Wednesday, December 1, 2010

chapter 21: 10 places to hide a goat

 During the week we made home-made cheese. Not only was it easy to make but it was even easier to eat, and we would like to share the recipe with you. Tasting very similar to fresh ricotta, it was made simply with lemons and full cream milk. It was light, creamy and it melted in our mouths, yet it also caused my husband to start acting strangely.

At first, Joe sat quietly on the couch in a brown study. next minute, I saw him outside with his measuring tape, then back indoors and on the laptop. He was up to something. Outside again pacing out the length of the back shed, then the car port, garage, and finally the chicken pen, before rubbing his hands together with seeming delight, and a big dirty grin.

"Darling, what are you up to?" I enquired. At first, Joe seemed sheepish... but on closer inspection, I realised my husband looked far more goatish!

"No way! we are not getting a goat!"

Joe paused to muster the most convincing rebuttal he could conjure whilst pretending to scrape chook poo from his boot. "But darling, it could live in here with the chickens, no one would have to know a thing about it. We could feed it silverbeet and lettuce from the garden, and any clothes that the children no longer fit into. And best of all, we can make more cheese!!!"

"So they eat clothes?" I queried.

"They eat anything!" He said.

Sufficed to say, as this conversation took place directly beneath my low hanging clothes line, I remained even less convinced.

"We are not getting a goat".

How to make cheese

Heat 2 litres of milk to approx 90 degrees, or a rolling boil (not bubbling). Make sure you keep stirring so as not to burn the milk. When heated remove from heat and immediately, but slowly add 5/6 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (We actually used limes). Continue to stir slowly in one direction, and you will begin to notice the milk separating into curds (the lumps) and whey. Continue to stir for about a minute then cover and leave to cool for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, strain the curds and whey through muslin (like a baby wrap) or cheese cloth over a colander. The curds will remain and the whey can be discarded. Hang the cheese in the muslin over a sink to drain completely for another 3 hours.

Now it is ready for a taste test. Yum! You can season with salt, or for that matter anything sweet or savoury to your liking'. This recipe makes a ball of cheese about the size of a shot put, but not as heavy.

If you don't eat it all at once, refrigerate it in an air tight container. It lasts 4 or so days.

We used our cheese in salads and will be making more in a week or so to make stuffed zucchini flowers.

Lavender Champagne (part 1)

lovely bug adding to the mix

Steve spoons in the vinegar
Another little home-made number we had a go at this week was lavender champagne. We got the initial idea from an elderflower champagne recipe but being short of the key ingredient and after some research we found that lavender could make a good substitute.

A bit of bubbly is an essential for any celebration, and with our FFFC now only weeks away we needed a summer time champs to pop at the end of our challenge.

It only takes a few weeks to brew lavender champagne and so it was exactly what we needed. We're not sure if it will work or how it will taste but we are hoping when we pop our first bottle it conjures memories of long lost summers and searches for cicada shells but most of all we want to make sure it is alcoholic! This is why we decided to add more than the recommended amount of sugar, even though there is a strong chance that the bottles may explode due to the pressure. Its a risk we're willing to take.

Champagne anyone?

Lavender Champagne Recipe

100 lavender flowers
2 lemons
600 grams white sugar
250 grams sultanas
6 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
6 litres of water
1/4 teaspoon champagne/all purpose wine yeast

Remove the lavender flowers from the stems. Grate the zest of two lemons. Finely dice sultanas and mix all three ingredients together in a bole. Boil 1 litre of water, pour into a large bucket or tub (we used a carboy). Add sugar, lavender, lemon zest and sultanas and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add the juice of 2 lemons and white wine vinegar. Then add a further 5 litres of water and allow to cool until temperature is below 30 degrees. Add yeast, gently stir it in and cover with muslin wrap or carboy lid and airlock.
 Leave for 7 days at room temp then strain liquid into sterilised bottles and cap. The bottles need to be airtight. You could cork the bottles or simply use what we are using, clip lock glass bottles. Store for  a further 2 weeks. Taste and enjoy!

At least that is our plan. At the moment ours is still fermenting in the carboy. We intend to btle it  tomorrow and will let you know how it goes.

