Mud Fest 2015

Argh – it’s a Hill Shadow Mud-Fest!

9 degrees c at the moment! Thank goodness this weather doesn’t last long!
Haven’t blogged for ages! Finding it hard to sit and compose lengthy posts at the desk, so expect more posts from my mobile phone on-the-hop! 
Bendigo Sheep and Wool Show tomorrow! I’ll be your On-The-Spot correspondent! 
Stay warm x

 

Ps Bluebell had her first night at Puppy Pre-school last night! Hasn’t she grown?!
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Puppies, pumpkins, pesto and pesky predators.

Hello! I’m typing this on my phone from my front step! So apologies if the spelling/formatting is all over the place! I have to blog this way as I’m multitasking: Chaperoning the chickens as they free range at the same time! 
Mrs Fox is back! And she’s picked off 3 chickens in the past 4 weeks. Last week as Ben left for work in the early dark hours of the morning, he caught her staring greedily into our henhouse; Sitting on her haunches at the door like a dog at a butcher shop window! And she comes right into our yard and up to the front door! Cheeky Lady! 
So no un-escorted free ranging for Lennon and the ladies. Grr. 
But today is an absolute cracker! My washing’s on the line, the windows are all open… It’s so lovely even some of my daffodil bulbs have gotten confused. 
“This is spring, right..?”
Wills having a lovely day in a light cotton sheet. I’ve added some warm, boiled barley porridge to his nightly feeds. He’s a bit older now, and he needs a bit extra in the colder months. Plus he deserves it ❤️x

I’m knitting up a red neck warmer for Katie to wear with her school uniform and some thick socks for Ben. These are my first socks! And they’re cuff-down style – which I believe isn’t usual?! – on teeny thin double-point needles. The first one has turned out so beautifully! 

There’s just a small problem: I only have one ball of wool left and the first sock took one-and-a-bit. And I found out from Morris and Sons in Melbourne that Admiral ombré 6 fach is discontinued!!! F%#€+*!?&@!!!!! Does anyone know where I can get a ball of this?! 

And the gardens going quietly into hibernation. The last corn fronds are sagging. The last tomatoes are shrivelling up. The last basil is curling and going brown. The bales around the bale garden are disintegrating as the first frosts come and turn the once lush-green baby fronds to crunchy silver-grey crystals. We’ll start piling up oak leaf-mulch, manure and compost.

There’s a few pumpkins sprawling around, which will come in handy for hot pumpkin soup with fresh crusty sour dough bread. And I’ve planted a few garlic bulbs, just to see if they come up. The chooks are moulting so we’re only getting one egg here or there, but I’ve been bottling passata at fever-pace: can’t let any of those tomatoes go to waste! There’s nothing like fresh pasta with homegrown tomato passata, and pesto made from the spoils of the ‘Basil Forest’! It’s our go-to week night dinner at the moment!
And if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you’ll already know that Hill Shadow Farm will soon be getting a new addition!

Meet little Bluebell! She’s only 3 weeks old, but I’m totally smitten. She’s pure Border Collie. (Her mother Zoe is an absolute stunner, and super smart!) A pedigree working dog! I can’t wait to take her to obedience and agility classes! Keeping Collies active and mentally stimulated is essential, and I’m totally up to the challenge!
So that’s us, up to now. Katie’s at school, and Tara’s napping, so I’m being Chook Shepherd and sitting in the sun.

It’s a tough life, but someone’s gotta do it 😉

Xx

Rejection, regression, refusal, and remoteness.

It’s Friday afternoon of Kate’s first week of school, and I have committed the cardinal sin of putting on a movie to occupy Kate (Hey it’s hot and she’s had a big week! Well that’s my excuse…) and I’m shirking the washing up/cleaning/cooking in favour of this. Ben and Tara are asleep.

I’m feeling exhausted.

It’s been a big week.

