Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I do. Regularly.
Every afternoon about two hours before sunset (whenever that happens to be), we let out chooks and ducks out for a free range. The theory is they get out and about for a dust bath and a fossick for insects, worms etc. etc. before taking themselves back to the coop as night falls.
In practice, what happens is the chooks go for a quick dust bath, then perch on my kitchen window ledge. They flap their wings to get rid of their excess dust, and inevitably, they poo on the ledge and on the verandah outside the kitchen door. All the while, they watch my every move as I cook dinner with their beady eyes, and peck at the window if they spy something they recognise as edible. Meanwhile, the rooster takes up his position at the back door and crows his head off, so I have to shut the back door or risk going deaf.
Much as I love the chooks, I have to admit this constant supervision gives me shivers up my spine at times! The good news is that with the coming end of daylight saving, the chickens' outing time will move forward and by the time I'm cooking dinner they'll all be tucked up on their roosts.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
So for any readers who haven't gone down the home made yogurt path, here's what I did:
1. Heated 1 litre of UHT milk to 80 degrees C. Let it cool to 45 degrees C.
2. Put about 1/2 cup yogurt with live culture into a 2 litre jug, along with about 2 tablespoons of powdered milk (because I like creamy yogurt).
3. Poured the cooled milk over the yogurt and gave it a good whisk.
4. Poured the mixture into a wide-mouth vacuum flask. Put on the lid and left it for 16 hours (but this is only because I did this overnight - it could well have taken a lot less time - I don't know).
5. Voila! Yogurt!
It's nice to have a success like this, and makes me appreciate the blogging community all the more. It's great to be able to tap into the experience that's out there..
Meanwhile, tomatoes continue to roll in unabated. Today I am experimenting with oven dried tomatoes. I have a trayful of halved tomatoes that are drying at 100 degrees C for 12 hours with nothing added, and in the other oven I have another trayful that are drying at 150C for 3 hours, along with garlic, oil and salt. It will be interesting to see what differences there are.
Don't forget the giveaway of two AMAZING issues of Backyard Farmer. Make a comment before Sunday when the winner will be drawn...
Saturday, March 20, 2010
The only downside (if you can call it a downside) is the imperative to do something with all those tomatoes, like now! I've never been in the position where I've had to preserve so many tomatoes so this is somewhat of a steep learning curve for me.
As I write 6 kilos of tomatoes are bubbling away, with onion, vinegar, salt and sugar to make a homemade tomato sauce. Still three hours to go there!
I have plans to freeze some tomatoes, oven dry some and if possible make an Italian-style passata. Everything is experimental, I'm just trying to suss out what works best for me if I am ever in the fortunate position to deal with so many tomatoes again. (I've been gardening long enough to know this season may well be a flash in the pan. Gardening is an amazing humbler).
Meanwhile, I've taken on board all the helpful suggestions regarding yogurt making and just now am waiting for the milk temperature to fall between 40 and 45 degrees so I can add the yogurt culture. Thank you to everyone who took to trouble to comment on that post.
Meanwhile, again, don't forget my super amazing giveaway - TWO Backyard Farmers books. Just leave a comment about what you think makes a good blog (not necessarily what makes this blog good - although if you feel so inclined I ain't going to argue).
Hope everyone's weekends are going well
Friday, March 19, 2010
Yesterday some Very Important Committee (I forget the name) released a Very Important Report, which predicted that costs of electricity would rise substantially over the next three years should the Federal Government ever get its Carbon Tax Scheme passed as law. For example, the VIR predicted that electricity from my provider (Energy Australia) would rise be 60%. Quite a lot, by any measure.
The kerfuffle that ensued was predictable. It's outrageous, moaned the opposition. Cheap electricity is our birthright, surely. We'll compensate people, they promised.
Excuse me, but aren't we missing something here? Why bring in a Carbon Tax in the first place? That's right - to create a price signal that will force people who would not otherwise do it to change their consumption habits. And we need consumption habits to change to arrest climate change. If you compensate people, surely you are subverting what you are setting out to do. The whole thing becomes a pointless exercise.
There, I feel better now!
Don't forget the giveaway - two highly informative volumes of Backyard Farmer, featuring articles on establishing a vineyard and making your own wine written by me! Plus more ultra interesting articles. Just tell me what you think makes a good blog - What makes you return to a blog for more? You have until next Sunday to post a comment.....
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Excitement here yesterday. The postman delivered the latest volume of Backyard Farmer, which features an article on winemaking written by me! I'd truly forgotten about the article, so it's nice when something like that lands in your letterbox out of the blue.
That got me thinking that this blog is well overdue for a giveaway. I've also passed some milestones (Two years of intermittent blogging, 100 posts) unremarked lately too.
So - the prize is a copy each of Volume 4 and 5 of Backyard Farmer (RRP $19.95 each!). Heaps of fabulous reading!
What you have to do is leave a comment answering the question:
I've been contemplating this myself lately and would love to hear what you think.
The winner will be drawn randomly on Sunday March 28.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
- Heated 1 litre of UHT full cream milk to 80 degrees C.