Last blog we said we were going to mull over our mulberries, intending to make something delicious from our multitudes of mulberries. Unfortunately our mulberries haven't quite come to the party yet but stay tuned. Instead we are going to take you right back to the birds and the bees and chat about hand-pollinating zucchinis.

pollinating Zucchinis and Pumpkins

 Our zucchinis are well and truly doing their thing and have produced nothing short of very eager flowers just sitting there waiting for Joe and his little paint brush to come pollinate them each morning. Zucchini's, pumpkins and other similar plants of the gourd variety have male and female flowers. In order to bear fruit, pollen from a male flower must travel to a female flower for pollination to occur, and thew fruit to grow. Usually the bees will do this for you, but as they have recently been dropping dead due to excessive mobile phone microwaves (at least that's what the communists want you to think), you may have to do it yourself to get results.
our Turk's Turban pumpkins successfully taking over the yard:)

You will need:

1 paint brush (Soft)
1 sunny morning
to be able to tell male and female flowers apart.

Its actually very simple. female flowers have a bulbous miniature fruit at their base, while the male flowers stand on a long thin stem. inside the male flower is the stamen, which is covered in pollen (when the flower is mature). take a brush and carefully collect some pollen on the end. (choose the strongest, sexiest male flower you can find).  Then transfer the pollen to the female flower, brushing it on the claw looking pod (pistil) in the centre of the open flower.

pollen from a male flower

You will know if the pollination is successful when the fruit bulb starts to swell after a few days. if the female fruit pod turns yellow and shrivels, then unfortunately, its an old spinster.

Time to get busy in the pumpkin patch with your paint brushes.

Friday, November 19, 2010

chapter 20: Eating your greens...reds, purples, yellows and oranges too.

Chapter 20:Eating your Greens...Reds, Purples, Yellows & Oranges too.

Taking (Chicken) Stock of Life and Death
A month ago we noticed Charlie (one of our remaining three chickens) had gone 'dickie'. We had noticed that she seemed a little out of sorts, but it wasn't until Gramps 'the chook whisperer' pointed it out in no uncertain terms for all to hear at a recent bbq "You've got a dickie chook there lovey". Joe smiled with discombobulation. Behind his polite smile, he was thinking 'what the hell does dickie mean?'
"well matey, it means her organs are systematically shutting down and she's only got about a week to live, you can tell by the frumpy tail and the colour has gone from her cone. You'd best put her in a box in a quiet corner or she'll be pecked to death by the others."
Joe had grown close to Charlie, particularly because she was named after his father...I could see him thinking 'surely it's not that bad. Jo's dad is prone to exaggeration. Perhaps Charlie is just having a bad day...too much porridge can cause bloating...?'

But dickie she was, and within the week Charlie passed away in a cardboard box on the back porch.

I called Joe to break the news..."can you pick up some milk on the way home, I haven't paid that bill yet,  and by the way Charlie's dead."

After letting Joe down lightly, I thought about the kids. How were they going to take it, they had grown so fond of the chickens, perhaps they are too young to understand. Later in the afternoon when Joe arrived home the whole family stood around the hole under the lemon tree. Joe shook Charlie out of the box and she landed with a stiff thud in the shallow grave, a moment of silence followed until Joe said with a sense of ceremony "would anyone like to say a few words?" After a brief pause our 4 year old (N), spoke up " um, well are we gonna pull her feathers out?" he said shrugging his shoulders. "Why sweety? " I replied.
"Well, we are having chicken soup for dinner; we may as well just add her to it."

Kids eh..Joe sent us all inside as he slumped on his shovel in a state of grief and disbelief at our sons carnivorous pragmatism.

But this was more than a month ago and with only two hens left and eggs at an all time low, Joe quickly recovered after we purchased 4 more hens, Thelma, Louise, Georgie and Noella.

Bean and gone

Talking of has beens we had our first major spring harvest last weekend. Our broad beans were ready for picking. Broad beans are not commonly found in the shops but are a delicious bean and very easy to grow. Plant them on St Patricks day (Autumn) and they will be ready for harvesting in early Spring. You can eat them straight from the shell or freeze them for later use as we decided to do. Alternatively you can leave the mature pods to dry for planting next season or adding the dried beans to next winter's dishes. Simply soak the dried beans overnight. The mature plants grow up to a metre in height and yield about 15 pods, each with 3-5 beans. We harvested enough to fill a wheelbarrow.

