Weekends, Hill Shadow-style.

This week Ben happened to pick up a packet of the Pancake Parlour’s pancake mix, and was absolutely astounded at how many ingredients were listed! I mean, they’re yummy, but I have no idea why a pancake mix would contain so many things. Maybe to help you justify the price of buying something that’s so simple to make at home!
Rarely does a weekend go by here where we don’t have pancakes. They’re super easy! Our pancake recipe is loosely based on Jamie Oliver’s one
HILL SHADOW FARM PANCAKES
Serves 4 -ish
2 cups SR flour (we use 1/2 wheat, 1/2 gluten free. I hear buckwheat flour works well too!)
2 cups milk of your choice (we use soy)
2 eggs (free range ONLY and ALWAYS, please x)
Pinch salt.
That’s seriously it! 
Whisk ingredients together til well-combined.
We cook our pancakes on our sandwich press left open – It works a treat! But your fry pan/skillet is fine. A medium/low temp is best. 
Pour out pancakes of 10 – 15 cm and wait until the air bubbles on the surface pop and don’t fill back in. The top of the pancake will be covered in craters & look ‘dry’ (not like wet batter) when it’s ready to flip. 
Serve with local honey or real maple syrup (it’s worth spending a little extra for the real stuff!)
I hope you’re out enjoying this beautiful weekend with your loved ones! I’m washing some beautiful alpaca fleece ready to card and spin. Won’t take long to dry today! 

Right, now go put your washing out, then make a cup of coffee and take it out under a tree with a good book x
Advertisements

Homespun, hay, and hungry hunters.

It’s getting colder and greyer at Hill Shadow. We still get blue skies, but colours are duller. The air is crisp. Morning frosts are a regular occurance now, and the report this morning said it was 3 degrees celcius.

I’d believe it.

I’ve been knitting lots of warm woolies! I’m about 3/4 through Ben’s woolley socks (he MIGHT get to wear the before the end of winter!). I discovered my friend Bec over at Peg and Jane spins the most amazing wool by hand (amazing skill!) so I’ve HAD to buy some and cast on a little cardi for Tara. Im in love with this wool! And knowing that it came from a small family farm in country Victoria, spun by Bec, and knitted by me, makes it all the more special.

And we bought a new little runabout car for Ben – FINALLY. We just couldnt do the too-ing and fro-ing in in the freezing pitch black early mornings and all hours of the night anymore! So this is Ben’s little work vehicle. And life has settle down CONSIDERABLY since!

It was great being a ‘one car family’ for all those years, but completely impractical now!

Last weekend we scored a few mouldy bales of hay from one of our agisters! Unsuitable as horse feed, but perfect for another bale garden! I’ve filled with layers of green clippings, cardboard, manure, straw, and compost, but so far I’ve just planted some peas and some bits and pieces from the garden. Not really sure what I’ll put in there yet.

And of course in true Hill Shadow Farm style, we’ve had some #accidentalfarming happening, with a butternut pumpkin popping up on its own in the garden and these… er… things.

There’s 2 of them. Pumpkins? Marrows?

Someone who has been loving all the wet weather is Katie!

MUDPIES!!! Perfect after-ballet activity!

And speaking of hay, we picked up this load for $4 a bale from an ad on Gumtree! BARGAIN! We got 20 bales, but I’m so getting another 20 when I can! What a steal!!! It’s so nice to have the barn full for winter. Its a comforting feeling; abundance.

Some of the old hay we were given went out to the chooks as a nice warm bed in their chookhouse. And Ben up-cycled this old coffee table into new nesting boxes for the girls – aren’t they brilliant!?

Unfortunately: Disaster. A few nights ago, we made a fatal communication error. I thought Ben had shut the chooks in for the night, he thought I had. We hadn’t. I woke in the night to frantic clucking and I knew. I bolted out in my pjs and gumboots and in my torchlight I saw the flashing eyes of 2 cunning foxes in the dark, licking their lips having helped themselves to our henhouse like theives in the night.

I felt so horribly guilty. We lost 5 girls through stupid forgetfulness, and we both felt absolutely horrible. I now have a very loud piercing alarm set to go off each evening to remind us to SHUT THE CHOOKS IN!!!



You know what IS good about winter though? Baking. Specifically, my husband’s baking.


