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Friday, August 30, 2013

No Progress on the Tomato Bed

Just never got back to the Tomato Bed. The mulch hay is all stacked by the bed ready to lay out but it didn't happen.

First job of the day was to go to Woodville and pick up two large square bales of Ryegrass silage for the cows and calves across the river who have finished all the good green feed. Wanted to make sure they got the very best quality feed until the irrigated paddocks are ready to be fed off. The boss was happy to fork out the $66/bale to tide them over. The most advanced paddocks will be ready in a week or two. Arrangements have been made to collect more high quality silage from an ex dairy farmer at Alison.

We also contacted a Singleton farmer who has some small Lucerne bales which we will pick up next week for our own three cattle. There is a suspicion that this Spring and Summer will be a bit lean and a small stockpile of emergency feed won't hurt. Although our three are only there for grass control we have an obligation to maintain their healthy condition and happiness. Locally hay is $15+ per bale while at Singleton it is $11.

While we were both there we finished off a few jobs like harrowing the weaner paddock which had been sown to oats and setting up the irrigator. There is hope that it will come back again and provide either another feed or be slashed and disc harrowed into the soil. The weaners will have to be content with silage and a little less lush green feed. There was a bit more fireweed to clean up and silage feeders to move around. The ryegrass silage is really soft and lush and the cows are enjoying it much more than the Kikuyu silage.

The repaired whipper snipper performed well. A little vibration from the straightened shaft but otherwise all OK. That's $200-$300 back in the bank account.

Eight girls have still not calved and at least one of those doesn't look in calf. Just so it looked like we were making forward progress and not just marking time we finished dismantling a long run of fencing that is being replaced. Only the ends of this run will have a permanent fence. The central 150 metres will be plastic pigtails and polywire which can be rolled up to enable a different configuration when feeding off and when used to grow silage it can be taken out of the way of the machinery.

Didn't get home until after 3pm and needed to go to Dungog to fuel up the work vehicle and drop off some due library books. One last swing past the farm to check on the irrigator and it was 5 pm and time to complete the evening chores. Two things that fell by the wayside were the morning coffee and lunch. Some days are like that.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Getting Ready for Spring Part 3

At the current rate of progress "Getting Ready for Spring" will go to "Part 10". Has everyone experienced one of those days where everything seems to go wrong? A little mistake and the day becomes lost to recovery jobs.

It all started over the river early in the morning.  Down on the flats amongst the poplars the RTV is being used to drag the 100 metre long irrigation hose into its new location. Just squeezing past a poplar at a very slow speed and BANG! Stopped to look behind and there is the whipper snipper with a bend in the non flexible shaft. It looks like a deformed banana. The whipper snipper was sitting in the tray of the farm's RTV leftover from being used the day before. Couldn't be bothered to take it out. Finished setting up the irrigator and popped over to see the local machinery repair man. Can't be straightened, go buy a new shaft. Telephoned dealer, $200 for the bottom half of the shaft and another $150 if you need to replace the top half. New whipper snipper $600.

Down to the workshop. The top half is only slightly bent. Start there. Pull out the inner drive shaft it is  OK. Slowly manipulate the hollow tube outer shaft using a pipe jig and it looks OK. So now the damage is only going to be $200. Well why not give it a go. Carefully bring the lower section into a smaller arc, just enough to be able to remove the inner drive shaft. 30 minutes later the lower tube is reasonably straight. Not great but probably good enough. The inner drive shaft receives some panel beating and it is close to straight. Reassemble everything and test. Works! A little bit of heat being generated by the friction of the not so perfectly straight components but may work long enough for some else (i.e. The Boss) to blow up the engine and negate having to fork out $200 for own stupidity. Will let him know there is money set aside for repairs should this patch up job fail the longevity test.

Just loading the whole thing back into the farm ute and notice a slight arc in the assembled shaft. Mmmmmh I'll just put it on the ground upside down and gently put my weight in the centre and force the arc out. Might reduce the friction. SNAP! the plastic handle disintegrates.

Fortunately there is an identical  handle in the shed from a long dead whipper snipper. Saved.

And then it's onto working on the Tomato bed. Its only 1.30pm.

Cleaned out one side of the chook pen resulting in a trailer load of sawdusty chicken litter. Just enough to put a decent layer over the cow manure. By 4.30 have brought up 20 bales of mulch hay ready to cover the bed. Well progress not too bad, not as good as hoped but it'll do. Off to move the irrigator for its night run.

A little tip: If you look closely at the photograph the trailer is connected to the slasher by having a tow bar on the slasher. This is a bit like a road train and needs plenty of room to turn but it's a quick way of moving the trailer about without continually taking off the slasher. Just a note of caution: if the trailer is fully loaded with heavy material it exerts a lot of push on the small tractor when moving down hill and can push the back of the tractor side ways.

Chicken Litter

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Getting Ready for Spring Part 2

Making great progress on the Tomato bed. All the irrigation pipework has been dismantled and put to one side. The weed mat has been pulled up. A difficult job with so much grass growing through any available hole. The weed mat is getting quite old and each year more holes appear. About half of the sections of weed mat has been cleaned of vegetation. It is a slow, difficult but necessary task to be completed before it can be laid down again in its new location.

The new section of paddock has been slashed and after some careful measuring the steel posts have been hammered in. The posts are 2.5 metres apart and will hold up the netting which will support the tomato plants. 2.5 metres is the furthest apart that will minimise sagging. A little closer may be better but requires more work on our 30 meter row. If the aging netting shows any sagging it can be propped up with a strategically placed stick. The row is 90 mm apart which is the width of the netting.

Also completed was the moving of the cow manure compost into the row. The manure was well broken down and is rich and fluffy.
The concrete block compost bin

Composted cow manure

The task is made so much easier with the tractor. The scoop on the front end loader holds exactly the right amount for each 2.5 metre panel. A coincidence which means no shovelling is required. Once all the scoops were deposited the compost was spread out evenly between the steel posts.

An invaluable tool for the small acreage

The 30 metre Tomato bed

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Getting ready for Spring

Moving into the last week of Winter means it's time to get ready for planting the Spring vegetables in the temporary Spring/Summer bed. Mainly this is Tomato but also includes Eggplant, Capsicum, Corn, Okra, Rockmelon, Watermelon, Pumpkins, Bitter melon and Cucumber.

This temporary bed is built in the paddock on the hill and enclosed in an electric fence. The cow manure collected and stockpiled in a concrete block compost bin near the hayshed will be the first layer and then covered in broken down chicken litter and sawdust from the chook pen.

The cow manure was collected from the paddocks each week and dumped in the bin until it was full a couple of months ago. It has now been broken down by the compost worms and will provide a sweet layer for the plants in our rocky hill.

