick a few good handfuls each day for the last week or so, and they’ve been steadily accumulating.  Besides tomato sauce, the main way our household uses tomatoes is as tinned tomatoes in casseroles, pasta sauces, etc – so I always try to preserve as many as I can to use in this way through out the year.  And considering that I have already made my sauce for this year, from bought tomatoes, any that come in from now on will be preserved in jars.  When doing this I literally just quarter the tomatoes (removing any bad bits), push them into the jars quite tightly, drop a garlic clove or two on top, and fill with water.

Then I process them in a water bath for about an hour.

Bottled tomatoes canned tomatoes

 

I have also made a couple of batches of semi dried tomatoes.

Semi-dried tomatoes photo

 

Balancing Rock Farm Semi-Dried Tomatoes

Quarter tomatoes, removing any bad bits

Put in a bowl, with a bunch of chopped basil and/or oregano, and as much garlic as you like.  Add enough olive oil to coat the tomatoes.

Lay in single file on a baking tray, and place in a cool oven for up to 8 hours.

Once the tomatoes have dried down to your liking (I like mine to still be a bit juicy, but slightly crispy on the outside), pack into a sterilised jar, and cover with olive oil.

Refrigerate for up to 1 month.  Delicious on toast in the mornings, or tossed through freshly cooked pasta.

 

They smell so good they may not make it to the jar!  Enjoy!

Categories: Cooking and Preserving, Home Grown | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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