Just LOOK at this apple pie!!! Tonight he’s making lemon meringue. God help my waistline! I shall have to chop wood for hours to work it all off!

The other thing I cant wait for about winter…

3 more weeks!

What do you look forward to about winter?

Keep warm
xxx

Autumnal anxieties.

Waking up for the school routine today was just a bit greyer. A bit darker. The butter was unspreadably hard on the bench top. Katie asked where her school jumper was.

Autumn is here.

And I was over reading Kate’s post today, and it made me crave my ultimate warm comfort food: Avocado, Vegemite and Tomato on toast.

Unfortunately our Grosse Lisse’s aren’t doing so great. There’s SO many on the vines, but the minute one of them starts to show a hint of colour: BLOSSOM END ROT.

Ive brought a few green ones inside to see if I can ripen them on the window sill. So disappointing.

Sticks and Dip

The cuc’s are going gangbusters! Growing fast than I can pick them! Katie has cucumber in her lunch everyday, and luckily, Tara’s favourite lunch is “Sticks and Dip”.

Taking the lead from my fellow thrifty homesteading bloggers, Ive attempted to preserve some, and make some lacto-fermented cucumber pickle. (I used the same method I used here.)

Soon it’ll be time to plant seedlings in our winter foam planters for our next bale garden. Which we haven’t got the bales for yet. And to finish our dog fence. Which we haven’t got the wire for yet. And stack our season’s firewood. Which we haven’t got the chainsaw fixed, or started collecting yet. Or cleaned the chimney.

Ive been losing a fair bit of sleep lately.

Winter Foamy Seedling System!

Time’s just flying by. Proof of this: Katie our big school girl is 5 in a few weeks!!! I’ve knitted her these cute slippers from Ravelry. Purple by request!

Cookie knows how to stay warm.

Our plans for Autumn:

More Ex-batts – we’re down to 11 girls, so we’ll be adopting 10-15 more.

Hay stockpile – for the bale garden AND to last Will the winter! We currently have about 15 bales, but I’d feel much better with a stockpile of 30 or 40 more in our barn.

Finish the dog-proof fence – to enclose a new four-legged addition to the family we’ll adopt soon… saty tuned…

Firewood stockpile and service the chimney -it’s not working so great. we’ve been getting a fair bit of smoke in the house and it doesn’t draw very well.

Blackberry Jam – The blackberries are finished, and I have a freezer full of berries ready for pies and jams! I found a Slowcooker Jam recipe (Is there ANYTHING they cant do?!) – I HAVE to try it!

Cast on some beanies and winter woolies for us! –  Winter is coming! Time to get knitting!

…It’s not such a big To Do list, right?

Plus we have to workout what we need to plant now, build a new bale garden, sort out our finanaces, plan and hold Katie’s 5th birthday party, mow the lawn, prune the fruit trees…

*BREATHES HEAVILY INTO PAPER BAG*

At least I’ll be less of a One Woman Farm in the next few weeks: Ben had his last scheduled chemo session today! HURRAH! Hopefully this means he’s on the road to recovery. we’re very grateful that his prognosis is so positive, and we’re fairly certain he won’t need too much more treatment after this. Others are not so lucky, and cant be that certain of a positive outcome. For them there’s no end in sight to the chemo/radiation nightmare. My heart goes out to all those people. I’ve reminded myself of that often over the past few weeks, and it’s how I’ve stayed grateful and positive (even on the days I hit rock bottom. And there were a few of those too.)

Livestrong. Be grateful. Winter is coming, but so too is Spring.

Big love xx

Whales, wool, water and wily foxes.

What gorgeous weather we’ve been having!!! I’m sneaking in a quick post and a coffee having put grumpy Tara down for a morning nap, and dropped Katie off at a transition day for ‘big school’ next year. EEP.

It’s meant to be in the 30s today (celcius that is! Late 80s for any US readers! 🙂 Hi there!) so I’ve whipped off the horse’s rugs, filled up all the water troughs and bowls, and given the garden a good soaking last night.

Ben and I mulched it thickly on the weekend to try to combat the heat, and the plants have TAKEN OFF! They LOVE the mulch! We have so many salad greens at the moment – they’re growing faster than I can pick them!: Rocket, silver beet, butter lettuce, and mignonette lettuce. But I’m not complaining! 😉


It’s as high as a elephant’s eye!