The sawdust in the chook pen was put in a year ago. It was back then about 150-200 mm thick but has now compacted to much less. During the year the chooks have turned it over many times and occasionally if it formed a crust we would turn it manually with a garden fork. The material under the roosts is particularly rich in droppings and it is mixed with the less nutrient rich material from the run.

The final layer will be mulch hay biscuits in a thick layer that will keep weeds at bay until we finish with the bed in May - life span of 9 months. Depending on weather and luck we will start harvesting produce from late November or early December through to May. For the effort of about 3 days needed to build the bed which includes dismantling last years bed we will be rewarded with a harvest spanning 6 months.

Last years bed

This is a low maintenance bed with the only ongoing work being mowing around the outer edge to maintain access. The mulch is usually good enough to keep weeds down until the plants have matured and then they shade out any regrowth.

This section of the hill has been in use for three years with the beds being moved east to west each year onto a fresh piece of ground. This year the bed will be moved north to south 30 metres onto a fresh section. It takes about 12- 15 years to traverse the hill and so this is only the second time this patch of ground has been used for vegetables. In the intervening years the pasture is allowed to grow and the cattle have access to it in their cell grazing cycle.

Once the harvest is finished in May the electric fence is removed and the cattle clean up the vegetation. Because the bed is well water the growth is substantial. The by product of this method is that the top of our hill gets a good feed gradually which has greatly improved the pasture.

Today's job was to remove the tomato trellis and all the timber and tyres that were holding down the weed matting. The weed matting was laid in a grid leaving 500-600 mm gaps for the melon/pumpkin/cucumber mounds. The irrigation pipe was pegged with short pieces of star pickets and all these were lifted and put aside. All the material is reused in the subsequent year. The only tricky bit today was to make sure none of the tyres held any snakes. They seems to love over wintering in the warm tyres. Phew, all clear this year.

Rather than stake the tomatoes we use pig/dog netting with 100 mm openings laid horizontally to support the tomato plants as they grow. The netting is in three tiers about 300-400 mm layers. This greatly reduces the work load and only the tomato foliage that grows outside the 900 mm wide panels needs to be tucked in every now and then. Because we struggle to reduce the number of tomato varieties we grow the tomato section of the bed is about 20 metres long. The last section of this strip is 10 metres long and will be planted to Corn, Okra and Capsicum.

Mulch

Mulch was the only task completed today i.e. the only task that related to Home Hill Farm.

After spending 2 hours setting up feed strips for weaners and then new mums and calves, and moving irrigation equipment it was a quick trip home to wolf down breakfast.

Then off to the next door neighbours to borrow a set of disc harrows for the boss to be trialled over the river next weekend. Collecting something from a neighbour is not a 5 minute task as there are social implications such as a long chat about numerous topics. One of which included how a couple of years ago he had been going away for a few days and gave his cows and calves a much larger strip of Ryegrass resulting in a dead cow  and some very sick ones. So it seems everyone falls into that trap of feeding off too much nitrogen at least once.

The disc harrows needed to be checked out by the local machinery repair person which involved once more a long chat about numerous topics. One topic was the vehicle being driven to collect the disc harrows. We had swapped vehicles with the boss as his Landcruiser had a much larger tray than the farm's Colorado. If you try to ignore the fact that the Landcruiser has a V8 diesel the comparison is all in favour of the Landcruiser. Even though it is the basic model with vinyl interior, manual wind down windows and no arm rests and the cup holder is an after thought it is a miracle of engineering to drive. The gear stick clicks into each gear with a firm precision, the ride is comfortable, the high cabin allows wonderful vision when manoeuvring in a tight spot. and a heavy load makes no difference to stability. Who needs 5 forward gears, with the power of the V8 any mistake in gear selection is compensated for by the V8 power. But then you do have to watch the fuel gauge needle moving rapidly towards the 'E' symbol. That is probably why it has two fuel tanks. Still as a heavy duty work horse it has no competitors. The Colarado on the other hand is someone's poor first attempt at building a 4WD work vehicle. It has one redeeming feature, 4WD can be engaged with the push of a button. After that it is all down hill.

The end result after careful examination of the disc harrows was that they were in good order and no greasing, repairs or adjustments would be required before use. Not bad for a piece of equipment that had been in storage for a decade.

Having lost most of the day the rest went quickly with whipper snipping Fireweed, harrowing and moving irrigation equipment.

Finally reached home to find Jean had been more productive and had weeded a goodly amount of the vegetable garden and watered numerous pots in addition to feeding and weeding young trees. To feel as if some forward progress was made I mulched a bale of Lucerne to use as mulch on the newly weeded shallots and onions.

Lucerne


Finely shredded Lucerne, ideal as a mulch for more delicate plants

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Some Sundays


There is a rumour that some people use Sunday as a rest day and even sleep in. We of course are a bit different (or just strange) and got up early for no good reason other than to get on with some chores. John was off to the monthly amateur bee club meeting this morning at 9.30 am but between us and before leaving the chooks were let out, gardens watered, a bit of cleaning up in the kitchen and some computer work was completed.

The milk collected two days ago finally got skimmed. Some of the cream (just a little bit) was kept for a future meal, 6 litres of milk was bottled for teas, coffees and 4 legged kids and the rest went into Provolone (including the rest of the cream). The success of the last one spurred some more experimentation (fully documented of course).

The calibration of the Hygrometers is working thanks to now using a plastic bag which doesn't have a hole to leak out the humidity. As it takes 12 to 24 hours each adjustment has to be retested over that period. Slow but successful. With one the digital Hygrometer there wasn't an obvious adjusting screw and the variation was just written on the case.

The Mandarin wine has still not commenced fermenting. Put the juice into smaller fermenters with almost no space between the liquid and airlock to prevent oxidisation. The only thing that comes to mind as the problem is maybe too much SO2 has been added or that there is not enough yeast nutrient. Will examine the options shortly.

The bee club meeting was packed. Lots of new comers in attendance. The planned commencement of the training course in September is booked out, The scheduled bee field day at Tocal in late September is organised and is regularly well attended. One of the members is planning for her PhD and is looking at bees to test for heavy metals in the environment.

After the club meeting and back home a little time was spent with our own bees installing the Small Hive Beetle trap. They are settling in and busy (the bees not the SHB). Later this week a full inspection will be conducted.

All that brought us to 2 pm. Just to show life is not all drudgery we adjourned to the Provencal Garden and conducted a taste comparison between our mock Roquefort and a shop bought Roquefort collected yesterday at Gloucester. This was aided by a shop bought beer. A German beer on sale at Aldi which is made to the German standard of using only Grain, water, hops and yeast. Also in attendance was a good book and a hat to shelter from the warm late Winter sun. At some point before commencing the afternoon chores a little nap was held with the sun warming the back.

