Mud Fest 2015

Argh – it’s a Hill Shadow Mud-Fest!

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

 

Ps Bluebell had her first night at Puppy Pre-school last night! Hasn’t she grown?!
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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

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

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

Snippets, sunscreen, seeds, soil and sunshine.

Im gonna use a prompt from Kate over at Foxslane (I blog I adore – check it out!) and do a snippets post today. Maybe you can do one too? I’d love to check out yours…

enjoying
GLORIOUS spring Melbourne days. Today is a clear, sunny 26 degrees celcius.

playing
Nothing at the moment. The sound of the rainforest birds here, with the occasional neigh, “Mum!”, or cock-a-doodle-doo is all the sound track I need 🙂

smelling
My coffee here at my desk. Hazelnut! Yum!

wearing
Summer clothes and sunscreen! Already! Plus if I’m in the garden, my trusty Akubra, always. If you don’t know what an Akubra is, here you go. If you’re an Aussie and you don’t know what an Akubra is: SHAME ON YOU 😉

reading
Jackie French’s ‘Backyard Self-sufficiency’. The beans and peas are in in our new bale garden. Now FINGERSCROSSED they grow! (pleasepleaseplease) Gardening seems simple – plant a seed, good soil, water, sun. But my track record isnt great. I wish I knew why I have such bad luck with vegetables! Hopefully my luck will start to change! And soon!

crocheting
Ive been meaning to start a coffee-plunger cosy for my Stepdad… but… *sigh* Tonight! I swear!

flicking to
Not sure what this means (?) but im always flicking over to watch Dance Moms on You Channel. It’s my guilty pleasure *blush*

enjoying
Days outside in the sun NOT unpacking the few last boxes I should be getting around to… It’s just too nice out! I’m sure there’ll be more grey days like the one pictured below I can get around to those boxes.

not loving
Washing up. Does it ever end?!?!

knowing
I’ve got a horsey-girl on my hands. It’s only a matter of time before she asks me for a pony, I just know it. I’ve always said the girls can choose their own interests, and I will happily drive them to karate/soccer/art/dance/chess-WHATEVER. I am quite happy for neither of them to be horse-mad like Mummy. But I can see Katie’s interest in the horses already, and she’s always keen to hop on Will anytime I’m off for a ride. Daddy: just giving you an early head’s up… 😉

 

wondering
What the HECK Henry is barking at in the blackberry thicket!!! He keeps going up there and he just stares into the brambles and barks, and barks and barks!

dreaming
Of getting my sewing machine set up and my sewing table set up and making some new summer dresses for the girls! (And maybe me!) But that means getting in amongst THOSE AFORE-MENTIONED BOXES…so…

hoping
To adopt some ex-battery hens at the end of September, and give them a new life in free-range chook heaven! With this handsome devil-

Lennon

knitting
Last thing I did was a beanie for Ben. Actually, i did 2, because the first one turned out ridiculously small. It looked like a Jewish Kippah. We both nearly wet ourselves laughing and I gave that one to a friend’s little boy, and made another!

laughing at
Black Books. We’ve just watched the whole series again!

casting on
Hmm, what’s next? Im thinking of starting a school cardigan for Katie’s first year of school next year. The uniform is Red, Green and White, some I’m thinking a red one…

grateful for
This new childhood I can now provide my kids with! They are always outside now: Climbing, creating, exploring. The TV is hardly ever on during the day now. I love that they’ve got the run of this whole farm ‘playground’, and they absolutely love it!

adoring
Tara’s first pigtails!!!

 

smiling at
Kate’s antics on her trampoline, andhearing her talking to herself as she plays some involved imaginary game.
“…hey sister, we need to go to our house! No you cant until the fires have gone. We have to stay in Queensland…”

Your turn! What are you enjoying, playing, smelling, listening, wearing, reading crocheting, flicking to, enjoying, not loving, knowing, wondering, dreaming, hoping, knitting, laughing at, casting on, grateful for, adoring, smiling at?

Have a beautiful week. But, blog it later – get out an enjoy this gorgeous weather while it lasts!
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

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

Who needs the gym?

We are certainly well and truly into farm-mode now!

Although it is officially spring, it’s still been pretty cold at night here. Which means keeping the fire lit. Which means firewood. LOTS of firewood. We seem to burn it faster than we can collect it, chop it, stack it, and bring it in. It’s a constant chore: The fire is hungry and constantly must be fed. Hubby just bought his first log splitter and tomahawk, and BOY have they been getting a work out! And so has he: Working out ‘Lumber Jack-style’!

 
Since we just moved in, we’ve had no time to stockpile any firewood. And the former tenants didn’t leave any. There’s plenty about in the paddocks, but it all requires collecting, chopping, stacking, and drying. So: Job for next winter! STOCKPILE WOOD. 
 


I, too, am developing big callouses from shovelling clay aside in the garden, and carrying firewood to and fro. And splinters. Lots of splinters. Under my nails.

Note to self: Acquire some work gloves.

The other reason gloves maaaayyyy also be a good idea is that I am constantly wheezing and sneezing, and my arms are coming out in constant hives from carrying armloads of hay around the farm to the horses.

Yep: I’m allergic.

(Nope: I’m not joking.)

So has the novelty worn off yet?

…what do you think? 😉

 
I hope you’re keeping warm through these first days of spring, and that the blossoms are starting to come out at your place! I’ll be planting my first Hill Shadow harvest soon! So much to choose from!
 
What should I plant?
Have you planted yours?