Last weekend, Ben was recovering at home from his surgery, so the girls and I headed into the city for World Vegan Day.


Best choccie cake EVER.

What a great day with stalls and music and FOOD! Still can’t get my head around Textured Vegetable Protein (blerg.) or some of those other vegan ‘meat substitutes’ (YUCK. Why bother!?) but we ate the most AMAZING chocolate cake, some delectible blood orange gelato, and Kate drank a whole bottle of rasberry kombucha! (Which I didn’t think she’d be into! More fool me!)

I’ve thought alot about becomming vegan over the years. I was lacto vegetarian in my late teens for about 3.5 years, and I really dont ‘enjoy’ eating meat, or ever crave it at all. Mostly I find myself eating it out of habit, social obligation, or some misguided way of getting ‘enough protein’. Which are all crappy excuses really. (Hey, if Scott Jurek gets enough protein from a vegan diet, I think I’ll be right! LOL – have you read his book ‘Eat and Run’?! HIGHLY recommended.)

But as I get older and I’m horrified by the treatment of animals in factory farms, I find it harder and harder to justify eating meat and dairy. That and the fact that I feel better and less bloated when I eat vegan. I think eating conventional, supermarket sources of meat and dairy involves switching off part of your brain, and turning the moral and emotional side of you off to do it. And I’m finding that harder and harder. Especially now as a mother.

It’s something I’ve been exploring more and more. Seeing images of the live meat trade and high density feedlot farming makes me despair at the human race, and the way we justify our actions as some sort of “for the greater good”. When in fact if you imagine these same conditions and treatments happening to humans, you’d be absolutely horrified.

I had the same reaction after watching a documentray called ‘Blackfish’ recently about Tilikum the Orcha at Sea World, Orlando. The whole thing just breaks my heart. And one of the most disturbing images I found was the ‘harvesting’ of the whales semen for the captive breeding program! Can you imagine anything more soul destroying and disturbing?! Can you imagine if a human male was kept imprisoned and exploited sexually that way?! But humans can justify it as a “captive breeding program” – to breed more CAPTIVE Orchas. To perform. For us. Right. (Don’t kid yourself that the calves and their mothers will be released into the wild to boost Orcha species numbers

I just.

Cant.

It’s one of the reasons adopting our ex battery hens makes me so happy. Yes occasionally one gets picked off by our resident Mama Fox (DAMMIT!) but mostly we’re smarter than her and we let them out when agisters are coming and going in the afternoon tending to their horses, so the Mrs Fox keeps her distance. They get out of their chook house – which is actually quite big – for about 2 or 3 hours a day at the moment, but things should get easier as Mrs Fox’s pups grow up and move on, and she’s less frantic for food. So mostly our girls and Lennon spend their day in the straw, then their afternoon like this:

I wish we could let them out all day again, but we just have to keep them safe while Foxy is feeding her pups. I actually dont have a problem eating eggs from our chooks. I know exactly how they are treated, and I know they probably wont be hatched into chicks anyway (despite Lennon’s best efforts) as battery hens are Isa Browns (or ours are!) and are bred not to go clucky so that they will produce more eggs for the industry. So our girls never go clucky, and would have no clue how to hatch them anyway! Ben and I have talked bout maybe getting another hen or two of a different breed – one with more maternal instincts! – and maybe letting some eggs hatch to chicks. More research to be done there!

Not much exciting happening in the kitchen, except I dad attempt a batch of soap.

Failed miserably.

It hasn’t set, and I dont think the lye I used was strong enough, as it’s still quite soft, oily and crumbly.


The first hint I got that things might be going wrong: “Pour mixture into moulds.” – POUR?! It’s like mashed potato!!!

Back to the drawing board…

Do you eat meat?
What issue gets your blood boiling?
Any fox deterence hints?

Wear your hat and sunscreen! It’s gonna be a warm one! And check your pets have cool clean water today!
xx

But I did knit these – you like?

Bees, Battery hens, and Baking Bread.

We did it! We started our sour dough culture! Here’s a picture of it on day 2.

