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
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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

Fatigue, food forests, foraging and fabulous flowers.

It’s been a hard week. A very very hard week.

But I think we’re finally starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Ben did his last full week of chemo, which means we only have two Thursday ‘short days’ to go. It was heartbreaking for me having to drive him there each day, like a lamb to the slaughter. It’s absolutely floored him. He’s lucky to get out of bed each day. And I’ve been doing the equivalent of a single mum and a ‘one woman farm’. I’m exhausted, and the cracks in my armor are beginning to show.

Luckily we’ve had our parents here for the worst weeks, and our new friends have been so helpful! Still, I can’t WAIT until he starts to feel better again.   

Cookie: Constant companion.


And summer is finally coming to an end. We’re going to have to start doing those Winter preparation jobs, like stock piling firewood and hay, and cleaning the fireplace.

The veggies are starting to go to seed with the end of the season, but the garden is still bountiful. Right now there is still tonnes of basil, plus green capsicums, parsley, lebanese cucumbers, rocket and quite a bounty of Gross Lisse tomatoes, still pale green.

We sadly lost another of the older hens last week. Not to a fox this time, but to some sort of respiratory virus-thing that all the others got and got over. But little old Snuggles just couldn’t seem to shake it, and got weaker and more lethargic. She was one of the original hens that were here when we moved in, so god knows how old she was!

Do they all have names? Well, no. But often they name themselves, and we certainly recognise individuals! Aside from Lennon the Rooster, there’s Hoppy (was lame, now better), Shiny (Kate’s favourite), Patchy (is patchy), Scruffy (is scruffy), Trouble (with a capital ‘T’) and Walkabout (who is always on her own at the far ends of the farm pecking at something and reluctant to come in for dinner).

We’re getting about six eggs a day.

And just LOOK AT KATE’S SUNFLOWERS! Magnificent! Planted herself before christmas and lovingly watered and tended by the Hill Shadow Ferals and all our other insect friends.

I can honestly say that we’ve discovered chaos is key in the garden! (Ours anyway!). Ours is an ecosystem. The weeds are welcome!: They shade the seedlings, hide the produce, feed the compost, hold the soil together, feed the birds, conserve the water. Insects are welcome!: the bees tend the flowers, the good bugs control the bad bugs. And we plant everything everywhere in every available space: “Wanna feed, Pests? – You’re gonna have to find it first…!” It is a veritable food forest!

I also recommend what I’ve termed “accidental farming”. Just seeing what comes up. We’ve had a tonne of seeds just sprout from our compost or shoot-off from parent plants. Just leave it be – you never know! Some of those have been our greatest producers! Survival of the fittest! (And if it turns out to be a weed, you can always pull it out later!) An example of this was our potatoes: We just decided to leave it be and see… and ‘presto’! Accidental Harvest!

Also anything you can forage is GOOD. FREE FOOD = #winning! Just be sure any plants you pick arent sprayed, get permission if you need it, and they are DEFINITELY what you think they are (ie mushrooms – mistakes can be fatal!) We have been harvesting LOADS of blackberries from our thicket (we asked our landlord not to spray them!) and found a rogue patch of mint growing in our gully, which we took a few shoots of and have now established in two big pots by our front door.

One day, Old Man. I will get you out for a ride again one day! x

Now, I best go. Tara’s putting stickers on my arms, Kate wants a snack, and there is a suspicious smell coming from Tara’s nappy…

And Im gonna cook some bicuits for Kate’s lunchbox, cast-on some knitted slippers, and feed the chooks. A farm girl’s work is never done! 🙂

xx

Christmas Concerts, Chemotherapy, Crayons and Cookbooks.

Things are winding up for the year, but it doesn’t mean we’re any less busy! Infact we’re flying around to christmas carols, end of year functions, concerts, and presentations! Phew! We had a busy one when both Kate’s ballet concert AND hip hop end of year concert were on on the same weekend!

Which was tonnes of fun and SO SO cute. Ben even came third in the Dad’s Dance-off competition! (That was at the hip hop concert. Would’ve been a very different competition at the ballet concert.)

Thie girls have decorated and helped me wrap presents. Kate made all of her friends presents this year, and we made handmade gifts for the family. Our decorating in the house is fairly minimal, as we’ll spend christmas day and boxing day with our families up in NSW. Cookie the dog will come with us for the trip, but Will and the chooks will stay behind to man the fort! They’re being fed by a friend while we’re gone. Ugh, I HATE not seeing my horse on christmas day. He is very much a part of my family and I hate that I cant give him his bag of carrots and cuddles on the day. Oh well, its only a few days.

At least he finally seems to have acclimatised to Melbourne, and is looking really well! Finally! He had us a bit worried there for a while!

It’s been fairly hot and muggy – which the garden loves! – but which sends us inside most afternoons to escape the heat! The girls have taken to drawing and colouring of late. Its cute to see them getting along so well together. And though Tara still doesn’t say much, she always lets us know in no uncertain terms what she wants. The girls are so different that way!: Katie was an very sweet, easy going, even tempered baby. Tara is a firey, spirited kid. She wants to do it on her own! She wants THAT one, no not that one, THAT one. She wants her pink hair clip, to wear these shoes, and what you’re eating! She makes me laugh – she definitely knows her own mind already!