Shelling the beans was a fun family affair and is set to become a favourite annual tradition.

Another handy broad bean tip is that the roots draw nitrogen back into the soil. When harvesting, don't pull the plant out by the roots, simply cut off at ground level leaving the roots in, in time they will break down providing a rich source of nitrogen in your next crop. Follow a crop of tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkins or melons (heavy feeders) with a broad bean crop to replenish the soil.

Colourful crops

With spring well and truly in the air the garden is quite a buzz, literally. Our bottle brush trees are covered in bees from dawn to dusk and the other flowers throughout the garden are coming into bloom. The poppies, nasturtiums, roses, camellias, lavender, black-eyed Susie's, hibiscus and geraniums are all doing their colourful thing. But its not just the flowers being colourful in the garden. This month we've pulled up our purple dragon carrots, plucked our purple king beans, had our first ripened red, cherry tomatoes, red lettuce and budding beetroot stems and lets not forget the greens. Silverbeet, coriander, rocket, basil and beans all look great in green.

purple King Beans

we simply call this our handsome lettuce.
Kapow! Purple Dragon Carrots...

Seaweed in the mountains

Seaweed is a great fertilizer for the vegetable patch, but as we are in the mountains, we have been making the most of our trips to the coast when we visit Joe's family. On our last trip north, Joe and his sister filled the entire boot of the station wagon with garbage bags of seaweed from the local lakes.

After rinsing it in the rain, to wash off any salt, we added it to the pumpkins, tomatoes and potatoes. the potatoes and pumpkins are absolutely thriving! best of all it's free, and can even be used to make a liquid fertilizer, seaweed tea.

Straw and your strawberries
If there is one taste that defines spring, it simply has to be the home grown, hand picked, delicious taste of ripe red strawberries. the only problem is getting them before the snails do. Strawberries are a hardy plant to grow, but the strawberries themselves can fall victim to rotting if allowed to sit on the soil, and become easy targets for fat little snails.

Its worth padding some straw beneath the berries to elevate them from the ground. this reduces the likelihood of rot, and munching mollusc's. In fact, growing them in hanging baskets is a sure fire way to save your berries from the snails and slugs. this is definitely on our to do list, although we plan to leave some in the ground to grow runners and new plants for next season.

Possums in the patch
If you have ever visited the mountains, it’s quite possible that you have crossed paths with the semi-famous Possum Man. Known throughout the district for his cunning possum catching talent, The possum man can be called on his possum hotline (somewhat like ghost busters we imagine), will arrive in his hand painted possum-mobile and (for a fee) proceed to trap your furry possum fiend and then let it go again in your backyard, thanks to the Blue mountains City council’s policy on protecting those poor, poor little possums that wee all over our car, eat our garden and thunder across our roof at 3am in the morning.
one of our cheekiest possums

Since moving here possums have had a go at most things that we have tried to grow including our chilli bush, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs. They have dined on our entire lettuce crop and munched away our heirloom ‘lazy housewife beans’ down to the very last stalk. They even have the hide to do so right in front of us, causing Joe to fling into a wild frenzy of maniacal fist waving and chasing them around in the dark, before near breaking down in tears at the state of our helpless seedlings. It can just about break a man’s spirit.

possum solutions
The possums are here to stay but we have learnt how to live with them. We now cover most of what we grow with bird netting but we have also discovered some things that you can grow that the possums don’t seem to bother with and we feel obliged to share these with you.

Possums have not bothered the zucchinis that grew rambunctiously all over the yard last year. They don’t eat our leek, onions, garlic, shallots, coriander, rosemary, pumpkins or melons, perhaps because of their coarse leaves. Interestingly, with the onset of spring, the possums have become much less of a problem. In fact, we have been able to successfully grow leafy silverbeet, lettuce tomatoes and potatoes uncovered over the last month, and not one leaf has been munched.