The idea is to use naturally occurring yeasts in the air, keep them cultivated in a ‘starter’, and take from it to bake your loaves. In that way, this is our first fully-fledged “Hill Shadow Loaf” with yeasts from the air of Mt Dandenong!

Ben did it. And I was AMAZED how light and fluffy it was!

 

Not at all like any dense, large-holed, peasant-bread-style sour dough I’d ever had before..!? Then he finally admitted that he added packet yeast. He CHICKENED OUT! Bahahaha. So as I type this, the first REAL Hill Shadow Sour Dough Loaf is proofing on the window sill! NO ADDED YEAST. Just spelt flour, wheat flour, water, a little salt, and our homemade starter.

If you want to give it a go too, here’s where we got our information.

The next exciting thing that happened this week is that the fabled “Hill Shadow Ferals” proved themselves to be real! We were told there was a perennial swarm of bees that returned each year to the barn wall, un-deterred by sprays or people, although the previous tennant was unsure if they were bees or wasps. Oh-oh.

Then this week!:

They are indeed bees!!! Too big to be natives, but i know NEXT TO NOTHING about bees. But I want to know! What an amazing natural resource we might have stumbled upon! Now I just have to work out what to do next…

We were also inspired by the kitchen garden at Heide Museum of Modern Art. And we put in some tom thumb tomatoes, oregano, and capsicum seedlings. Hopefully they wont go the way of the beans: Only one of them is unscathed by slugs.

 

And finally, we picked up our 12 new Isa Brown hens, rescued from a battery farm by Crystals Barnyard.

Poor girls are in pretty good feather condition, considering. It was heart warming to watch them on their first free-range day: They couldn’t believe they were free. Some were reluctant to leave the henhouse. Others luxuriated in the dust and afternoon sun.

It’s lovely to know that this will be their life from now on.

Right, now Im off to pick Katie up from Kinder, put my sour dough in the oven, and decide what to do with thses GORGEOUS strawberries I got from the produce market this morning…

Have a go at starting a sour dough from yeast at your place! (You dont need a farm!)
xx


Disappointments, drownings, damage, and darned good recipes!

Oh dear…

Well, I have prooved my point about not being able to grow a thing and having no green thumbs to speak of…. Of our 5 little herb seedlings we planted last weekend: Not one survived.

Partially – in our defense! – this was because 2 days after we planted the little babies, we had a freak hailstorm (hail the size of marbles!) and there was a bit of damage to their delicate little fronds.

The rest has been eaten by… Something.

Damn.

So far, our food growing/homesteading/’feed our whole family from the garden’ dream is looking pretty grim. 0/5. Not only was I feeling particularly glum about this failure, but then found that one of our poor hens had fallen into a horse water trough while we’d been out, and drowned. And another is looking like she’s not long for this world (although I suspect that’s more to do with her age, than bad luck).

It’s hard not to feel disheartened. How do we combat a pest in our veggie patch when we’re not even sure what it is?! Rabbits? Slugs? Birds? Will this be our fate?: Working hard and spending a fortune to feed the wildlife?!

Something that is still feeding us, however is the citrus – THANK GOODNESS FOR THE CITRUS! It has served to keep my faith that we can grow food here! Oh sure, the cockatoos take a share of the oranges, but we can afford to share! There’s plenty to go round!

Katie’s latest favourite activity is to pick a bucket of oranges off the tree, juice them all like crazy, and make orange icypoles! It’s wonderful knowing she’s learning about where food comes from, but also making a preservative/refined sugar free snack, and she can do it all by herself!
And I found a wonderful EASY MICROWAVE LEMON CURD recipe which I have been making use of to use up all those lemons!
Now Im including this without permission from the author – but only because I dont know how to contact her to ask her! But it’s just too good not to include, and full credit goes to Nancy Johnson of Speers Court – Nancy, I hope you dont mind! x
Easy Microwave Lemon Curd 
(Makes about 600mls-ish.)
180ml lemon juice
zest of all the juiced lemons (I only actually used zest of 2 lemons)
4 egg yolks
3 eggs extra
3/4 cup caster sugar
125g unsalted butter
Place all ingredients into a microwave proof bowl and microwave on medium for 6-8 min stopping to whisk every minute. (You know it’s done when it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon)
I strained the zest out of mine before I chilled it, but you certainly dont have to!