The chooks have been laying 6 eggs a day, and Lennon seems to have finally recovered his mojo! And his crow!

Mrs Fox seems to have settled down a bit now – I think her babies may have left the den. She’s less ravenous for food, and we’ve not seen her or her young ones for a few weeks. Which makes me really happy as I’ve been able to let the chooks free range again for a good part of each day.

Tara adores the chooks, and they have absolutely no fear of her. She loves to collect the eggs and feed them bread scraps. Although you have to be sure she doesn’t mix the 2 jobs up: Today she collected the eggs in her bucket, then promptly sat down took and egg out and threw it to the chooks. Whoops. I managed to save the other 5 and swap them for actual chook food before she tossed any more!

Its such a privildge to live here and have this life, and I feel lucky everyday with the freedom and space the girls have, and that we can grow this food and these animals. I cant imagine life in an inner-city apartment. It would certinly be very very different.

However we’re not that isolated that we’re cut-off from city amenities, which is lucky, as Ben recently received the bad news that he has had Testicular Cancer and will need to undergo some chemo therapy in the new year following the surgery he just had. It was certainly a shock, I was so sure he was going to be cleared, it took me a while to get a grip on myself. We have had such a tough and life-changing 12 months: Why was this happening to us?! Now?! When we have 2 young kids, no family around us, and just before christmas!? It wasnt fair! We’re good people! ben is young and strong. We’ve been through so much already!? Why why why?!

I still dont know. All I know is that cancer happens to lots of very good people, and that we are strong, and we will get through this thing too. We have to. we will take it one step at a time, and do what we need to do. And we will ask for help. And we will breathe, and hug the girls, and cry, and be angry, and just keep plodding along. that’s all we can do.

Of course I did what I usually do. I went to the library.

Oh the library. Place of safety, and wonder, and information, and the smell of musty, papery, printy booky loveliness. As the only child of a single mum who worked very very long hours when I was groing up, I spent alot of time in my local library. It was my second home. My safe place. I knew all the librarians by name, and they all knew me. I had a favourite spot. I knew the opening hours off by heart. And I still feel an overwhelming sense of ‘home’ the minute I walk into a library. Im quite claustrophobic by nature, but I love sitting between narrow shelves with books towereing on all sides of me. A Book Igloo.

I’ve borrowed a few titles in preparation. Food-related, of course. Because that’s my other defense mechanism: cooking. Cooking and Reading. Yeah – that’s exactly what you want in an alien invasion or a zombie apocalypse. The enemy will be bearing down, and I’ll be quoting Jane Austin and whipping up a souffle. Brilliant.

I’ve borrowed Belle Gibson’s The Whole Pantry – she’s a woman living with inoperable brain cancer, who is treating herself wholistically and using alternative means. I’ve borrowed The Cancer Fighting Kitchen – I gotta try this broth! And Pete Evan’s Healthy Every Day – which is a bit intimidating, I have to say. Ceviche? Okra? Yuzu? Gremolata? Whut?! Slow down, Pete! Slow down!

But first: Christmas. All that can wait til after christmas.

I’ve made my Nanny Dorothy’s famous christmas pudding – an annual tradition – and it’s ready for custard and cream! Here’s the recipe, passed down through 4 generations of women in my family, and the pudding making-torch will be passed to Katie when she’s older.

Make it. And eat it warm, with custrad, surrounded by your loved ones. And dont forget to tip your face skyward and tell Dorothy how yummy it is. Give her a thumbs up: She’d like that.

Dorothy’s Famous Chrissy Pud

500g mixed dried fruit (whatever you like! I like sultanas, blueberries, cherries and currants.)
6 oz plain flour (Yeah it’s ounces. it’s an old recipe k?! Try finging a converter online. There’s an app for that…)
1/2 t mixed spice
1/2 t nutmeg
2 oz breadcrumbs
4 oz butter (do yourself a favour use butter, not marg!)
1 grated carrot (see?! Veggies! Healthy!)
3 oz brown sugar
3 eggs (please choose free range x )
dash vanilla
1 t lemon juice
1 t Parisian Essence (Yes that’s a thing. It’s in the supermarket. Near the vanilla essences and food colouring and stuff…)
Brandy to flavour. (Or rum essence in a pinch)

Soak fruit in brandy (or essence) overnight in a sealed container, shaking occasionally. In a large bowl, sift flour and spices. Add butter and belend well. Add crumbs, fruit mix, carrot and brown suagr. Mix then add beaten eggs and essences. (If the mix is too thick, you can moisten it with a little milk.)
Place in a well-greased pudding tin, placing alfoil across the top then the lid to ensure a good seal.Place pudding dish into a large boiler pot. Fill pot with boiling water, so water leverl is just under the lid of the pudding dish. (Place a marble or two in the water – if it’s beginning to boil dry, the marble will ‘ting-ting-ting’ on the side of the pot and warn you!) Constantly top up water as needed. place lid on and boil 5 hours.