The famous gardener, Jackie French, seems to believe that possums don’t like ‘foraging’ for food in dense vegetation, and we have tended to notice the same. This may also explain why the possums have left our sweet potato leaves, which grew abundantly all through last summer. Just don’t leave your harvested sweet potatoes out over night, as they will happily eat them for you.

Even flowers occasionally fall victim to hungry possums. They have eaten all of our beautiful geraniums down to the stalks but don’t touch the nasturtiums or lavender.

Although our grapes are still too small for the possums or birds to care about we plan to net each bunch with stocking as we lost at least 70% of our grapes last year to them. We are not sure if it will work but are going to give it a go.

Next blog we are going to mull over mulberries, talk lavender champagne and get cheesy making our own ricotta.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Chapter 19: raindrops, ice cream and magic hats.

The rain is tumbling down outside, here in the mountains. The water tank is overflowing and the resident puddle at our back door has become best friends with G and her gumboots. With the onset of  at least 100 ml of rain in the last 24hours, we have pulled up stumps and come inside.

 As any parent can appreciate, rainy days are a wonderful opportunity to spend hour upon hour waiting until bed time. You've pulled out all your best paternal tricks; they have played with play dough, coloured in, watched a DVD, made a cubby house, dressed up, made pancakes, forced the children to perform menial tasks such as polish the floorboards with baby wipes and played hide and try and get away from the kids, and its only 9am.

So what do you do when your repertoire runs dry on a wet old rainy day?

You pull out ...THE MAGIC HAT! you can see it really is magic.
This is something that Joe and I invented on the eve of the school holidays in sheer desperation to stop our 4 year old organising our every move. The magic hat is something that basically makes all of your old activities suddenly new and exciting again. Here's how it works. You make a list of all the activities you have in your repertoire and write them on to little cards...yes they go in the hat. Then you give your children a spiel about how the magic hat is magic and that it will magically decide for the whole family which activity the children will take part in that day.

Our hat magically appeared (in a black garbage magical) hanging on the back gate, sent down from the magic folk that live in the 'faraway tree' (gumtree) in our back yard. The kids were impressed. The activities inside included chess, bush walk, painting, a bike ride, a treasure hunt, colouring in, a board game, and a trip to the library as well as many other mind blowing exciting possibilities.

But its important that the parents themselves don't get sucked in by this magical spiel and instead realise this as an opportunity to rig the system. For example. It is 3pm on a rainy Sunday afternoon, you don't want your child to reach in and pull out the 'family bushwalk' activity (so you slip that one in your pocket) and secretly drop in several duplicates of 'quiet reading time in your rooms' or the 'awesome: popcorn and DVD...wild card!' Get the drift? No complaints...what the hat decides, the hat decides and everyone must accept its magical will. Suckers!

Thankfully it has only been raining for 3 days so far and last week we enjoyed gorgeous Spring days. The wisteria is in full bloom and the air has been laden with syrupy scents of wisteria, Jasmine and lavender. We took the opportunity to fix the rickety old side gate and give it a fresh coat of paint, from mission brown to a lovely lolly pink.

Painting gives one time to ponder on the important things in life such as, 'why are we here?' , 'where did we come from?' and 'how many eggs have our chooks laid in the last 12 months?'. My mind started the calculation. An average of 2.8 eggs per day, times 365 days in the year, that's 1022 eggs in the last year. Or 85.1666666 reoccurring dozen eggs. So if an average dozen costs around $5, that is $425 we didn't have to spend on eggs this past year. Which is exactly why we went out on Friday and bought ourselves two more chookens. Introducing 'Thelma and Louise'. Thelma is the tall, dark chick...and her side-kick, Louise, is the stumpy blonde ;) 

Whilst the pecking order has been an issue for Thelma and Louise, being put well and truly in their place by our older three hens, G on the other hand has mysteriously been accepted into the feathered flock. G and N have taken to spending countless hours playing with the 'chookens', to the point now where they happily allow G to hold their tale feathers as both child and chook wonder around together. Quite a funny sight.