It may seem pretty silly buying cheese and beer when there is a pantry full of the stuff but it's important to always be evaluating your own products against the industry standard so as not to narrow the palate. To that end we purchased about 8 cheese samples in Gloucester. Not that extravagant as they were only small slices. And to come completely clean we also purchased six different bottles of Pinot Noir to compare against our own which was made for the first time this year.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Cattle and Green Feed

A couple of years ago when still relief milking there some unexpected deaths in the herd within a couple of days. During my weekend shift another girl began staggering and went down in the yards and subsequently died. The next morning another girl was found in the night paddock in a bad state and unable to get up. The dairy farmer was contacted and he administered a calcium supplement intravenously and the cow recovered.

The problem was not milk fever. The symptoms apart from staggering gate was a foaming mouth. The problem was poor grazing management. All the cows who had died or became ill had calved in the previous week. Prior to that they been in an isolation paddock with little green feed and were only fed silage and calving pellets. The night paddock into which they went after calving was a lush green clover/Kikuyu/rye paddock in its peak thanks to a very good autumn.

The deceased and recovered unwell had experienced grass tetany as a result of a sudden change of diet from dry to nitrogen rich green feed. An oversight by the dairy farmer who had become complacent after many years of mediocre seasons.

This week while collecting milk the younger dairy farmer mentioned that a dozen or so of his herd had come in during the week all staggery and off their feed and milk production. After some inquiries and discussion the older dairy farmer chipped in "the youngin there was just a bit generous with a strip of Ryegrass earlier in the week".

So easy to do even by experienced farmers.

We sometimes forget how susceptible animals are when their feed routine is managed by us rather than nature. Cell grazing is a marvellous technique but requires vigilance.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Fireweed and Thistle

Around our valley Fireweed  (Senecio madagascariensis) seems to be more prominent than usual. Conditions seem just right for it with the end of Winter approaching grass cover is greatly reduced. Many properties have probably held onto a few extra stock numbers as prices were not that good resulting in over grazing. This lack of  shading out suits Fireweed.



The strategy over the river has been to slash or whipper snip the plants as soon as the cattle are out of the paddock. This does seem to have some effect on minimising the spread.

3-4 years ago there was a biggish infestation of thistle in a number of river paddocks. The approach then was to chip out the thistle after each grazing before harrowing and before it flowered. Since the cattle pass through each paddock every 3-4 weeks this program proved effective and now very little thistle is noticed and the follow up chipping is quite speedy.

This is seems to be one of the benefits of cell grazing. That is each paddock is a small work unit and in our case about one hectare. A manageable amount of ground to attend to daily whether harrowing, slashing or whipper snipping. Harrowing takes less than an hour while slashing or whipper snipping closer to two. The choice between the tractor and the brush cutter is based on whether there is enough vegetation.

The bees have settled in and we'll continue feeding for a little longer to ensure they get a good start.

The Mandarin wine is going nowhere. Fermentation has not started. There is a suspicion that the must is a little too acid. Although pH was measured and adjusted the Titratable Acid has not been measured. pH measures the strength while TA measures the amount. It maybe time to acquire a TA test kit to get a better understanding of what is going on.

Over the river only 8/25 cows are left to calve and the irrigator is working furiously but going backwards as the westerly wind has been ferocious. Jean was getting her safety helmet and visor blown off her head as she whipper snipped the Fireweed.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Bees Arrive

We left home at 1 pm to drive to Peats Ridge to collect the bees. There was a little confusion about the location of the paddock where we would meet the apiarist but by allowing plenty of time we arrived at 2.30 still 30 minutes early.

There were certainly plenty of bees. At a guess some 40-50 boxes each holding 2 nucs. We were only there 15 minutes. Enough time to transfer 4 frames into our box, marking the queen with a red dot on her head and securing the load on the ute.

The trip home was a little faster and the bees were installed in their new home. A puff of smoke at the entrance as the cover was removed to make sure they didn't all rush out at once and the job was done.

Newly arrived bees
To help them acclimatise better and ensure they have plenty of food a syrupy mixture of sugar and water was installed at the entrance.

Feeder installed


Home Hill Farm seems more complete now that we have resident bees looking after us.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Bees

Well our bees are coming. Tomorrow afternoon we will collect the nucleus at Peats Ridge just over an hour's drive away. A couple of weeks ago when we were advised the nuc would be ready the preparations were started. It was a surprise as it wasn't expected until October.

The previous hive was located in a convenient spot (convenient for us) but it turned out too shady. The stand has been relocated to a sunnier position but still convenient to observe and access without being in the flight path.

The base board, brood box and lid have been cleaned and a fresh coat of paint added. Six frames have been scrapped and then flamed with a gas burner to sterilise and a hive entrance closure fabricated. The last step before embarking on the journey will be to add foundation wax to the frames.



The timing is perfect for Spring flowering. We are not in need of honey but not having at least one hive on the property for the first time since we arrived over 20 years ago has left us with a feeling that something is missing. It didn't help to have to pass the vacant hive stand each day. There seems to be something special about having your own bees. I don't know how to describe the feeling. maybe its just that everything seems right when they are here.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

An Unproductive Day

The good news is today was the final check and feeding of the next door neighbour's cattle. They arrived back in the evening and phoned to let us know we could stand down. All animals OK i.e. fed, watered and alive. A relief to get a break after 2 months. The neighbours had a great time and it was the longest they had ever been away from the property.

One of the local library branches is relocating and had a surplus book clearance sale. $5 for a bag of books of your choosing. Went along after chores were complete and collected a very big bag of books from the range on display.

The only jobs that we managed to finish today was to top up the wood pile, pump up to the holding tank and give the gardens a good watering once the wind had subsided. Fortunately Home Hill farm is well wooded and there are always some large fallen limbs and the odd dead tree ready for cutting up and collection. Hopefully the cold nights are coming to and end and we won't need too much more firewood. There hasn't been any rain for a while which is typical of August and the westerly winds apart from being cold are very drying.

The incubator is still working well although the temperature and humidity transmitter inside cuts out from time to time. Fortunately the backup probe works. After these eggs are hatched an additional backup monitor will be installed from the spares we have.

Calibrating the Hygrometers is not happening. The instructions are straight forward but nothing seems to be changing. Will need to investigate this salt water technique a bit further.

The Mandarin wine is still sitting on the fireplace and hasn't started fermenting - don't know why. Another thing to look into.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Patience Saves Time

Attended the workshop this morning to inspect the incubator's progress in its 24 hour test. An amazing sight - all 6 thermometers read the same temperature! What is going on? The rewards of patience at work. Had I left the thing alone yesterday instead of fiddling around for 6 hours it would have achieved the same result. The entire interior lining of the well insulated box would have eventually warmed and achieved a constant temperature. All my fiddling had prevented the box from reaching equilibrium. There was no need to relocate the fan at all. Another lesson to note in the database resting on my shoulders.

