Dyeing to try it.

I’ve been experimenting with dyeing my own fibre for spinning of late, and Im getting more and more inspired by natural dyes. Ive been finding my brain exploding into sparks and catherine wheels of inspiration, thinking of all the plants, barks and fruits around Hill Shadow farm which could dye my yarn. I LOVE feeling inspired.

Here’s a link which shows you some of the differences between natural and synthetic dyes.

It looks like a fairly simple process, though I think there’s a lot of variables which can affect your colours.

Aaaaaaaaand since Im getting my online store up and going (!), keep an eye out for my new natural dyed, Hill Shadow Farm inspired, compassionate yarns… I cant wait. Im going to be a busy busy bee!

Here’s some beautiful dyeing and natural yarns to get YOU inspired! ❤

Timber and Twine

Dye-lot

Right: I’ve got a tonne of fleece I have to get clean and dry before tomorrow’s carding.

 
  
Im getting together with some friends and very talented fibre artists so we can swap knowledge and fluff.

Check us out on FB

Watch this space…!

xx

 

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Itchy feet, restless heart.

Hi guys – it’s been a while since I’ve blogged. But life’s like that, isn’t it? It’s like you blink and weeks have passed while you were just getting on with the ‘routine’.

The ‘routine’ has me a bit bummed lately. I mean I dont want to sound ungrateful – Im so blessed that my life is routine enough to be boringly comfortable, and not ravaged by war and uncertainty! And the grass is always greener, isn’t it?

But I’ve been catching up on Kate’s blog and their family’s trip overseas, and feeling a tad envious! Sometimes I want a bit of escapism! …But then I look at our animals and think “Omigosh I coudn’t possibly leave you for all that time, you smooshy fluffy Collie….*smoochsmoochsmooch*”

*sigh*

Still, next weekend, we’re off to McCrae to stay the weekend in a friend’s beach house, so Im looking forward to that! (AND the dogs get to come too!)

What else?

Oh yes – we finally got our spring seedlings in! We took the trailer and bought some market boxes for this year’s garden! The bales were great last year, but eventually they do start to decompose and fall to bits, and you find yourself with a bit of a mess of plants going to seed and sinkholes and twine. We’ve planted Choy Sum, Broccolini, Peas, Strawberries, Beetroots and I got one tiny tiny tomato to pop up – so fingers crossed it takes! Today I’m going to pop out to Mt Evelyn and grab some Zucchini and Leb cucumber seedlings. The cucumbers were prolific last year!

The apple trees are blossoming, the apricot’s looking good, the plum is… not as ‘fruity’ as last year. And the Hill Shadow Feral Bees are hard at work each day, you can hear the hum of them wokring all over the farm. Bless them x

Our 2 new goats got a haircut last week, and now they look like skinny little drowned rats! Poor boys! Their fleece hadn’t been maintained at all, so they were quite matted and dread locked round the chest, and I just didn’t have the heart to try to comb and pull at them. So we rang a mobile shearer and he popped out one day between jobs and now I have 2 cashmere fleeces in bags and two tiny skinny goats. I had high hopes of selling/using the fleece, but have found removing the guard hairs an absolute nightmare. Commercial cashmere gets dehaired by machine, and because this is shorn and not combed, some of it is a matted hairy mess. Still, when Im feeling patient, I clean up enough for me to use, and blend it in with something else.

This is our cashmere, blended with some alpaca I dyed orange and yellow, and plyed with the softest 16 micron merino – turned out ok, huh? Im planning on knitting this into a little beanie for my friend’s baby girl.

Currently on my needles is Ben’s birthday present (I’ve got til Dec 31!). It’s a v-neck jumper in TARDIS blue, with a pattern of Daleks and the TARDIS round the bottom. I spun all the wool myself – it’s half alpaca, half merino, indogo dyed by the Shepherdess herself, Niki – and Im hoping I’ll have enough… :S And Im kinda thinking about more socks… socks with cables… mmmm.

ok, I’ve ground to a halt. Time to go shower and get these girls dressed for the day. And feed the horse and let the goats out and break up the fights and put the washing on and tidy the breakfast things and…

*sigh* Oh well, at least it looks like being a beautiful day. And Im going to meet my friend Tash to check out the Lilydale Psychic Expo and have a coffee.

What are you going to do to make this day fun? Where are you travelling to next? What are you putting in your garden? What’s on your knitting needles? Who’s blog are you loving?

Tell me everything.
xx

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

Basil, baldness, bargains, and being ‘busy’.

