Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Greetings and bye for now

I thought I'd introduce you to a local identity, Sheepie. Sheepie takes on many personas and makes occasional appearances in his front yard, occasional because he has been sheepnapped before. During footy finals, he dresses up as a footy player. When the council was working on the road outside his house he dressed up as a road worker/lollipop man. The council blokes even parked their digger in his yard and he was up there operating it. A few weeks ago, when we were deluged with rain, and the whole area was turning into a lake, he was halfway up a tree with a snorkel. His latest guise is as Santa Claus going down a chimney. Although I couldn't get it in the photo, there is a sign nearby saying "Build it and he will come". And that is only some of the many faces of Sheepie. He even has a Facebook page! I don't know Sheepie's owners, but I often thank them silently for bringing a smile to my face.Heaven knows at times that smile has been hard to find recently!
I post this photo by way of saying an early Happy Christmas to all my blog readers, because it is my intention that I will take a break from blogging from now until schools go back here at the end of January .
The last few months have been manic to say the least, and I really feel the need to have a rest. Physically, I've been battling a painful back since my ill-fated flirtation with running earlier this year, and I really would like to reclaim some fitness over the summer break. More than that, though, with my son starting high school next year, and my daughter in 2012, there is a feeling in the air that changes are afoot. My role in life is surely changing, and my intuition is I need to clear the decks. I'll spend the next couple of weeks just doing things I enjoy and mulling over what is important to me, and what that means to how I spend my time
I will also be thinking about this blog, and what I want to do with it in the future. Will I keep blogging in the manner I've done to date? Change the emphasis? Start a new blog on new topics? Or stop blogging altogether? We'll see.
I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to comment on this blog, especially over the last few months. This is such a small blog, a speck of moondust in comparison to all those bright shining stars in the blogoverse out there, but it doesn't feel so small to me when so many kind people make contact. You are the reason I've blogged til now. Thank you all again.
Blessings and good wishes to all for 2011.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

An Easy Christmas Cake

Okay, so finally, in between the farewells, and thank you morning teas, and birthday get togethers, and Christmas parties, and Orientation Day, and Presentation Assembly and Graduation Assembly, and Graduation Dance, and volunteering for the above, and swimming carnivals, not to mention paid work and the work I do around here... a window of opportunity opened yesterday to make this year's Christmas cake.

When I mused about not having done anything regarding Christmas, Libby kindly suggested that I don't do the cake and the pudding this year, as we mums try to do too much sometimes. I agree with you, Libby, so I put my lack of time case to my mum and she volunteered to do the pudding this year. I don't think she minded one bit. But I like baking, and seem to have so little time to do things I like these days, that I really wanted to make the cake.

This is a really easy cake. Boil and bake, no fiddling about with creaming butter. The best part: everything is made in one saucepan. I love that. Here it is:

An Easy Christmas Cake

300 g butter

400g brown sugar

900g mixed fruit - I used a mixture of raisins, sultanas, glace cherries, currants, prunes and dates.

2 tsp bicarb of soda

1/2 cup rum or brandy

1 1/2 cups water

2 tsp each ground nutmeg and ground cinnamon

4 eggs

2 1/2 cups wholemeal plain flour

Melt the butter and sugar together in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Tip in the fruit, and give it a good mix. Add the bicarb, rum/brandy and water. Stir and bring to the boil. When the mixture is at the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Take off the heat and let cool completely. Add the eggs, spices and flour to the fruit mixture. Stir well, and place in a 23cm springform pan, lined with a double layer of baking paper. Cook for at least 2 1/2 hours at 150 degrees,or until a skewer comes out cleanly.