The new egg incubator has been relocated to the house and after bringing up to temperature 6 eggs were selected for a trial run.

Incubation underway. Note the thermometer probe. An extra temporary addition just until we get this trial to a successful completion.

With some doubt on the accuracy of the humidity measurement a test has been instituted separately with two spare Hygrometers to see if they need calibration. It involves using a salt slurry in a plastic bag. Apparently this after 12-24 hours should show a reading of 75%. We shall see.

Apart from the usual Monday morning of checking expectant mothers of which there were none, putting out silage and feeding another green strip it was a quiet day. The very unpleasant westerly winds kept us indoors to a large extent.

One indoor activity was to take samples of the 6 red wines quietly resting in glass demijohns. Pinot Noir, Merlot, Shiraz, Chambourcin, Tempranillo and Petit Verdot. The Petit Verdot was a little acidic but as it is traditionally used to blend with other reds it will either be used in this way or go through a cold stabilisation process to drop out some of the acid. The Chambourcin was the pick of the bunch. The fruit was picked at 23.5 Brix our best result for these grapes. They are heavy croppers and hard to get to ripen in our rocky outcrop. This year the bunches were heavily pruned after flowering to reduce the crop to half of the normal level with a good increase in sugar. This year we also extended the time on skins to ensure the maximum colour extraction. The Pinot Noir in particular was on skins for 28 days and really shows the benefit with good colour and sugars fully fermented out.

The last event of the day was to open the Provolone trial cheese. This was the second attempt to replicate Provolone. Well it was very tasty but not exactly like the shop bought sample. Still experimentally a good start.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Testing The Egg Incubator, Mandarin Wine

Popped down to the workshop at 8 am to set up the 24 hour test on the incubator and ended up there for 6 hours. The problem was the temperature. The wireless temperature and humidity transmitter didn't have a min/max function which is essential for a full 24 hour test. The solution was simply to insert a probe from one of the many digital thermometers that are stored in the winery (La Cave).

The test rig


There result was a discrepancy between the two thermometers. There was also a big discrepancy between in humidity level in the transmitter and an old hygrometer sitting in the water tray. Attacking the temperature problem first 5 separate probes were inserted into different parts of the incubator. This resulted in 6 different temperatures, some differing by 2 degrees C.

After installing a second fan and moving both fans to different positions and testing the results a final configuration was established that kept the temperature variation to just below one degree. A insulated baffle between the heat source and the egg storage section prevented radiant heat distorting the readings and both fans were mounted in front of and just above the heat source pulling warm air and pumping it across the eggs.  Each test meant dismantling the setup, relocating the fans, reinstalling all the probes and recording temperature variances. What a pain!

There also needed to be confirmation that the temperature was in fact the temperature so the thermostat could be calibrated. With 12 thermometers inside the incubator and some with probes sitting side by side it was established that a bulb thermometer was broken, one transmitter was not transmitting and one digital thermometer was out by one degree. Finally the thermostat was calibrated.

The humidity issue was also resolved when by comparing the results of 3 transmitters and the hygrometer. One transmitter had both the temperature and humidity measurements that worked.

The whole setup was left running after all the min/max settings were reset.

And then some work got done i.e. putting out silage and hay for next doors cows. While I was fiddling with the incubator Jean got some real work done around the garden.

The Mandarin wine had a Brix reading of 17 which was borderline. Yesterday another small batch of Mandarins was juiced with a kitchen juicer and the batch frozen. This morning before embarking on the marathon temperature testing it was taken out of the freezer to defrost. When the defrosted juice reached 21 Brix it was added to the main batch raising the combined batches to 18.4 which is a potential alcohol a little above 10. Well above the minimum 9 recommended for stability. Some NWS Chardonnay yeast was added and an airlock fitted. Lets see what happens.

Mandarin Wine warming above the fireplace

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tannat Wine, Cleaning Wine Bottles, The Project is finished

We opened two bottles of wine yesterday. Both were the 2012 Tannat  (red) which had extended fermentation. T1 had been fermented on skins for 15 days and French Oak Medium toasted chips were added after the main fermentation was complete. It is beautiful. Very drinkable with a dark almost black colour and good fruit nose and palate. T2 had not only been fermented for 21 days but had the pressed skins from T1 added to it at day 15. Same oak addition. The whole idea was to extract as much of the goodness out of the skins as possible. T2 was harsher more tannic but will soften in time.

The conundrum is that T2 is at its peak in goodness and should really be the one to drink now. Our compromise was to mix the two 50/50.

Can't wait to try some of the 2013 reds as they were fermented on skins for an additional week to really push the boundaries of extraction.

One of the podcasts recently listed to was from Cellar Dwellers in the USA. Very entertaining coverage of wine making with the motto "the more you drink the better we sound". Some wrong information occasionally but always some new concepts and ideas to try. What was highlighted in one podcast was the problem a lot of people have with cleaning bottles. Getting the label off seems to be one area they struggle with. Some labels come of easily as the glue is water soluble. Others can be taken off if the bottle is filled with hot water and then soaked in hot water.

What a waste of effort. A sharp kitchen knife (not longer used in the kitchen) will scrape off the labels and the residue scrubbed off with coarse steel wool. This steel wool is kept aside just for this job as it becomes clogged with paper fragments. A few types of labels have a glue which needs to be rubbed off with paint thinners but this type is a reasonably  small percentage.

The final step is putting them through the dishwasher. They come out squeaky clean and sterile ready for wine bottling. The podcast was saying it takes about an hour to do 12-15 bottles and so they were moving away from recycling to purchasing new bottles. What a waste. The method outlined above takes no more than 10-15 minutes for 12-15 bottles.

The Project aka Egg Incubator aka Chickabator is finished. Today the bottom mesh was installed and while a full scale temperature and humidity test was underway a sliding frame was assembled to hold the eggs and allow them to be rolled easily without removing the lid.

Temperature and humidity test underway

Also tested was whether air was circulating. A small tray with smoking sawdust placed inside demonstrated that air was indeed leaving the box.

Humidity device, The cloths stop the slopping when the bator is moved. More trays = more humidity. Notice the protruding handle used to roll the eggs.

The last test will be a 24 hour min max temperature test.

The primitive egg roller installed and the wireless temperature and humidity transmitter secured to the wall.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Catching Up

A productive day catching up with the backlog of work. Another baby over the river  (15/25) and finished irrigating the freshly harrowed paddocks as well as the latest bit of fencing ready for the weaners to hit the thigh high Oats.

The asparagus bed received its final weeding and an application of fresh compost watered in with Seasol.