It’s a snippets post! Ispired by one of Kate’s.

harvesting

Basil! Omigosh the basil! Im gonna have to start giving more pesto away! And we harvested all of our corn. It was really successful, so I dried an ear as an experiment, and planted a few dry corn kernals in our foam seed boxes, and blow me down: They germinated! So looks we’re gonna get another round of that yummy corn! YIPPEE! Self-sufficiency!

‘Hoppy’ – so photogenic!

reading

The House of Elliot by Jean Marsh. Did you ever see the TV series set in the 20s/30s? It was delicious. The book is just as delicious!

loving

My new slow juicer! I got it on Gumtree for $20 – BARGAIN! Totally worth driving across Melbourne and getting lost for! It’s the kind that makes pasta, and sorbet too. The sorbet is AWESOME.

Mango Sorbet. Ingredients: …mangoes.

It gets a bit less juice per amount of fruit than my old hurom juicer, but it does wheatgrass, sugarcane, frozen fruit, AND it’s so much easier to clean! BIG BONUS!

knitting

I’m about to start a beanie for Ben’s poor unprotected scalp!

His hair finally started to fall out from the chemo, and it was kinda ‘sting-y’, so he took the plunge and shaved it all off. And knock me down: IT ACTUALLY SUITS HIM!!! He looks about 10 years younger!

What a revalation!!!

planting

Wheatgrass for juice, but I’ve had some very mixed results. I put it on a windowsill. In the dark. In the light. In the full sun. In dirt. On paper towels. In peat. Lots of water. Just a mist. Covered with wet newspaper. Uncovered. But despite all my experimenting, I never manage to get the thick lush carpet of grass you see online. I just get a really sickly, wispy few tendrils in a whole tray, which equate to less than a shot of juice. But still I keep trying… It’s meant to be so easy to grow!?

buying

FRUIT! Tonnes of it! I’ve been trying to inject as much raw fresh food into our diet as we can to keep as all as healthy as possible while Ben’s body deals with chemo. And there’s SO MUCH beautiful summer fruit around! The mangoes! The watermelon! And OH the lychees!!!

sticking

– washing in the machine, dishes in the sink, pellets in the chook feeder, toys in the cupboard, the kids’ clean clothes in their wardrobes… It never ends; the ‘business’. I wish I was better at being still. I remember being present when I was young. Relishing moments, living in the now, fully enjoying and appreciating an experience. Somewhere along the line, I lost that. Im always 3-steps ahead: Planning, listing, predicting, anticipating, worrying… I dont REALLY enjoy things like I did as a child, because I’m always somewhere else. Or watching the clock. Or counting my bank balance. Or anticipating disaster.I wonder how I can reclaim that child-like sense of now: Where afternoons lasted forever, and days were full of suprises?

watching

The new series of Broadchurch. I was addicted to series one. I’m already addicted to season two. We always have to watch ‘just one more episode’, no matter how late it is!

relishing

Moments of ‘unplugged’ childhood play. Games with marbles, craft with wool and paint, picnics with toys, making up dance performances, conversations with fairies, games with princess and crowns and magic powers.

listening

To the sounds of Hill Shadow Farm: Horses whinneying, kookaburras laughing, Lennon crowing, Tara talking herself to sleep in her cot, the fridge turning on and off briefly….




We’re in for a big week this week. 4 FULL days of chemo, and poor old Ben is gonna get hammered. I’ve booked the girls into kindy for 2 days each, to minimise the noise/work for us at home so Ben can rest, but also to make sure they’re occupied and distracted while Daddy’s not well.

My mother and father in law will be here for a week, and I think it’ll be ‘survival mode’ for all. But in the meantime: Australia Day public holiday tomorrow to be enjoyed, and our 6th Wedding anniversary (Love you forever, Bear xxx).

One day at a time… one day at a time…

What are you harvesting, reading, loving, knitting, planting, buying, sticking, watching, relishing and listening to?

See you on the other side of the week!
xx

Pills, poison, patience, and pallid poultry.

Chemo days

This week was totally consumed with chemotherapy. Ben had to go everyday at 9am, sit in a hospital chair, while his body was effectively fed poison, again, and again, and again. He’s been amazing: sleeping lots, woozy and weak, but every minute he feels well enough, he’s helping out or playing with the girls.

He gets nausea – there’s a pill for that.
He gets dizzy – there’s a pill for that.
He gets insomnia – there’s a pill for that.
And he’s been chronically constipated (sorry Ben!) – and you guessed it….