You could decorate your cake with nuts before baking - I used almonds.
Now, it's time to get on with Christmas shopping. When is Christmas again?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Catch up gardening

Heaps of rain, busy work schedules and general silly season ridiculousness has kept me out of the vegie garden for weeks now. It's been dying for attention, and this morning it got some.
It wasn't a pretty sight up there. The snails have been sliming amok. The weeds are rampant. My lettuces have been turning to sludge. Not good.
So, in soupy humidity, this is what I did this morning:
  • Pulled out a heaped wheelbarrow full of weeds.
  • Took wheelbarrow up to compost heap. Dumped weeds and replaced with compost. Noted that those little fruit stickers don't break down. Is it too much to expect that stickers on fruit are compostable?
  • Took compost back to garden and spread into empty areas for replanting.
  • Picked dozens of snails off leeks, silverbeet, garlic and lettuce. Put in bucket and took down to ducks.
  • Went with bucket into sheep paddock to pick up manure (ah, the glamour!). Not much to pick up. The rain is probably breaking it down quickly.
  • Spread manure on garden.
  • Pruned grapevines and took prunings over to sheep - they lerve grape leaves.
  • Back in vegie garden, topped up mulch. Again, I think the rain is causing the mulch to break down faster than normal.
  • Noted sad state of cucumbers, eggplant and capsicum. No obvious problems with disease or pests, just very little growth in two months since planting.
  • Up to worm bin to get castings to make casting tea to give these sad sacks a bit of a perk up.
  • Fed vegies worm casting tea.
  • Made up Dipel spray to spray on the cabbages.
  • Harvested zucchinis and silverbeet.
  • Fed chooks and ducks spoiled lettuces. Sigh, will have to buy lettuce for the next couples of weeks.

Two hours was quite enough for me, but fortunately that was enough to make things in the vegie garden respectable again.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sweet victory

Regular readers of this blog will know of my "thing", my long-running battle, with fruit fly, and my goal of eating my own stone fruit. This year I've pruned, sprayed and bagged in a last stand attempt to grow stone fruit and EAT them, instead of relegating them to garbage bags in the sun to kill fruit fly larvae. If after all the effort, we end up with fruit fly again, the next step will be a massive prune with a chainsaw.
Well, as you can see, we have sweet victory. These are only some of our own nectarines, none of which are fruit fly affected. Yay!
The taste is unbelievable. These nectarines are unbelievably sweet and juicy and as different from shop bought nectarines as Mickey Mouse is from Marilyn Monroe. Totally worth the fuss of growing and nurturing.
Having said this though, the real test will be in the new year when the later maturing varieties start to ripen. Then, we'll really know whether we have conquered the dreaded little buggers. Meanwhile, these beauties are a good sign that we might be on the right track..

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mum, dad and the kids

It's been ridiculously busy around here lately. Normally, my casual teaching work starts to dry up around now which leaves me free to do some good stuff. This year, I am still hard at it. And over it. I'm dying for the holidays.
Not much has been happening in the spades and spoons department. Even if I wasn't working, I wouldn't be doing much outside, it's been SO wet. As for cooking, I'm still doing that. However busy I am, I always cook the evening meal, mainly of the 30 minute wonder variety. And I've kept up the breadmaking. But I'm w--a--yy behind in the Christmas cooking, to be more precise I haven't done any. I'm wondering if this year I should cut myself some slack and forget about the pudding and the cake.
The 15 ducklings of the last post are providing much joy in this headless-chook time. Amazingly, all have survived - so far. This photo was taken early on. Mum is the Indian Runner duck. Dad is the short-squat duck. Yes, the mind boggles how they managed it, right?
Cute as the ducklings are, the prospect of 18 grown ducks in the backyard is one that I don't care to contemplate, especially given I was thinking 3 ducks were quite enough, thank you. Thoughts are turning as to what to do with them. My 10 year old is lobbying to keep them, or at least to give some away to her friends . She assures me that ALL her many friends want to adopt a duck. I doubt ALL their parents agree.
Action Man, and my parents are having thoughts along the lines of Duck a l'orange, Roast Duckling, Duck fat roast potatoes, Red Curry Duckling. Yes, but who will do "the deed" and then the cooking, not to mention eating? I'm too emotionally involved to do either.
It's a bit of a conundrum. Meanwhile Mum, Dad and the kids waddle around and delight us with their antics.