A perfectly clean Asparagus bed

Started melting the frozen Mandarin juice working on the theory that the sugars will melt first providing an opportunity to set the Brix level at the ideal number. We shall see.

One of the blocks of Mandarin ice melting

Picked up a recipe to make a mock Tabasco sauce. Seems very simple. Puree red hot chilli's, add a teaspoon of salt per cup of puree (30:1). Leave for one month to ferment. Drain liquid from pulp or leave some or all the pulp depending on your preference. Add vinegar to taste and allow a little time for the vinegar to integrate and you are done. The food processor had trouble pureeing the chilli's so half a dozen tablespoons of yoghurt whey was added (not in the recipe). Will see how this progresses.

Hot Chilli puree on its way to hot sauce

The Tomato seedlings are progressing well and are well on their way to planting out in the first week of September. 

Do we have enough Tomato Seedlings?
Last job of the day was a small chocolate bar using Coconut Oil, Dextrose. organic Cocoa Powder, lightly roasted peanuts and shredded coconut.

A perfect addition to the evenings Dandelion coffee
A recent change to evening meal format has been having a small plate of vegetables as an entrĂ©e. Last night it was Brussels Sprouts, Snow peas and Roasted Sweet Potato with Rosemary all topped with a sauce. The sauce (courtesy of Yottam Ottolenghi's Plenty)  is Dijon Mustard, Olive Oil, Chopped Capers and Garlic. Just a way to get a  good mix of vegetables into the system.

Oh and almost forgot. Ate one of the recently made mock Roquefort minis. Tasted terrific even if it does need another week or two to finish ripening. Goes well with sparkling Chardonnay.


Mounting Work Load

One new calf over the river today. So that's 7 out of 7 on the river, 13/16 on the hill and 14/25 over the river. Still a ways to go. The ground is already responding to the irrigation and the sunshine.

The work load is mounting as more time has gone into The Project and precious hours frittered away earning an income. Making a trip into Newcastle didn't help the time management. But there were some books to collect from Cardiff library and the fuel supply was low which corresponded to a 40 cent per litre fuel discount docket. The discount came to $60. We won't be needing any fuel for a couple months at least.

The Project has had a fine mesh barrier added to the rear to isolate the electrics as well as some insulation of exposed 240 volt terminals. A few cosmetic features as sealing joints in the tray and a nice knob for the thermostat which needed some modification to fit neatly. Getting awfully close to testing phase.

Things yet to get done are:

One last weed of the Asparagus bed and add some compost
Make some chocolate bars with nuts and coconut shreds
Finish the floor tray on The Project
Collect more milk tonight
Mulch the Onions (after running some Lucerne through the mulcher)
Finish a small piece of fencing over the river and set up the Oats paddock for the weaners.
And half a dozen other things along the way.

Last nights dinner was pretty nice. A few slices of Havarti on Daikon Radish and then pieces of smoked Salmon served with our double cream cheese (tasting particularly good), Horseradish and a Caper berry washed down with our own sparkling Chardonnay. The main course was spicy Sweet Potato soup with Coriander and coconut milk. And then some yogurt and fruit. The rewards of hard work and a full larder.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Watering the Vegetables

Most of the day was spent on other peoples farms checking and moving cattle, harrowing, moving irrigators and fencing.

The westerly winds this week have dried out lots of beds and pots and another pump up from the dam was needed. Started both pumps to ensure the holding tank at the house was filled and then gave all the beds a good soaking and most of the pots were hand watered a job to be finished in the morning.

When the watering system was first installed the pipe was put in about 400 mm above the soil to reduce overspray. This was fine except when the crop was taller than the height of the pipe. At that point the spray couldn't reach all parts of the bed and dry pockets would appear. Eventually the inertia to fix the problem was overcome and the pipe raised to above the protective netting. A job which turned out to be surprisingly easy and quick. Isn't that always the way. The end result is a much more thorough watering system and the overspray doesn't seem to have any additional negative affect.

Overhead spray system

Sometimes it makes you wonder why we put up with the poorer solution for so long.

The other change that was made at the time was to hard wire all the beds to their own tap at a central point rather than drag and couple a hose each time watering was needed. Again a relatively simple job which made watering significantly easier.

A tap for each bed

Using the same riser to store the hose as well

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Progress on The Project

Woke up at 2.30 am and decided to get up now and do a few chores before heading out to pick up Jean at 5 am. The bus was on time. Jean was happy to be home and I was happy she was home. Home Hill Farm never seems complete when she is away.

After breakfast Jean went to bed for a nap after the 9 hour almost sleepless bus trip and I took the opportunity to head over the river and move the irrigator to its next run and put more silage out.

The bulk of the day was spent in the workshop on The Project which is progressing well while Jean checked on the springers next door and pottered around the house getting pots and beds watered.

The electrics fitted and tested, needs a little more protection around some of the exposed wires


Getting to the endgame with The Project. All the electrics are complete, the lining finished and the pull out draw which will hold the evaporation water done. The last few tasks are the mesh platform to support the eggs, the mesh barrier around the electrics, two ventilation holes (one for fresh air in and one for stale air out and last of all will be a mechanism to allow for rolling the eggs without opening the box. Once the mesh is complete the unit can go into test mode to calibrate the thermostat and humidifier.

The humidifier draw. Allows for up to three trays of water to be used. The trays are recycled trays from farmed Salmon fillets.

It is hard to hold back and not rush to the finish. So far the routine has been finish a stage and then think about the next stage for a day or two before returning. This has so far worked well in getting to this stage without any major problems. Is this design and build on the run?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Mandarin Wine, The Project

All quiet on the calving scene but not so quiet on the irrigation scene. The boss rang yesterday to say he had left the irrigator running and it would shut down in two hours and the smaller non-irrigation pump was set to "Auto" and would cut in to maintain supply to the troughs. 19 hours later the following was discovered. The irrigator had not reached the end of its run because one of the propulsion jets was blocked slowing its progress. Because it had not reached the end of the run the automatic water cut off switch had not been triggered before the main pumps timer finished and the small trough pump engaged. The small trough pump is not capable of driving the irrigator but is capable of pumping a large amount of water out of every orifice of the irrigator. One large section of that paddock has now been flood irrigated.

The only reason there has been no attempt to make Mandarin wine is that very few Mandarins are required by any of the recipes found. So a pointless exercise if the objective is to use up a mountain of surplus fruit. On its own the fruit had a Brix of 13.4 which is just under half of the sugar level needed to make a good wine. Hence why all the recipes included all sorts of additives to lift the sugar levels. Until today. While listening to a wine making podcast the solution was delivered. A guy in the USA was explain how he made 3 gallons of Chilli wine by freezing the juice to extract the water and concentrate the sugars.