Well, I hope you have a wonderful chrissy/holiday with your loved ones.
How will you spend it?

Drive safely, be happy, give generously, laugh muchly.
xx

Brownies, baking, and balloon-legs.

Poor old Will has a fat leg! Im not sure how, but he’s cut it somewhere in his paddock, and its puffed up like a balloon! I’ve hosed it out & sprayed the wound with tea tree, and added some garlic and tumeric to his feed for anti-inflamatory effects, and we’ll see how he goes. Other than that, he’ll be resting.

Which you know he hates.

OHH THE HUMANITY!!!

Today Katie and I cooked up a batch of brownies while Tara had her morning nap. These were using coconut flour, and let me just state from the outset that I haven’t had alot of success with coconut flour recipes. And by that I mean, no success. everything Ive cooked has turned out rubbery, tasteless, or dry.

But at last! SUCCESS!!! These brownies are BEAUTIFUL! AND refined sugar and grain-free, which is a bonus! Even the kids wanted seconds!

So of course I will share the recipe! I got it from Pinterest, but I gather the original is from www.naturalnews.com .

PALEO BROWNIES (No refined sugar, dairy, grain)

1/2 c coconut flour
1/2 c cacao powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda

Combine these dry ingredients in one bowl.

1/2 c honey (Raw if you have it. Pretty sure you could use maple syrup too)
1/3 c coconut oil
5 free range eggs
2 T water

Combine these wet ingredients in another bowl.

Slowly add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring well. pour mix into a well-greased 8×8 brownie pan and smooth top. The original recipe says ‘bake at 350 deg F for 30 minutes’ which I think is about 170 deg C, BUT my oven is hot and fan-forced, so i only baked for 27min at 150 deg C. You know your oven: Just keep an eye on them. If the top is ‘dry’ and it is ‘springy’ in the middle, I reckon you’re done.
Let cool before slicing.

Om nom nom.

Got any other proven yummy coconut flour recipes you can share?
Now excuse me, Katie and I have some important bowl-licking to do…
xx
  
 

Parasites, productivity and ponies!

Ugh. After the death of 2 of our lovely chooks, we found the beginnings of a lice infestation! Seriously?! Come ON! So hopefully a dusting with Pestine (on the girls and round their home), a thorough worming (chooks, dog, horse, and us!) and a little prayer, that will be the end of this particular run of unfortunate luck! Grr.

Hubby did get productive last weekend: Mowing the back lawn, collecting some bales and putting them around our garden beds, and putting up Katie’s swing! She’s a bit chuffed about that 🙂

So now she spends most of her time either on the swing, on the trampoline, on my hay bales, or in one of her many farm castles/hidey-holes…

The weather’s a bit wet today, so the girls and I went and joined our local library (ESSENTIAL) and now Tara’s having her afternoon nap, so I’ve ducked round and taken a few pics to introduce you to some of our equine residents…

Shy showpony ‘Electra’
Bigger on the inside ‘Tufty’
(Who could resist a face like this?!)

Fresian horse that looks like he belongs to the Black Knight ‘Randolf’

Sweet girl ‘Lily’

And of course the man in my life ‘Will’ (and the other man in my life, ‘Henry’)

I hope you’re having a lovely week. GO JOIN YOUR LIBRARY!!!
x

Storm warnings, gale force winds, big trees and fences don’t mix.

Kate and I have just trudged round every fence line after our first really windy night at Hill Shadow. The weather here under the mountain is truly wild, and though I LOVE a good storm, the wild winds do make a bit of a mess of the place!

Especially when you need good solid, safe electric fences for our horsey-charges! We always do a fence/tree/pony check after a windy night, just to make sure everyone’s still got a fence and 4 legs!

Fortunately everyone is fine and fences are still standing! Just one medium sized tree down, but in the creek, away from any fences and buildings. Phew!

Someone who definitely wasn’t affected by the weather (in a negative way) was Henry the orange mongrel, who spent all night in sleeping infront of the fire.

And so, to finish off this post – here’s a joke:


Why did the chicken cross the road? ;D

Proof the Hill Shadow Farm hens have nothing to fear! Our hens have free rein of the property all day, so they often pop up in the yard or at the window to visit us during the day. They have absolutely no fear of people, our dogs, or our children! Why would they?!

Peg Sorting: Tara’s favourite activity at present. I do wish she wouldn’t post them all down the holes in the brickwork though! Fun for her, but annoying for me to retrieve for the washing! X(

Any Spring ‘storm-age’ in your area?
Storms: Love em or hate em?
Do your animals make themselves at home like ours do?

Check your fences!
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


A childhood dream come true.

I’ve always wanted to look out my window and see my horse in his paddock. 

(Or being a sticky-beak at the front door!) 
This view will never get old ❤️ 

We puttered around today and did some jobs. Pulling rubbish out of gardens, shovelling mud, and checking fences.

I went walking and checking fences with my little Buddy 🙂 It was the first time I had walked the entire perimeter of the property.

It’s such lush beautiful bush land. And we took our dogs, who went crazy with the mud, smells and freedom! 
And I had my first cuppa at Hill Shadow. The first of many! 

What did you get up to this weekend?