With less than 100 days to go before our FFFC the gravity of doing without some of life's little luxuries has begun to weigh more heavily on certain members of the family. Inevitably it is going to be a challenging week attempting to get by with little more than a bag of flour, some coffee, milk, oil and produce from the yard. Surprisingly Jo hasn't questioned why my increasing stock of home brew in the garage is also one of the few items allowed during the challenge week. I thought I was home free when the unfortunate penny dropped. "But I MAKE my home brew", I argued. " and you can have one every now and then too..." I pleaded in defense. But a compromise needed to be made. I knew her weakness. Its brown, white and pink, or if its been a really tough day sometimes it comes with rocky road lumpy chunks and caramel swirls... that's right Jo's frosty little Achilles was going to be my saving grace."But Darling, we can make ice cream for the challenge week". We had a compromise, I could keep my home brew so long as Jo could have her ice cream. Consequently we have resolved to add a tub of honey to our shopping list of things we will buy for the challenge. 

Of course Jo wouldn't be entirely convinced unless we gave it a try first so we put some of our eggs to good use and made some delicious home-made vanilla ice-cream. It was surprisingly easy. The recipe includes 3 eggs, with the egg whites and yolks separated, 1/2 a cup of  honey, 4 cups of light cream, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Firstly we separated the egg yolks and whites and mixed the yokes with the honey until smooth. In a
separate bowl we beat the egg whites till they were stiff. Mixed the two together then added the cream. Poured into a saucepan and mixed constantly on a medium heat for 15 min. We added vanilla and allowed it to cool. Then it went in to a bowl in the freezer and was mixed every couple of hours for the first four hours or so. Then frozen overnight. It was actually great fun making it with the kids and they woke up the following morning to a spoon of homemade ice cream. We are looking forward to being a little more adventurous with flavours, maybe a lavender and macadamia nut ice cream for the challenge.

On the garden front all of the seedlings are just about in the new garden beds and fingers crossed they won't all be eaten by the snails over these very rainy days. The war on snails has officially been relaunched with the unfortunate casualties of two of our pumpkin seedlings and one defenceless zucchini. Cowardly pot shots have also been taken at our new strawberries. After Joe's snail hunt tonight we've hit back collecting 60 slimy snails and one slug. The housing prices for snails has just hit rock bottom with 60 new shells on the market. I told you we're not greenies!

Next blog we prepare for bigger pests, its time to put some hosiery over those grapes and we will  let you know about some possum proof veggies.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Chapter 18: Mastering Pasta - ing

It was a beautiful, balmy Spring afternoon last tuesday, as the entire family gathered around our latest arrival...she was beautiful. She came complete with shiny chrome curves, 7 adjustable roller width options and a coloured manual in French, Italian, English, japanese and possibly even Lithuanian.Our pasta maker from Big W online had finally arrived... soon the children would be asleep, and we could begin mastering the art of pasta making!

With 117 days to go before our Funky Frontyard Farming Challenge we got a little mumbo Italiano in the kitchen and made pasta for the first time ever. It was heaps of fun. As one of the items to remain on our shopping list during the challenge week is flour, pasta is likely to be a menu option. That aside, we eat it regularly and love the idea of making it ourselves anyway.

The recipe is surprisingly simple. 500g of flour and 5 eggs from our chookies. mix until the dough is consistent, adding water if too dry, or flour if too sticky. Cut the dough and pass it through the pasta maker rollers to make flat sheets of pasta. Run the sheet through the press a few times again, making it thinner as you go. The sheets can then be cut to which ever style of pasta is preferred, either by hand, or using one of the cutters on the pasta maker. Our one cuts fettuccine and spaghetti. We decided to make a fettuccine. When the pasta is cut, let it rest for an hour or so. We found it best to drape the fettuccine over a wooden spoon to stop it compressing. After an hour, cook the pasta in boiled water, with a little oilve oil and a pinch of salt. Strain and serve.

Albeit a little on the thick side, our first attempt was deemed a success. Belissimo! We would like to perfect the process and would love any suggestions or handy tips. We would also like to try mixing through some basil or beetroot to add colour and some fresh summer flavours. Just waiting for them to grow. Best of all, though, making pasta, with a glass of red on the side, made for a fun night in.

Looks pretty yum!