The downside of Mandarin wine is peeling all the fruit. Fortunately this variety (Imperial) has a loose skin which comes off easily. To make a trial 2 litre batch the target was 4 litres of juice - doable. And so now the freezer is performing the first stage of what will be a trial batch of 100% Mandarin juice wine. 50 ppm of Potassium Metabisulphite was added after pressing to slow oxidation and spoilage. The pH came in at 4.2 which is not acid enough as it will be treated like a white wine. Calculated and added some Tartaric Acid to drop the pH to 3.5. Also kept some juice unadulterated in case a later dilution is required.

Lots of leftovers


Pressing Mandarin with the small screw press


The Project has now reached the point where it can be named even though far from finished. A home made egg incubator. Unless the electrics could be made to work it wouldn't have seen the light of day. The recycled computer fan works perfectly using a charger from a long defunct power tool. Both thermostats retrieved from dumped hot water systems failed to make the grade. One didn't have an adjustable mechanism and the other which did couldn't work below 50 degrees C. Salvation came from the old washing machine which died some years ago. It was dismantled and recycled except some components were kept - in case. One such component was the thermostat and it works perfectly.

The current status is the basic shell is finished and all the electrics have been sourced and tested. Next stage is finishing  the lining and installing the electrics. After that its just the internal mountings which include an access draw to top up the humidifier and a manual egg rolling mechanism accessible from the exterior. If the labour content is calculated at $1 per hour it probably would have been cheaper to buy an incubator off the Web but not as much fun.

Basic Carcase

Lid with Observation Window


The frame is timber from a pallet. The cladding is from recycled Masonite. The insulation is recycled foam and roofing film. As mentioned all the electrics are all recycled. The only purchased items will be the dual low watt light globes for heating and the screws for assembly.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Good Tip in Cheese and Wine Making

Tomorrow will be a 3 am start as Jean arrives back from Stanthorpe at 5 am courtesy of the bus at Maitland station. It's still nice to enjoy the morning routine of coffee and blogging before moving into the day hence the 3 am start which will allow time for this before the 40 minute drive. The herd checking has been adjusted to an afternoon chore over the last couple of days to take the pressure off the morning.

Sunday was a spectacularly sunny day although a bit cool in the morning. Rather than rush down to the workshop and work on my project in a freezing shed the time was spent making Camembert and watering the gardens. Then when the sun had brought some warmth into the atmosphere it was down to the workshop.

There has been this tendency in my workmanship to rush things and bugger them. The solution discovered recently is to play podcasts into my ear buds. For some reason the multi tasking slows me down. Having used up most of the http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/, http://sshomestead.com/, http://www.saveourskills.com/, http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/ and all of http://www.littlegreencheese.com/ the search for something entertaining and useful has fallen on Wine Making ( http://www.learnoutloud.com/Podcast-Directory/Sports-and-Hobbies/Cooking-and-Wine/Wine-Making-Radio-Podcast/6799) . And this has been a real bonus. So many new ideas and techniques have been floating through the ear buds its come down to having a pad and pen at the ready to jot down notes.

Now to the big tip. In wine making there is this golden rule that  when adjusting a batch of grapes, must, wine etc.  NEVER EVER do the adjustment in one step. Better to calculate half the adjustment, do the adjustment and measure the result before making up the difference. It's very easy to add more but very difficult to take some out. The confession here is that in making the Camembert that advice was not followed and the end result is undetermined and will become clear in a couple of weeks. The cause: when adjusting the temperature of the curds and whey from 32 to 35 with the addition of warm water rather than do it gradually I dumped a jug of really hot water in into the container in one big motion assuming it would with some vigorous stirring work perfectly. Well it did work perfectly to raise the temperature to above 40. How dumb!

The texture of the curd was a lot closer to Mozzarella than Camembert. Will wait and see.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Wire Twitch Knot

Well it's obvious that it takes two to run this place and achieve any forward progress on the list of non-chore jobs that need attention. The bulk of the day was just doing chores although managed 2-3 hours in the workshop working on a project. That was probably self indulgent as there are lots of higher priority jobs. But what the hell it was Saturday.

One of the most useful things that can be done with a piece of wire is a Twitch also known as a Cob and Co knot. The lovely thing about this knot is that the only tool is a small bar which could be a screwdriver, hardwood stick or even the handle of a pair of pliers (don't do it with insulated handles). The knot is easy, quick and strong. A lot of tension can be exerted with little effort.

Take a piece of wire twice the length needed and bend in half

Wrap around the items to be pulled together and insert a bar in the loop holding the other end with your hand.

Use the bar to twist the loop around the wire you are holding. The twisting will pull the wires tight around the object.

Don't over tighten as the wire can break

Friday, August 9, 2013

Raising Chickens - the book, Tracking things you learn about vegetables

A couple of long days. With an early start yesterday it was a late 10 pm finish after dropping Jean off at Maitland railway station to catch the bus to Stanthorpe for her mum's 80th birthday. An even longer stretch for Jean with the bus arriving in Stanthorpe at 5.30 am. As it is a surprise visit there will be some time to kill before knocking on an unsuspecting door. The train would be a nicer journey - except it stops at Armidale and a bus takes you to Tenterfield where you are stranded an hour from Stanthorpe. And then of course it is possible to drive.

Being alone means the chores have doubled and so an early start again checking cattle, moving irrigators and finish a run of fence before the weekend. It was 6 pm before the fire was started and fortunately there were a few leftovers in the refrigerator which could be warmed.

Can't not mention a book that Jean picked up at Tocal Field Days this year which has not left the bedside. "Story's Guide to Raising Chickens" by Gail Damerow. This is a real gem. Even I was surprised at the level of detail and breadth of coverage. I 've been toying with the idea of building an incubator after listening to a podcast from Self Sufficiency Homestead. Well look no further than this book. Over 30 pages of detail on everything you need to know about hatching eggs including temperature and humidity charts. What a phenomenal reference book. And not having a tablet means that the book can be propped up in the workshop. Also not having a printer means any material on the web has to be scribbled down if it is to be taken away from the laptop. Sometimes the old methods of access to information are useful.

Another journal kept here is our Vegetable Book. An double exercise page is devoted to each type of vegetables or fruits grown. Whenever a new tip or idea is successful it is noted against that vegetable. Over time a planting and growing guide is built up which can be referenced easily for a review. In the past it was a matter of referencing half a dozen or more vegetable growing books to freshen the memory on those difficult to grow or try and remember the changes made last time which contributed to a particular success. Not any longer, slowly a one stop visual guide has been building.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Pantry Essentials Part 2, Property Planting Plan




When the Orchard was planted, a rough plan was drafted showing which fruit trees were in which row. Recorded was the particular variety, planting date and when the fruit would mature. Even though some trees needed a pollinator they were separated from their pollinator (where possible) by a different species. This is just a precaution against disease spreading too quickly. The plan has been added to and adjusted as needed (everything is in pencil). It has proved a real asset over the years to know specific varieties especially when adding or replacing trees in the Orchard. When selecting what to plant reference was always made to a maturity calendar which showed what fruit would be available in what month. That way it was possible to plant an orchard where in (almost) every month some fruit was ready to eat.