I feel so bloody helpless. All I can really do is make him food/drink, let him sleep, check he’s remembered whatever pill he’s due for, and exit the kids whenever possible so he can have some peace! Phew. It’s tiring and emotionally pretty hard. And this is only after week one.

Eep.

On the Friday I booked both the kids into care, and went with him to keep him company for the few hours in the ward. I watched the nurses come and go: Efficient, professional, and endlessly paitient. I listened to the 93-year-old platelet-recipient in the next chair (“and he says to me ‘what are you in here for?’ And I say, ‘I think Im pregnant’. And then he looks at my paperwork and says ‘*insert medical term here*: I’ve never heard of that!’ And I said, ‘Well it’s probably never heard of you either!’…).  And I crocheted 2 tealight lanterns to sell at some local markets on a friends’ stall.
And I won a free knitting pattern over at Foxs Lane! Woohoo! Another project! I’m thinking a beanie for a certain husband who might need a head warmer/sun-protector soon…
Some people do chemo for YEARS. Thankgod for us, it should only be 9 weeks. HOPEFULLY.

But the garden, it doth provide. It’s all wild and going to seed now. But we still pick cherry toms, basil – loads of that!, lettuce, leeks, spring onion, spinach, corn, oregano, and parsley. Soon, we will hopefully pick our first Grosse Lisse tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, carrots, rocket, and more beetroot.

Corn! BIG success in a bed that nothing else could survive in because we couldn’t keep the slugs away! But the corn was too tough!

What to plant next, what to plant next… 😉

We were so proud of our spotty apricots (BEST JAM EVER. SERIOUSLY!), our “Accidental we-thought-they-were-ornamental-but-they’re-not-actually-they’re-just-undersized Plum Jam” and our poor bent apple tree’s 4 little green apples (I juiced em before the birds ate ’em!) . But our figs are so disappointing. They’re HUGE! We had high hopes! But inside they’re dry and completely tasteless. And before they get a chance to go really black, they get eaten (but not by us.). It’s not looking good. I dont know whether it’s because they dont get a chance to go fully ripe, or because the whole massive tree (well over 12 ft!) appears to be thriving from between 2 concrete slabs in an old garden bed and is deprived of water/nutrients/space..? However, every chance it gets, it send out new shoots, and it is massive and loaded with fruit, so I figure it cant be fareing too badly! Truly, you wouldn’t believe the mutant base of this tree and where it’s growing from. Isn’t nature’s resilience amazing?!

Tomatoes and basil: perfect bedfellows x (and that garden bed literally used to be A BED. Recycling, doncha know!?)

And can we recommend SWEET BITE as a cherry tomato variety?!?! Holy crud, these guys PRODUCED! For such a compect little bush (I’m talking balcony-pot-plant size!) they are LOADED with fruit, and the girls snack off those 2 little bushes every day! Highly recommended!

Discovery! We lay our glass panels (used for mini ‘glasshouses’ over our foam-boxed seedlings) on the weed patches in the direct summer sun! Who needs weedkiller & chemicals? Just leave it a few days, then move it somewhere else! The weeds cant handle the heat, and go brown and die! #AccidentalFarming

And our poor chookies appear to have… um… colds?! I’ve noticed a few looking listless, and they appear to have ‘snotty’ beaks and bubbly eyes… OMG – what?! You guys cant be sick too?! So Im frantically googling and I’ve added some garlic granules to their drinking water. and I swear I saw some lice on one of them… (There’s probably a pill for that.)

So tonight I’m listening to the wild wind, contemplating a shower and the washing up, googling chook antibiotics, wondering WHY THE HELL Katie isn’t going to sleep, drinking tea, savouring a belly full of cauliflower crust pizza (TRY IT), feeling grateful to live in a country that offers subsidised childcare in difficult circumstances, and trying to breathe deeply and evenly.

One day at a time.

-xx-

Summer, saurkraut, sand and survival.

41 degrees celcius yesterday – and we survived! Thanks to all our preventive mulching and watering, the garden seems to have held up, and the chooks spent their day in under the bushes in the gardens and being very sensible.

Thankfully, the girls were still up on the South Coast of NSW with my parents having a ball at the beach, and blissfully cool.

We spent the christmas break up there enjoying family time in the sand and saltwater. Katie’s cousin Harry even taught her to fish. In her crown and tutu: Of course!

But now it’s back to the farm, and my parents have kept the girls for a week extra holiday to allow Ben and I sometime to arm ourselves against the next few weeks, where Ben will be undergoing his chemotherapy. My aim was to get the house clean (I can do this better when I dont have 2 little mud princesses here undoing my good work as fast as I can get it done!), get some meals prepped, my freezer and pantry full, and my paperwork in order. Plus go out for dinner, ride my horse, and sleep in a few times!

