Thursday, 30 March 2017

Don't suppose Manolo Blahnik does gumboots

Autumn mornings have arrived.  A great time of year in Tasmania.  No wind, cool nights and spectacular sunrises.  We had a downpour last night to remind us about rain, and the rainwater tanks got replenished just a little.  If it's one thing we have learned about living here it's that cold nights arrive early and unannounced.  From then on the cold weather preparations swing into action.  Wood loads are gathered with neatly stacked piles appearing in sheds and along fences, well before we stop saving the daylight.  The getting ready for winter activity is a formal topic around the dinner table as the vegetable patch needs working over and the worn dusty pathways to the chook pen needs stones to stop them from turning to mud.  Things have certainly changed for us.  Before coming to live here, getting ready for winter meant a spin around a MYER fashion floor with a view to a mild wardrobe update and some shiny shoes.  Not because it was necessary, more just because you thought you should.  Now it's about warm layers, woollen socks and anything thermal that can go under cover without stopping you getting easily through doorways.  The good jeans I bought then are only good for the dog's bed now and the puffer jacket lacks sufficient puff to get me out into less than five degrees in the morning.  The gloves need to be leather and lined for driving as well as water proof.  The early morning ritual of filling up the chooks' bowl with water becomes painful when icy water comes into stinging contact with blue fingers.  And of course, the obligatory gumboots at the back door.  Come to think of it, I haven't seen them for a long time, they may be in the old shed.  I dread to think who or what has moved into them over summer.  Might be time for a new pair.  MYER perhaps?

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

I'll take her for walks and everything...

Fortunately she just wouldn't fit in the ute, or the calf for that matter.  A trip to the Small Farms Expo on Sunday gave us a chance to see what else we could add to our little farm.  While the tractors were smaller than Agfest some of the livestock exhibitors weren't.  The chicken pavillion showed brothers and sisters to our own little collection of weirdos and the sheep yard had a few black faced Suffolk like our very own but not quite as...ahem, round. I was successful in convincing the head farmer and husband we shouldn't come home with a donkey, or two turkeys or any more goats (we've just adopted out the last lot). As our own little patch of demanding domestics is enough to handle and every time a new set of hoofs or beaks arrive, I see another holiday in the distance, sail away.  Animals are a tie, but very rewarding as I'm constantly reminded.  However the, let's not get any more goats argument was easily won with the nearby goat fence display a timely reminder that if you want goats, you'll need Guantanamo style electric perimeters between your cute little Billy goat and your prized rose bushes.  Chooks free ranging all over your garden is a picture of cottage heaven but the bigger the chicken, the longer the legs, and the longer the legs, the further they can send your stone and bark screenings in every direction.  What was once a cottage garden in my backyard is a pile of mulch as our mother hen shows her eight fluffy children how to dig for grubs by removing annoying daisies and violets. But the opportunity to meet the breeders of all these amazing animals gave us a great day with the warm sunshine on the Huon oval at its best.   I do really like those highland cattle though.  Lucky we didn't bring the trailer.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Slow food and a month of afternoons

I had to move my almonds in under the verandah. Of course now being a nut farmer (ahem..!) I dry my nuts in the sun.  Well the sun has disappeared and they didn't tell me about that when I Googled how to be a nut farmer.  With my limited knowledge about growing almonds I have two almond trees that have produced large quantities of nuts.  We did manage to get more water to the trees this year and the trees produced better fruit than last year's effort which were a bit thin and sad looking.  The green parrots are dead keen on them and it's a race to see who can get them off the quickest.  We've netted the two trees as best as we could but it's a pain in rear end as the prickly branches make it almost impossible to get the nets off without tearing them and the birds know where the holes are.  So other than letting off a cannon shot every hour we will just have to appear to be generous.  We put in a reasonable harvesting effort with plastic bucket in hand and found the nuts came off really easily.  Their soft velvet olive green coating had opened to reveal yellow or the riper brownish nuts inside. Each one has to peeled.  There's an afternoon gone.  Sitting there shelling nuts the parrots look on at me and politely decline from laughing.  The chickens walk up beside me perched on the church pew under the verandah wondering why I'm throwing away perfectly good earwigs.

Our first lot of almonds had been on their wire trays for a few weeks.  The wire trays, which we will now refer to as our almond trays as they were meant to fit the windows as fly wire screens but were the wrong size and instead were perfect to allow the air to get to the nuts and dry out.  I wasn't sure how long you were meant to dry them for but after a few weeks of serious sunshine I thought it was time to take them to the next stage. Peeling them. Again.  Another afternoon gone.
So after that and about 20 minutes on a baking tray in a moderate oven they came out roasted.  And pretty marvellous might I add.  They were crisp and smokey (really must clean that oven one day) and much better than any you can buy in a packet.  Fresh and crunchy with so much flavour.  My next lot will be coated in a spice mix, just to get ahead of myself.  I'm a bit proud of our own roasted almonds.  Just don't be in a hurry for them and don't run out of afternoons.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The servants get the night off

Occasionally we get out of the house much to the disgust of our furry and feathered family members.  Pets know when you are going away.  They see the suitcases come out.  Bennie immediately adopts his sad eyes look and hangs his head over the top of the stairs to maximise the downward looking effect.  Previously when we've gone away for a night we've come home to goats in the rose garden, chickens fighting and a trail of cat vomit throughout the house.  They punish you when you go away.  So a night in a hotel with no responsibilities and someone putting food and drink in front of us is pure bliss.  We didn't hear any roosters in the morning, during the night no one was snoring on the floor beside our bed and we weren't choking from all the cat fur on the blankets.  We didn't have to separate our food leftovers into a bucket for the chooks and during breakfast, nobody sat beside us on the floor whimpering for toast crusts.  By the time we get home some are pleased to see us.  Bennie is excited as all dogs are to see their owner but Max not such much.  He refuses to acknowledge us and we get the 'speak to the tail because the face ain't listening' routine until he can be bothered mustering enough energy to scream at us for food.  The chickens come running as fast as they can on their little Pekin legs like a herd of tiny dinosaurs all complaining about the delay in getting their dinner.  Sure is good to get home...but no wonder we need a break occasionally.  Cheers.