Originally the trees were planted 5 metres apart in each row and the rows also 5 metres apart but using a diamond pattern. Well this turns out to be not enough - even on rocky ground. If it were to be done again separating the rows by 10 metres would be better especially now that the tractor can't be used in the Orchard as the trees have done far better than expected.

Property Planting Plan
Pantry List #2 - Essential Staples

What couldn't you live without.

Milk - Apart from making cheese yoghurt and butter the cats and dogs love their milk as well two legged people who love their latte. Raw of course.

Yoghurt - This is eaten almost every night. Sometimes made whole milk sometimes from skimmed.

Butter - Always used on the scones or toast. Well cultured unsalted for maximum flavour.

Cheese - Melted cheese on toast, grated over an omelette or just a nice runny Camembert with a glass of wine. It is a staple. As many varieties as possible. Should be treated like wine.

Wine - The perfect digestive. Red obviously better but a cool glass of white on a sunny day in the garden or a glass of sparkling to celebrate a lovely day - what a pleasure. Make your own and enjoy the experience.

Coffee - Some of us can't start the day without one and what use is a morning tea scone without a latte.

Tea - Black, white, green or herbal it is a must.

Olives - A bowl of these with herbs or coarse salt with the evening aperitif.

Eggs - If what to have for dinner is a blank spot in the mind turn to the egg basket for inspiration.

Cider - Home made hard Cider or Perry brings visions of a peasant life in rural France amongst the myriad of cheeses and piles of locally grown vegetables and the sun warming the back as you relax after a hard day working the good life.

Beer - Australian Summer's demand this refreshing home made crispy dry fizz to lift the spirits and take the edge of thirst.

Fish - Omega 3 is good for you. Can be expensive at the fish co-op depending of your choice. Our staple in the freezer is skin on Hoki in shatter packs of 6.8 KG, 4-6 ounce fillet which works out at less than $7 a KG. Deep sea, cold water off New Zealand's  south coast.

Nuts - Some home grown Macadamia or Almonds or just some bulk bought peanuts. Raw or roasted with your own preferred flavouring can take the edge off the complaining stomach during the day. Also a great filler for chocolate bars or dressing for Asian dishes and let's not forget sate or peanut butter.

Mussels - Another Omega 3 rich food. Mussel meat by the KG ex New Zealand is extremely cheap. At the wholesaler it's going for less than $10/KG. Terrific in stir fry or Marinara.

Oysters - Straight from the grower, freshly harvested, unopened. The pure taste of the sea is incredible. Just a hint of Lemon or Lime juice to make sure the maximum goodness is extracted. Iodine, Zinc, Iron all that goodness and pleasure. Don't forget the cold beer, wine or cider to wash it down.

Coconut Milk/Cream - Especially useful if you've been a bit heavy handed with the chilli. It just adds another dimension to those hot spicy dishes.

Sauerkraut - Such a nourishing traditional food should always be on hand in the form you prefer.

Honey -  Pollination is not the only things bees provide. In moderation a reward especially with thick yoghurt and some nuts. And if you have too much there is always mead.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pantry Essentials, Garden Activity Diary

The bulk of our day was taken up with checking cattle, setting up and adjusting the irrigation and some more fencing. With the cattle we did a complete audit of all of next door's herds which took a little extra time but the dogs enjoyed the extended walk. We did manage a few odd jobs about the house but were interrupted by a call from a concerned neighbour down the road. A calf seemed to be isolated from the herd of 7 on the river. A quick trip and the calf was reunited with its mother.

We all have different pantry essentials that we keep in stock to ensure a nourishing meal can be prepared. Our list is broken into two groups. The first is "The Basics" which are ingredients used in almost every dish to build flavour and texture. Each list was compiled by looking in the refrigerator and the pantry and listing those items which were either used daily of at least a number of times each week. This is the first list.

List #1 - Basics

Olive oil - used everywhere, cooking, dressings, oiling the butchers block, remedies.

Stone ground flour - The BD grains are ground as needed and used for sourdough bread, pasta and coatings.

Tomato Puree - Sauces, stews any dishes needing tomato flavouring.

Tomato Dried - These are kept in Olive Oil and blended with the Puree if a more intensive flavour is needed. Also finely chopped and added to salads when fresh tomatoes are out of season.

Fish Sauce - A little in almost any dish adds another dimension. The secret ingredient.

Salt - Mostly used for cheeses but Sauerkraut needs a little. Rarely used in cooking that is the job of Fish Sauce. But you can't beat salt sprinkled on freshly picked Tomatoes and Cucumbers.

Pepper - On some foods this just makes a huge difference. Socca is nothing without its Pepper.

Pulses - What would we eat on our fast evenings if there weren't beans and lentils. And no chickpeas means no Socca. Some of the most nourishing Winter dishes start with these.

Vinegar - Tossing up whether to include this one. Yes it is useful but you can get away with a Lemon or Lime but then if preserving or cleaning this I suppose is mandatory.

Garlic - Other than ice cream in what dish wouldn't you use this.

Onion - As above but vary the cut depending on what needs to be achieved e.g. finely chopped for cooking, rings for frying, half rings and thin for salads.

Ginger - Now here's one that can be included in ice cream.

A useful tool for gardening is recording when certain activities are performed. Our journal has two types of pages. Each double page is either a "Month" summary or a "Week List" At the commencement of every month is listed essential tasks that must be finished that month e.g. in July shallots must be planted. Each of the subsequent double pages is allocated to each week of the month where details of major activities is recorded. The pages are added to every year building up a multi year log of activities. Useful in tracking when the first Tomato is harvested, how many years the Asparagus has been in the ground etc.

Everything is recorded in pencil to allow for corrections.

Monthly Activity Page

Weekly Tasks Completed Page

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Pumping Water, Sauerkraut Taste Off

Just the usual chores with cattle this morning although now only checking two herds for births of which there was one over the river. The westerly wind stayed all day and the boss over the river asked to have some paddocks watered that he had fertilized at the weekend.

The property over the river now has underground irrigation pipes extended throughout the 80 acres. Dragged out the irrigator and set it up in paddock #1 which will require two runs od about 200 metres with a 50 metre spread. The second run will do half of paddock #2. That means only three runs in total then a relocation to do three paddocks down by the river. Each 200 metre run takes about 15-20 hours. The speed depends on how often the hose is adjusted. The irrigator drags the hose as it goes. The longer the section behind the irrigator the slower it gets. Usually an early morning start with an adjustment at midday and on dusk will get the run done in 15 hours otherwise its a slower run and more water.