Ben has ups and downs, so we really cant plan anything. Most of the time, he’s lying down or asleep. So im shouldering much of the driving/organising/parenting/farming/cleaning at the moment. Also I’m getting up in the night to the girls, and getting up with them at 6 or 6:30 each morning. It’s full-on. And it’s actually a bit lonely. When Ben is not asleep I try to take the girls out to get them out of the way and give him some quiet to work or rest, but it means when I come home, he goes to bed and I start dinner or bath the girls or feed the horse or watch tv on my own.

Kate has handled her first week of school really well and has made a few friends, but it has seen the return of her Encopresis (which I thought she was getting past!) – which if you’ve never been through it, is just HELL and RUNS YOUR LIFE. We’ve been battling it for a bout a year and a half now, pretty much non-stop, though over christmas it looked like she was over-coming it: Taking her self to the toilet without prompting and staying clean most days. Then she started school, and BANG. (As if I need that!) I dont really know if it’s cureable, but I pray every day that it will be!!! It’s just horrible: Disgusting, humiliating, frustrating.

When I’m not dealing with poo inside, I’m dealing with my animal poo outside, and that is the perfect segue to the garden. (See what I did there?)

Look at the corn-babies!

I didn’t have much time for the garden this week and last (Ben’s full week of chemo), but it has not suffered for it! In fact, the basil and tomatoes have taken over!

And it looks like the capsicums and cucumbers are going to be a success!

No success with the wheatgrass however! Sickly, little shoots or nothing at all! WTF?! I cant win! Oh well, not that it matters – I seem to have jammed part of my new juicer anyway, rendering it useless, until I can work out how to un-jam it.

(It’s really been a spectacularly bad week.)

The blackberries are going MAD, which is both good and bad: Bad for the fact that it is a nasty weed, but the fruit has been abundant and has made some great jam and muffins!

Also I grew come tiny stunted carrots (NEVER had success with carrots!) Which the kids liked pulling up and nibbling on anyway.

One other thing that I’ve found REALLY frustrating this week has come from trawling the internet for animal shelters, looking for a dog to adopt. I really wanted to adopt another dog after Henry. I miss having a dog, and Cookie is very much ‘Ben’s girl’. So, of course I have been looking at shelters and websites for almost 2 weeks, and let me tell you: The whole process has turned me RIGHT OFF adopting a shelter pet. Which is sad, because I know the idea is to encourage people to adopt rather than buy from backyards or pet shops. But the process is repetitive, intrusive, frustrating, and very expensive!

I have filled in countless forms justifying myself as an intelligent human being. I have given histories of previous animals, estimates of income, details of may daily routine including how much time I am likely to spend away from home, aquiesced to ‘home inspections’, and most of the time have received nothing but a computer-generated automatic response.

As soon as I say the words ‘we have a run, but no fence yet’ (My husband has cancer ok?!) and ‘small children’, I am often instantly dismissed.

And the animals I am deemed not fit to care for are often older dogs – 9 or 10 years old – of questionable breeding, but are still priced at $400 – $1000. (No: Im not kidding). WHERE IS THE INCENTIVE TO ADOPT? Some agencys even had the gall to tell me that “if” I was “shortlisted” they would match “ME” to a dog! Yep – I wouldn’t even get to choose!!!

I feel disillusioned, scrutinised, dismissed and frustrated. And sadly, I’m not sure I will continue down the avenue of looking at animal shelters. They seem to have waiting lists and an over-supply of people looking and not that many needy dogs (which is not the impression you get from the media and all these ‘adoption drives’ etc!). My illusions of going to the RSPCA and walking up and down the line of cages and finding the perfect mate who would jump into my arms and who would become my constant companion for ever seems really far away. Which is sad. Just look at the life we offer:

Yup. Clearly cold, neglected and miserable. (And just look at the TRAUMA life with our young children is bringing her!)

So I’m not sure what will happen from here. I know we have an amazing, loving, experienced home to offer a dog. But unfortunately, we just dont appear that way on an automated pdf form.

The search continues.

Any ideas? Have you ever adopted a shelter dog before? (Did you find the process completely intrusive/impersonal/offputting?!) 