- Transferred milk to a bowl to cool to 45 degrees C.
- Put half cup of yogurt with live culture into a small jug.
- Whisked in a couple of tablespoons of milk until smooth.
- Added this to warm milk.
- Put a lid on the bowl, wrapped it up in a doubled up blanket, left on a sunny bench in kitchen for 10 hours.
- Transferred undisturbed to fridge overnight.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
1) sorted washing and did a bit of ironing while watching ABC's The Insiders, my one must-see- if-at-all possible programme.
2) sloped off into town to the monthly market to buy seedlings and lovely fresh Batlow apples.
3) exhausted from morning's activities, couch sitting and dozing - not even doing much reading - for most of afternoon.
4) Ignored seedlings that should really go in like, today...
4) Considered some low energy activities eg. sewing or knitting, but too tired to concentrate. Dozed some more.
5) roused myself from couch, still exhausted, and went out into garden with Action Man. Pointed out rogue weeds (eg. nine foot tall privet that was growing in a hibiscus) while Action Man did the work. Nonetheless, managed to fall heavily on tailbone in process. Ouch. Need to lie down for the rest of the day.
Why this sudden attack of the blahs? I have no idea - I'm not sick, I had a busy week but no ridiculously busy, I'm eating well.
I'm blaming the weather. It's been a long, hot summer here and the humidity has been horrendous. It's just leaching all the get-up-and-go out of me.
Roll on, autumn. You can't get here to soon.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
I spend a fair bit of time obsessing over the things that go wrong in the garden: not enough rain, too much rain, mildews and fungi, pests in various guises. The truth is, though, that on balance we reap a whole lot more than lose. The above cornucopia was picked up after a quick trawl through the garden yesterday. And there is more to pick up there. And our vegie garden is only operating at about 50% capacity this year, because I've been suffering from a bout of tennis elbow which makes it difficult to dig.
Not only that but I've got three rockmelon vines that I didn't even plant going full pelt, and the tomato bush that lives in my front steps (yes, in the steps) has yielded a couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes every day for the last few weeks.
To me, gardening is a paradox. It needs regular attention to get the best results, but sometimes this is not enough. Meanwhile, mother nature does her own thing in another part of the garden and does quite well without you, thank you very much. It does my head in..but in a good way!
Monday, March 1, 2010
In my last post I wrote about having read Po Bronson's "What Should I Do With My Life?" The book profiles about 70 people who've dealt with this question in terms of what sort of work has meaning for them. Fascinating reading, so it's not so surprising that this question has been on my mind over the last few days.
As my profile says, I am a mother of two and a sometime teacher. The second role came about because of the first role. In another life I was a business chick with a briefcase, a PA and an expense account, in a skyscraper. Becoming a mother changed my values and perspective entirely. I decided that motherhood would be my focus, and that everything else, work included, would need to accommodate it. I gave up my job, at the same time as Action Man was offered a job outside the city. In time, I retrained as a teacher, with the goal of becoming a "sometime" teacher. By "sometime" I mean casual, relief or supply teaching. That means I work some days, and some days I don't. The bulk of my work comes in Term 2,3 and 4 of every year. It's now Term 1, and I don't expect, or get, much work. For the rest of the year I bounce between day-to-day stuff and short term blocks where I work 5 days a week for a period of weeks at a time. (You will note a drop off in blogging at these times!)
I won't pretend that my choices have always been plain sailing. At first I lived with a lot of regret with what I had "lost"and played a lot of "what if" scenarios in my head. Also, there isn't a lot of understanding out there for people who make the choices I did, so at times I questioned what I was doing. It took a while, but over time I came to understand that I made the right choice for me. I can only live according to my values, not the values of anyone else. Once I took that on board, everything clicked into place.
I do whinge about the unpredicability of casual teaching at times, but on balance it's a choice I have made, and one that I am comfortable with . It allows me the time and space to be a mother of two to the standard that I am happy with, and it also allows me time to do the stuff about which I blog here. I find my family works best - we are all happier and more relaxed - when I am flexible, and I feel I am living up to my own values in the best way I can when I have the option to say "no" to work.
I am often under pressure from school principals to take on more work. Many people ask me "When are you going to apply to go permanent?" The assumption is that I am not a "real" teacher, that casual work is not "real" work, and that I am just mucking around, wasting time.
I would argue that I am making a contribution to a school community which would really struggle if not for people like me who are willing to tolerate the uncertainties of their work life. And as for "real" teaching, speaking for myself I go into every class with the goal of connecting with the kids and hopefully teaching something that day. I am satisfied that I am not wasting time or mucking around.
Will it be ever thus? I don't know. Action Man and I have discussed the possibility of swapping roles when AM is over life in Corporate Australia. If AM wants to do this at some point, I think I'd be happy to step up to full time work, knowing that the kids would always have one parent around. This is something I value as very important.
Please don't take any of this as implied criticism of anyone who has made different choices. I believe we have to listen to our own hearts and sort out our life according to our own values. If your values result in different choices, and you are truly happy with those choices, well done to you. I would never dream of criticising anyone's life choices simply because I am not in their shoes.