Coincidently we needed to pump up some water from our dam as the holding tank was close to empty and with the winds the gardens needed a light water.

Started the oldest pump first. This ancient Honda engine is about 20 years old but still keeps working despite blowing huge amounts of smoke for the first 10 minutes. We have had another commonly known brand as the second unit but it packed it in within 5 years and was replaced by another Honda. Can't speak highly enough about this brand. Easy to start and indestructible.


The 20 year old Honda engine blowing a bit of smoke at the beginning but running well

The newer backup Honda and piston pump
As there was no rain forecast both pumps were started which will fill the 5000 gallon tank over the next 6-8 hours. We use piston pumps because of the simplicity of repair and maintenance.

Speaking of maintenance, to save walking 500 meters back up a steep hill to the workshop a small waterproof toolbox is kept with the pumps. It contains all the tools needed for these engines and pumps as well as the spare parts for maintenance and quick repairs. Usually the only repairs is a replacement of the leather cups.

A few tools, spares and a rag for clean up


Aging and rust covered toolbox but still waterproof.

The only other item needed at the dam is a mode of transport if the inlet pipes need any work. The last time it was used was about 6 years ago when new flotation drums were put on the inlets. 

Rather large but it was cheap second hand.

Flotation drums and you can see the inlet pipes vibrating which demonstrates all is as it should be

 

Used up the sauerkraut in the kitchen refrigerator this morning. It was time to taste test some of the Nourishing Traditions batches that were stored in the spare refrigerator.

Latin American:
Ok but nothing flash to distinguish it i.e. not as spicy as a Kim Chi. May need to play with this one a bit.

Japanese:
The soy sauce comes through which gives it a distinctive taste. OK but again nothing flash.

Plain with Caraway:
Good texture and the Caraway really adds good distinction. My pick of this bunch.

Korean:
Tastes like Kim Chi. Good background heat and texture. Ok.

No complaints about any of them, all acceptable. Possibly our taste buds are more attuned to stronger flavours.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Seedlings for Spring, Who Knows How to Germinate Capsicum and Eggplant?

An interesting morning (for us). Across the river the boss rang yesterday (Sunday) and said he was heading back to Sydney "Don't worry about rushing over tomorrow morning, none of the cows look close to calving". Arrived at 10 am to find two new calves and a third on the way! As my dairy farmer used to say when asked when the Springers were due? "Sometime in the next three weeks" was the standard answer.

Spent some time ear tagging the newborn and then slowly moved all the new mums into a fresh paddock (now that we have a mini herd of 10) and set up a grazing strip in an adjacent paddock with a good crop of Rye and Clover. Only a small strip to start and gradually increasing their quality and volume of feed as their stomachs adjust.

On the neighbour's property next door the herd of 7 on the river have all had their calves as of this morning. A gate to a new paddock with some greener feed was opened and some relief for us as we now only have to check them every few days instead of daily. Up on the Hill only 11 of the 16 have calved.

The Tomato seeds we planted have all germinated and have now been all transplanted in larger pots. They have started to fill out and all is looking good for a Spring planting.

Transplanted Tomato Seedlings

The only problems have again been with the Capsicum and Eggplant seeds. Only one Capsicum has germinated. What is the matter? We have this problem every year. Does anyone have any suggestions?

The morning went quickly with cattle work leaving the afternoon for a period of intensive weeding. With surprise that went well with most of the weeding complete by nightfall. Only one bed to finish tomorrow. The fine Lucerne mulch (ex the mulcher) has worked well and only the edges of the garlic stands had to be tidied. Will try to make some more fine mulch material tomorrow and get the onion stands mulched.

The beauty of having plenty of composted material on hand was that generosity could be extended to any plants that were a bit slow in maturing. A few Carrots, Beetroot, Spinach and Pea plants needed a little lift.

With the westerly winds blowing all day things were drying out and needed a solid water on dusk when the wind stilled for half an hour. Will need to pump up again tomorrow - thank you 7 mega litre dam you are a life saver.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Hungerfords, Spiced Macadamia Nuts

A quiet day inside today taking time to do all the end of month accounts. Made up and e-mailed out the invoices for the work performed and then completed the monthly BAS statement. Most small business do their Business Activity Statements quarterly but we have chosen to do ours monthly. It only takes a few minutes in our small operation. Any outstanding bills are paid and then the paperwork filed ready for the end of year tax return. Any claimable deductions added to the BAS are also filed. When the end of financial year comes around it only takes a little while to summarise everything for the accountant who prepares the annual tax returns.

In the background a big batch of yogurt was on the stove. Normally the cream would have been removed and used for cultured butter but this time the cream was added back. About a month ago a batch of full cream yogurt was made and it was so delicious it seemed a good idea to try it again as there was an ample supply of cream. Of the 20 litres half the milk was used for yogurt and the other half for drinking. That left over about a litre of cream for other uses as we were happy to use skimmed milk in our teas and coffees and the dogs and cats don't notice the difference.

Two litre storage container and a one cup measuring tool

Overnight the cream has risen to the surface

Skimming the cream with the measuring cup.


And yet another comment on books. A long time ago when living in a remote valley a decent distance away from veterinary assistance we purchased a copy of T. G. Hungerford's  Diseases of Livestock. This was a very expensive book back then and is still pricey. But it was the best book on livestock we have ever found especially when it comes to diagnosis of ailments. Back then we had cattle, horses, sheep, pigs, chickens, ducks, geese, dogs and cats. This book covered it all. We still use it today and it is especially useful it researching background detail about a specific problem.

Having come across a recipe to spice up the flavour of Macadamia nuts it was time to process some harvested nuts.


Macadamia Nuts stored in drying trays


Hand operated cracker


Step one removes the husk

Step two cracks the shell

Roasted nuts
 
Came across this recipe by Karen Martini in the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food supplement. The original recipe included two types of nuts the other being Almonds. The only modification in hindsight would be to half the Macadamias. That way the flavours are spread over a bigger surface area. Other wise this recipe is delicious as a snack or as is suggested in the original recipe sprinkled over Pumpkin soup.

Garlic 2 cloves minced
Ginger 2 teaspoons finely grated
Curry Powder 1 teaspoon
Salt (flakes) 1 tablespoon
Tamari 4 tablespoons
Sesame seeds 40 grams
Macadamia nuts 360 grams

Roast the Macadamia nuts and Sesame seeds for 10 minutes in an oven at 180 degrees C
Toss with the mix of other ingredients
Roast for another 10 minutes.

If the mix seems a bit dry you can add a little water or even olive oil before the second roasting to assist the ingredients to adhere to the nuts.