We’re not THAT weird are we?!

Dont answer that.

Big love all, have a beautiful weekend. (It’s a bad week, not a bad life. This too shall pass.)
xx


Lumps, loaves, loss and lacto bacilli.

They said it would have its ups and downs. Boy, ‘they’ weren’t kidding! It has been a week of epic proportions, but finally, I am seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.
You’ll probably remember from my last post, that on Monday, my poor little dog Henry was hit by a car and killed. Following that devastating day, it was confirmed that my hubby Ben did indeed have a mass on his testicle, and that he would need further tests to see if the cancer cells had spread. 
Cancer.
That threw us all into a state of ‘survival mode’. CT scans followed blood tests, and surgery was booked for the coming Thursday, pending results. Chemotherapy was mentioned. 
So what did we decide to do?
We threw a party.

Well, a bonfire really. And a BBQ dinner for all the people we’ve met in Melbourne so far. What a great way to remind yourself in times like these that you’re really not alone. We laughed. We toasted giant marshmallows. The kids played hide and seek in the dark with torches, and burnt sticks, and skinned their knees. We ate Ben’s homemade flat bread cooked on the BBQ with way too much garlic in the dip. The girls were tired, sweaty, and dirty. Hair all wild and sticky with marshmallow. It was a great night.

One of the Hill Shadow Farm ‘ferals’ hard at work on the apple blossoms.

The garden has been loving this rain! And we planted more veg and noticed more fruit.

Oh look! A guava!
Oh look – are they plums? Do you reckon they’re edible?

We are now contemplating how the heck we’re going to keep the birds off the fig, the apple, the plum, the apricot, and the guava. Looks like we might be spending a fortune on netting… eep.

And to add insult to injury, the loss of our beautiful canine ‘chicken guardian’ has given Mrs Fox a total free run at our free range chookies. She took 3 this week. So we’re down to 13 including Lennon the Rooster, and reduced to dropping everything and bolting outside at the slightest cluck. Our other dog Cookie is completely hopeless. She just lives to sunbake and dust bathe. She cares not for the safety of poultry.

So when all was chaos, I turned to the one bit of affirmative action that the Cancerian in me defaults to.

I cooked.

I could not control the outcome of the blood tests. I could not control cars or hungry mother foxes with pups, or birds, or irrational angry agisters, or sleepless toddlers, or the internal workings of my car when it went ‘BOOM!’ and decided to no longer operate on gas THIS WEEK OF ALL WEEKS.

But I could stuff my husband so full of nutrients and vitamins that bloody cancer wouldn’t know what had hit it. Everytime Ben turned around, I was handing him lemon water to drink. Or fish oil tablets. Or an intensly green, odd-smelling juice. Or a purply-red one. Or a fermented drink. Or tea.

“HEAL DAMN YOU!!! HEAL!!!”

Some of this – ahem, well, probably all of it – was completely pointless and based on unfounded nutritional theory. But it made me feel better. I was doing SOMETHING. I was fighting, dammit!

Funny how people react in a crisis.

So one of the things I made was a batch of Lacto-fermented radish pickles that I made from a bag of radishes I bought on the ‘reduced’ table of my local produce market. LOVE MY PRODUCE MARKET. (But LOVE their ‘reduced’ table even more!)

I’d never done this before, but I love me a good pickle – German background coming out there. Thanks Oma and Opa! x -and I hear that good gut health and an alkaline enviromment in the body can hinder cancer cell growth (you see how crazy it got?!). So yeah: pickle. Bring it on!

I got this super easy recipe from an article by Asphyxia in Grass Roots Magazine no. 211.
Basically you chop up your veg (cabbage, radish, cucmber, beans, carrot, whatevs!) into bite-sized pieces (but if you’re like me, you’ll whip out your spiraliser and happily spiral away for hours. Love that thing!). You use a big clean, dry jar, and you pack your veg in tightly adding 1 tablespoon of salt per 600g of veg. Then you top it up until the veg is covered with clean cold water. It helps to add a little culture to encourage things along, but you dont have to. I tipped in about a teaspoonful of Yakult (Lacto bacilli! Yeah!) but you can use some whey off the top of your yoghurt, or a bit of the juice from a previous batch of pickle.