Our pasta prototype was served with olives and double smoked pancetta that we purchased at the local growers market in Blackheath on the weekend. Delicious. The Blackheath markets are a great option for a day out on a lazy Sunday. Everything from fruit, to herbs, smoked duck, wine, goats cheese and even pig ears were sold. I presume the pig ears were for canines, and not just something to chew on whilst meandering through the market stalls. That said, you do get some strange types further up the mountain... You know the types, organic with a capital O, and home knitted rainbow coloured beanie wearing quasi-Buddist. At least they're friendly and harmless.

One such character, a protector of all things native, became instantly concerned when Noah discovered a sleeping possum high up in a tree near bye the stalls. when Noah began shaking the branches to say hello, (no doubt amazed by the novelty of finding a possum in broad daylight), multi coloured beanie man dashed to the possums rescue, and enlightened Noah about the importance of possum welfare and preservation. No doubt, this was news to Noah, considering our stance on possums and their antics in our vegetable garden. Got to love the highlanders.

Since we last blogged our flowers seeds have sprouted and the buds on our grape vine, pear trees and nectarine tree have burst into Spring. We have also planted Turks Turban Pumpkins, Sugar Baby watermelons, long Cayenne Joe Chillies and some more Tigerella tomatoes in seedling trays and beetroots, Lebanese cucumbers and purple dragon carrots throughout the new garden beds. If you like your coffee and you like growing carrots you might be interested in this little tip. Word on the street is that used ground coffee is the secret to nice big carrots. You can dig in the coffee grounds to your garden bed before sowing your carrots or you can mix the seeds with the coffee before sowing to help separate the seeds, we are trialling this with our new plot of purple dragon carrots and will let you know how it goes.

Also if you are a coffee lover it is handy to have a new neighbour who roasts and grinds his very own fair-trade organic (with a small o) coffee beans in a great big, sexy red, brand spanking new, industrial sized coffee roaster grinder (which we are thinking of breeding with our pasta maker). But what are the chances of that? well funny you should ask... our new neighbour just so happens to do exactly that, and more so, has asked if its ok for him to give us free coffee in case the smell of freshly roast coffee may offend us. oh, alright then!

Whilst our new garden beds still under construction we are facing a race against the clock as we had anticipated completing them earlier. To give Joe time on the weekend to build bed 3 it was crucial that all kids be kept occupied  far far away from him in the backyard, in order to preserve his sanity... and ours.

N and G dressed up as a knight and pirate princess and had a marvelous time doing 'water painting', that is painting on their blackboard with water. How cheap are we?! Surprisingly it kept them thoroughly entertained well beyond the expected time frame. It is a wonderful way to water the garden and wash the children at the same time and by the time they had dried out Joe had finished garden bed no. 3.

This weekend we are going to do a 'poo run', buy another two hens and make some home-made ice-cream.
For those of you who are not familiar with a 'poo run' it is when Joe scours the Richmond district for the best, big bags of horse manure for $2 a bag...poo in these parts is hard to come by. Richmond is a good half hour drive from here and we have been desperate to locate a poo source closer. We stumbled on a little district called Sun Valley, peppered with paddocks and poo potential but alas none of the horse studs sell their poo. That said there is a small produce store in Sun Valley where we will buy our chickens.
Next blog we look at planting our pumps, eating icecreamy lumps, and pulling out stumps. stay tuned.

Countdown: 117 days to go

Sunday, August 22, 2010

chapter 17: Blossoms

 The Rolling Stones were wrong when they said "I can't get no satisfaction". Obviously they didn't succeed in baking their own home-made bread, re-building a vegetable garden out of bessa blocks, planting a nectarine tree, sow approximately 40 varieties of fruit and vegetables and looking after a newborn and two kids and still have time to sit down and blog about it...yeah eat that rolling stones...write a song about that!!!
 Now that we are done boasting, satisfaction we realise, comes at a price. Perhaps it is the recent sleep deprivation that caused Joe to become emotionally bi-polar over the past three weeks, riding the highs and lows that come with re-building a vegetable bed whilst trying to do his share of entertaining the kids. The poor man suffered several setbacks over the past three weekends.