Friday, 17 March 2017

But my cat hasn't been to Tuscany

We've been living on this property for a few years now and Max the Magnificent (self named) has not stepped foot outside.  In our previous house we had a little courtyard the size of a...tiny courtyard and it had fences all the way around.  Max and Bennie were given their dinner on the deck at the back door.  Bennie ate his in a few seconds and pushed the bowl around to get food out of every corner of a round bowl.  Max had to fight for his.  Unfortunately the local gang of pigeons would descend on hearing the dinner bowls rattle and intimidate Max enough to leave them food.  And they often succeeded.  Unfortunately, Max already being of elevated anxiety levels stills suffers from the pigeon effect at meal times.  Even now he doesn't like to eat his food unless I stand behind him.  I've tried to explain that there are no pigeons here and if there were, they wouldn't have a chance against the Butcher birds, the Noisy Miner Birds, the Kookaburras, the Black Cockatoos, the Chooks, Guinea Fowls etc., but this doesn't help.  He is still suffering from the effects of PPSD.  Post Pigeon Stress Disorder.  Most cats would wolf down their food but Max is quite thin and struggles to put on weight.  He was an ill kitten when we got him from the pet shop (yeah I know...) and has been really fussy with food all his life.  Most cats are fussy and pet food companies spend a fortune on the research into this but Max is truly hard work.  The other night I was cutting up a chicken breast and placed a tiny morsel in front of him on the floor.  He sniffed it and looked up at me with disgust as if to say I'm not eating that crap.  He won't eat the tiniest piece of fish being filleted straight from the ocean and never, ever finishes an entire tin or pouch of cat food.  Every night I reach to the pet food cupboard and pull out a serving saying 'Oh, this is your favourite' but it's always the same.  He'll eat just over half and walk away refusing to return to anything that's over 5 minutes old.  I've tried other brands, Fancy this and Fussy that but they are all the same to Max.  I've tried reading him the labels to get his appetite interested but even I must admit they're a bit vague.  It never actually says what it is.  It's (insert brand name) WITH  beef/chicken/fish etc.  Or it's the brand name with Tuscan style something.  What cat has been to Tuscany?  Other than the ones that live there.  So now I describe Max's food as a tin of With.  I guess even I couldn't get excited about a serving of meat derivatives and cereal.  It had better be with a big serving of something.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The summer week

Dead grass, everywhere I see.  We're on the sunny side of the southern part of this island.  It's the east coast which having lived on the mainland for most of my life, I wouldn't think a half hour drive would send you into another weather zone, but it does here.  We're often missed off the rain radar as the weather seems to use our town a bit like the campervans.  Somewhere you just pass through on the way to somewhere else.  We're so dry here we needed to reconsider our lawn mowers.  With the distinct lack of grass, our four legged mowing machines were starting to complain.  And where one has no green grass to eat, and one spies rosebushes next door...and one can leap like a mountain you know what, our friendly goats were becoming a problem.  The two twins, very cute and very different from each other, Billy the smaller of the two was the worst.  No wire fence would deter him if he knew there was green to be had over there. And whilst they were good fun, the sight of Billy snacking on Peonies did direct my thoughts to the slow cooker, but only for a minute.  So rather than face animals being permanently chained up we sought out another solution.   Some friends of ours live further north than us in a cooler climate including much more rain, and they get snow in winter.  They've got too much grass and were keen to adopt the new recruits. So last night we said farewell to our goats and wished them well on their journey.  As I walked back into the yard I imagined a collective sigh of relief from all the roses.   Bring on winter.  We're over this heat.  Even if it was for only a week.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Extreme gardening

I think I've over watered the chives (pictured).  It's going to be an usually hot week here in Tas and was getting a little ahead of myself.  Having limited ability in the skilled gardener category I tend to over do things.  This can be a good thing.  When I'm on a weed pulling mission there's no stopping me.  The chooks think it's marvellous.  They stand beside me cheering me on as I launch myself under overgrown rose bushes, with my weeding weapons of mass dislodging.  I recently met my match with a lone box thorn branch sneakily siding up beside an English box hedge hoping to go unnoticed.  I thought it looked a bit unusual.  I put on my chainmail gloves and went to it.  I pulled it and pulled it.  The chicken crowds gathered.  It wouldn't budge.  I pulled it with all my weight and it didn't even move, not even slightly.  It's long rope of a stem held firm as its roots had securely lodged themselves under the old concrete border for protection.  I contemplated wrapping it around myself and hurling myself across the courtyard but decided the audience had been entertained enough for one day.  I'm later told that the only way to deal with this pest is to cut it down and poison the roots.  I hate the idea of putting any poison anywhere near plants given particularly if left in my care they need all the support they can get.  But this will be added to the list of jobs.  As for the chives.  Well I'll just step away from them for a while.