That’s it! Let the little critters work their magic! Asphyxia says to weigh the veg down with something to ensure theyre submerged to stop mould, but mine were so full, I just gave them a shake or 2 each day. After 5 days I had a quick sample – and it tasted great! Just like saurkraut! So I popped them in the fridge, and we’ve been eating them with salads and with dinner. So easy. And such a pretty colour! Looks great in the jar!

The other thing I whipped up – *wink* – was a sour dough. Oh but I haven’t got time for kneading and rising and knocking back and blah blah blah…. *Aint Nobody Got Time Fo Dat!*

So I’ve come up with a little cheat. You wanna know how I do it?

“shh, c’mere” *Looks furtively around and leans in*

I use my slow cooker.

Yeah i know its not really ‘baking’ or whatevs. Do you care? I dont care! Do you? Nuh, neither do I.

Right. So here’s how you do it. Keep it under your hat. You’ll be the most popular person at parties. And  no one will know our dirty secret, ok?

Right, so you’ve got your starter. (You dont?! Oh ok – go back here and start one.)
So if you’ve done your ‘sponge’ last night, good on you. If you didn’t – doesnt matter too much. I did my first slow cooker loaf just using a scoop of starter and it was fine. but it does work better if you’ve made a sponge.

So. To your sponge add 3 cups flour (I used rye and wholemeal spelt, but you use whatever you like) 1/2 tsp salt, and about 1/2 c warm water. Knead this into a dough. Now I dont know how long you do this for. I’ve heard its all “when-you-get-a-window-in-the-dough” or “10 minutes no more or less” or “When you can stretch it and tie it into a half winsdor knot” – I have no idea. I just knead mine for a bit, until it’s kinda firm but elastic, and not gluing itself to my fingers annoyingly.

Now comes the hard bit.

Whack it in your slow cooker.

You might want to spray the inside with a bit of oil so it doesn’t stick, but you basically are going to let the LOW setting on your slow cooker do the rising bit for you. Genius. Takes about 1 hour, but I just look at it every now and then, and when I think “oh yeah. It’s definitley much bigger” – that’s the point to turn it up to HIGH. It may expand and conform to the inside of your cooker bowl. Lady, if you’re looking for a perfect, french artisian sourdough loaf: This ain’t your recipe. But if you dont mind a loaf that is a little football-shaped, then proceed.

If, after a few hours – like I said, not an exact science – the top of the loaf is dry and you can knock on it – it’s done! And you can tip that sucker out (WITH OVEN MITTS!) and eat it right now if you like! But if you want a golden brown crust to impress your friends, you might want to just pop it in a 200 deg c oven for 15 min or so. And then your house smells like baking bread. And everyone marvels at your domestic prowess.

“WOW – BREAD FROM SCRATCH?! Where DO you get the time?!”
“Oh this old thing?! It was nothing…!” *wink wink*

Yeah it’s a bit of an odd shape. But sliced up with butter and honey and the kids will eat it so fast they wont even notice!

So today I am plodding along. We got the news that Ben’s cancer cells haven’t spread (PRAISE BE!) and I’m planning what books I’ll read and what knitting I’ll take while I’m waiting at the hospital on Thursday. 13 chickens and counting. And we’re having pizza for dinner. (Hey: Nobody’s perfect!)

What do you do in a crisis?
Are you having the week from hell too?
Know where I can get some cheap orchard netting?

Be kind, stay calm, and get your brothers/husbands/boyfriends/dads to check for lumps. Seriously.
xx

Sad news.

Lost our beautiful little mate Henry today. He was 11 and my constant companion, child minder, protector. There’s a huge hole in my heart that he has left. 

RIP Little Buddy.
“Good boy.”