Weekend 1: At 7 am Joe began supremely confident and optimistic that he would have 20 sq m of vegetable gardens laid and all things planted by afternoon tea.
At 8:46 am Joe was still trying to level his first brick, becoming somewhat agitated at G who insisted on  handing him every earth worm she found.

End of weekend one, the front yard looked like a war zone, half of garden bed one built, husband on edge of despair and drowning his sorrows in a couple of home brews whilst new born did her 5th explosive poo after I had just changed her again...
next weekend will be better.

the sweet potatoes that we dug up from the old garden beds..a good 5 kg and yummy.
Weekend 2: We had prepared a working bee to lift Joe's spirits. Family and friends were recruited. On the morning of thunderous clouds accumulated above and the premature executive decision was made at 8:30 am to cancel the bee. By 9:03 there was not the skimpiest, single cloud to be seen. When we made the recall of the troops everyone had made alternative plans except for Steve (brother-in-law), our solo garden bed  building hero.

 When Steve arrived, it rained again.. actually it hailed.
12:27pm: Working bee officially cancelled, garden bed one 3/4 finished.

Weekend 3, Saturday morning: Joe has a 'man cold', sore back, and very bad attitude yet labours on stoically. 11:45 am Joe convinces himself that  I am trying to sabotage the F.F.F.C. by intentionally feeding the newborn at clearly inconvenient times and sending the other two children out into the front yard to cause pestilence on my behalf...enough is enough. 12:00 pm Joe is put back in his place and apologised shortly there after. 

worm hunt continues
 Sunday : Joe adopts a new approach. 6:00 I get to sleep in, have coffee brought to me in bed. 10:30: Joe takes two kids for a two hour bush walk and picnic lunch whilst I read a mag in the sun and do some weeding.1:30 Joe gets time in the front yard to finish the first garden bed, plant the nectarine tree and chop the firewood.4:00pm garden bed one is successfully completed...satisfying....only two more to go! 

Speaking of satisfaction, this week Joanna made some hot buns.... bread buns, that is. This week, we thought we would get busy in the kitchen and make some bread as a practice run for the challenge week. Making bread is dead easy. Sure you can buy a tip top loaf if you like, but bread buttered straight out of the oven is all together a very different experience, that doesn't leave you feeling bloated and guilty. We made a mix of flour, grains, yeast and water within minutes, and after letting the dough rest, it was in the oven in no time. 

As soon as Aldi's has pasta makers on sale again, I will camp outside the nearest store to make sure we don't miss out again. We are super keen to make some home made pasta, but alas, the last time Aldi's sold manual pasta making machines, they strangely sold out within minutes. Unfortunately the sale coincided with the height of the Master Chef hysteria. There is no other reasonable explanation as to why the people of Penrith suddenly decided to go gourmet and stock up on pasta makers.

This time around, in the garden, we have planted most of our vege in seedling trays while we complete the garden beds. This month we have planted Lebanese zucchini and cucumber, the worlds largest pumpkin, bohemian, butternut and QLD blue pumpkins, tigerella tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, Brussels sprout, capsicums, artichoke and  sunflowers in seedling trays. We have also planted basil, parsley, asparagus, celery, coriander and shallots directly into the new bed.

In addition to the vegetable beds, we also laid some new flower beds throughout the front yard, planting poppies, marigolds, pansies, lavender, chamomile, swan river daisies, snap dragons, sweet peas and many more varieties to attract the bees and add some colour in spring.   

we have more to plant next month, but we are both falling asleep at the computer... so, we will talk about that next week. hope you guys are all doing well. don't forget, next month (September) is the time to plant pretty much everything:

Basil, beans, beetroot, broccoli, capsicums, Carrots,. celery, chilies, chives, coriander, corn, cucumber, dill, eggplant, Leek, lettuce, Pak Choy, parsley, peanuts, peas, potatoes, pumpkin, Rock melon, Silverbeet, strawberries, Sunflower, tomatoes, turnips, watermelon, Zucchini, and many more.

So don't let another year pass. Spring has unofficially sprung.

the first buds of spring on our lovely new nectarine tree

Countdown: 142 days to go!