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

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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

Plums, poultry, preserving and pom poms.

Hill Shadow Inventory:
Rooster – 1
Chickens – 14
Horse – 1
Dog – 1
Fox – ?
Humans – 4
Daily eggs – 3 or 4
Sleeps til christmas – 24

Unfortunatley the closest we’ve gotten Tara to Santa is waving to this reindeer at the mall.

…well, it’s a start.

And our garden produced this amazing beetroot which was ready before all the rest – isn’t it beautiful?!

It’s getting warmer and warmer! The girls are in dresses, sandals and shorts.

UGH! STOP PRESS!
Chickens – 13

Can you believe that?! Just as I was typing that last bit, Mrs Fox took another one, right from our front door step!!! There’s feathers everywhere!

The scene of the crime.

At first I did a quick head count and I was horrified that she took Katie’s favourite chook, Shiny. But luckily, Shiny has a favourite hiding spot on her own round back under the fig tree, and a quick check found her to be there as usual, oblivious to what had just happened round front.

Shiny: lives to dig figs another day!

Phew! I have no idea how I would’ve broken that to Katie this afternoon!

Lennon is recovering beautifully from his ordeal and has actually begun to crow again in the last few days. Unfortunately I think it may take him a while to regain his former glory. His crow sounded a mix between an old fashioned car horn (“A-HOO-GA!”) and a set of deflating bagpipes.

Kate and I made sure we made encouraging comments. (“Gee Lennon, that sounds… er… well that’s really… um… yeah good try, Mate!”)

Christmas activities are ramping up: Concerts, parties, and Katie’s kinder graduation (Where did THAT time go?!) are all in the next few weeks.

One of the events I did check in at was the open day of our local Steiner School. Although I dont wholly agree with the Steiner/Waldorf approach to education, there is so much I love about it: The avoidance of commercialism, the focus on nature, the peacefulness, the importance of creativity.

Feeling totally inspired when I got home, Katie and I made a 2-storey fairy house in the yard, and Kate spent ages furnishing it with feathers, leaves and flowers.

In the afternoon, while Tara had her sleep, Kate and I listened to Tchaikovksy’s Swan Lake Suite (My favourite!) and made pom-poms.

Look! We have apples!!!

THREE APPLES!!!

Yeah ok: not real great for a whole tree. But the poor tree is on its side, totally eclipsed and deprived of water and sun by the 2 massive cypress’ next to it. So it’s a wonder it’s managed to survive at all, let alone bear fruit.

I was hoping to have some apricots or figs to make jam from for christmas presents this year, but alas – no dice. Still green and under-ripe. BUT! I just happened to taste a bit of the ‘ornamental’ plum in the front yard, and knock-me-down – it’s edible!!! They’re just little plums! And it seems the birds have been fooled too – they haven’t noticed them! So I’ve picked a bunch and spent this morning having my first attempt at jam-making!

Little kitchen helper fairy.

It’s a sticky red mess in my kitchen, but i’ll let you know how it goes! Here’s the recipe I used.

And lastly I made this raw vegan caramel slice this week.

Oh. My. Word.

Do your self a favour – download the Raw Desserts App from Ascension Kitchen and make a batch.

You’re welcome.

Have you finished your christmas shopping?
Are you making any handmade gifts this year?
Do you Waldorf? Steiner? Montessori? Homeschool? Unschool? None? All?

Go count your chickens.
xx

Chickens, christmas, and cans of catfood.

That fox. She has me paranoid. At every cluck of a chook now, I bolt outside like

It’s totally nuts. Plus our chickens seem to have totally gone off the lay. 15 chickens only producing 2 eggs a day. Hum.

The chicken forum I follow on facebook suggested upping their protein as they will be trying to recover their feathers after life in the battery farm. And you know what they suggested?

Cat food.

(Yeah, I know.)

But we’ll try anything, so bring on a the tinned Whiskas and we’ll see what happens I guess!

As things head toward christmas, Im really thinking about what Im going to give for gifts this year. I LOVE giving presents! It’s one of my FAVOURITE things. BUT, I hate commercialism and giving “stuff”. There is a practical side of me that hates the frivolity and waste. I hate wrapping paper, I hate birthday cards, I hate useless plastic gimmicky crap. So this year I am trying to give what I love receiving: handmade and useful gifts.

I’ll go into more detail post-christmas (just incase anyone on my gift-giving list happens upon this blog! *spoilers!*)

But I do love how busy the end of the year gets. I love the end of year festivities: concerts, parties, catch-ups… FUN!

OOH! And DECORATING! A new house to decorate! We dont even have a tree! Where do we start?!

Get thinking! Only 5 weeks to go! 5 WEEKS!

Longer post next time, I promise x

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?