We accidentally grew 2 potatoes! Woohoo! #accidentalfarming #accidentalharvest

The garden had absolutley EXPLODED in the week we were away! I came come to a bucket full of peas (all now shelled and in the freezer!) and a nice little stash of apricots, which have a ‘rust’ on them unfortunatley, but still taste AMAZING and made a HUGE jar of apricot jam! Recipe here if you wanna try it: Super easy! Used it for plum jam and apricot – works great for both!)

And I planted some wheatgrass. Wheat grass juice: We’ll be doing it lots. Here’s a handy youtube how-to. And I was inspired to do it via this. Plus it’s a really yummy green juice shot/add in for your juices. (Note: You really need a slow juicer or a mastication juicer to do wheatgrass. Normal centrifugal juicers dont work on wheatgrass. Not sure why, but I’ve tried, and they don’t! I got my hurom-style juicer from Target for $60 and it’s worked a treat! One day though, I’d love one of these babies…!)

So I bought my peat ($2 from Bunnings – bargain.) and soaked it in 4.5L of water in a bucket.

I soaked my organic wheat overnight in a jar on a windowsill til it started to germinate.

And I put down a thin layer of damp peat, a thin layer of wheat, and another thin layer of damp peat over the top and put it in my mudroom on the window ledge. I’ll let you know how it goes…

I also decided to stock my freezer with food and easy crock-pot/slowcooker meals for hassle-free dinners on chemo days. I spent a whole day chopping veg from my produce market, but now have a freezer full of ziplock bags that I can dump into my slowcooker in the morning, add water, and come home to dinner done at night! things like Pumpkin soup, minestrone, lentil bolognese, veggie noodle souple (just add chicken if you like!), and mexi-beans. Plus I bought 2 BBQ chooks and broke them down into stirfry/soup pieces and put them in freezer bags for meals. And I froze some bananas and blueberries for smoothies. The freezer is *STOCKED*.

On the super-hot day, I decided to try making Belle’s saurkraut from The Whole Pantry book. (Have you read it? Its beautiful. Santa bought it for me for christmas!)

Let me tell you – it is YUMMY. I had to stop myself from eating it all then and there! But it needs a few days to ferment so we can get some good bacteria going in there!

…Hurry up saurkraut!

Ben shaved his hair short the other day in preparation, and seeing him like that really brought it crashing down around my ears for a few moments, to be honest. It’s gonna be a big few weeks and sometimes I really feeling the fear of the unknown creeping in. At those times I just breathe and repeate a few mantras:

1. Just keep going. Be in the moment. Do what you need to do. Get it done.
2. Ask for help.
3. This too will pass.
4. Breathe, slow down, be here.

Happy New Year to you and yours. Thankyou for stopping by my blog. It’s nice to know we’re not alone x

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

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


Teeth, twigs, and time ticking away!

My Mother in law’s bluebells – FLOWERING! ❤

Just when I thought summer was here… Today is freezing again! yesterday afternoon I had to walk my horse down to the neighbour’s place to have him seen to by the Equine Dentist through gale force winds and icy rain! I felt completly mad! But today is the old boy’s 18th birthday, so its nice to know he’ll be able to crunch comfortably on his birthday carrots!

 

Cant believe I’ve had him 13 years now! Gee it seems like a long time! And it also means I’ve been riding horses for 24 years! I started riding at 8, but I think the horsey-bug has started to bite Katie a little earlier…

I also went to a Home Harvest seminar night last Wednesday where I think I was about the youngest there by 20 years… but I did get some good ideas and affirmation about what we’re doing. Here’s Ben’s great custom ‘glass house’ over our pea seeds in our bale garden…

Re-purposed windows from a demolition!: Genius.

And here’s my silver beet seedlings that I swapped for some citrus (score!) but that I am taking NO CHANCES with! As you can see I have surrounded them with twigs (blackbird deterrent!), coffee grounds (slugs!) AND crushed egg shells (snails!). Hopefully Ive been cautious/paranoid enough for something to survive for once!

And here you see my custom Lady Bug hotel! I’m trying to encourage GOOD pests to my garden! (Wanna know more about Bug Hotels? Try here.)

Still no sign of the beans yet…

But plenty of these.

Still, there is one cute furry critter round the place-

Naaaw, Tufty!

What critters help your garden? 
Do you put any sustainable practices into place at your place?

Keep your coffee grounds!
xx