SO SO SO YUMMY!

How do you keep pests out of your garden?
What do your kids/grandkids love to cook?

Just heading out to put some wire over that water trough: Chooks cant swim well. Apparently.
RIP little chookie x

Father’s Day, Farmers Markets, and Baking Fails.

I’ve grabbed a quick 10 min with a cup of coffee to post this! Tara’s napping, and I’ve still gotta wash up and get firewood, and bring in the bins and put the washing out, and empty the compost and go for a run, and… and…
 
…hmm.
 
A farm girl’s work is never done!
 
 
So there’ll be no curling up in my favourite sunny reading spot for me today. Well, yet.
 
But Lenin and the girls love our sunny front door step. So much so, that they are reluctant to move, and I often have to swipe them aside/kick them outta the way/trip over them coming out the front door! Originally, he was named ‘Lenin’ after ‘The Good Life’ tv series’ rooster. But that rooster was named after a tyrannical dictator. And there’s just nothing tyrannical about our Lenin. He is the most laid-back, peaceful, lovely bird I’ve ever met! So, I think maybe ‘Lennon’ is a more appropriate name for him, no? And he does like beetles… 😉
 
 
Hay.
 
It’s been all about hay, here. We agist several horses – including Will my older ex-galloper gentleman – but in bushy, scrubby paddocks. So feed has to be brought in most of the time for our four-legged clients. Unfortunately it does this to my arms unless I cover them up while lugging it round.
 
 
 
And I sneeze, and I itch and I wheeze…. Luckily Katie doesn’t because I quite often find her like this in our hayshed.
 



 

The weekend hay delivery, aka Kate’s Stage Coach.
 


AND I made my first Hill Shadow Lemon Meringue Pie on Sunday, for father’s day afternoon tea (We love you Ben/Daddy!)

The curd was TO DIE FOR! (that’ll be those Hill Shadow Farm lemons and fresh Hill Shadow free range eggs! 😉 Of course!)

 
But unfortunately even though it came together beautifully and tasted heavenly, something funny happened to the egg whites and I ended up with quite a bit of liquid white after I baked it and put it in the fridge. Perhaps I shouldn’t have put it in the fridge?!
 
And finally here’s a pic of Tara at the Lilydale Farmers Market – she loved those ducklings! We came home with some yummy local pink lady apples, and some seedlings: Spearmint, Chamomile, Parsley, Coriander and Basil. We’ve planted those into a space in our new garden beds – next are the veggies! Katie bought a lemon soap and an orange ice block with her pocket money. Who knows? Next time we may be there as stallholders?
 
How did you enjoy the gorgeous weather this weekend?
Ever had a baking disaster?
What do you love at your farmers market?
 
Ooh?! Is that the baby…?
Go and get outside!
xx


Hollow.

Empty houses are so hollow. It’s cold and echoey, and it’s a weird impersonal feeling. It’s someone’s ‘former home’, not yet made someone else’s. A strange purgatory. 

Hill Shadow House was cold today. The icy winter wind blew the eddies of dead leaves and dog fur around the cold wooden floor. The doors rattled. It smelled… alien. Unfamiliar. The girls and I stood blinking in the dim cave. Could  this ever feel like ‘home’?

Immediately I defaulted to ‘get busy’ mode! I ran to every room and threw open every window, curtain and door! Let the weird unfamiliar out! Let the icy fresh mountain air in! 

Everything needs cleaning. Everything needs repairs. It’s all tired and dinged, and worn and yellowed. Dust coats every surface. The mud. The detritus. 
Dear god. What have we done?

Ok. So there’s nothing I can do about all that right now. It’s work to be done after a cleaner has been. It’s so, so much work to be done.
So with the baby on my back, and Katie in her gumboots. We leaned against the wind with our jackets and buckets of feed to tend to our two horses. They dug appreciatively into their food, hunched against the blasting wind. 
Finally we blew on our frozen fingers and tended the chickens – bequithed to us with the house from the former tennants. Five ageing ISAbrowns and a very handsome rooster. They haven’t been laying for weeks. Maybe it’s the cold.
But, today… 

Maybe it’s a good omen?  

What do you do to cleanse a new place? How do you make it yours? What things can you do to make it feel more like your home?