Fiddle di dee

Loving listening to my girl play the violin, such a beautiful instrument.  And she's practising like crazy,  even after lights out!
Cat says fiddle di dee.

Chook palace





 It's all but nearly finished, this new chook palace of ours.  Taking a week to complete over a few drizzly days, it just needs a little more chicken wire and we are there.

Hugo and I made it all cosy with fresh straw and the girls have moved in already.

I'm so pleased we managed to recycle so much of the building materials for this shed, tin from a friend's roof that was recently replaced, timber from the stash, an old screen door from our former laundry, and my favourite, a nesting box made from solid timber kitchen cupboards that was found at the tip, for free.

As the girls are settling in nicely, scratching through the new straw, my next move is to organise some medicinal plants to grow around the edges for the chooks to peck. Armed with a copy of my chook bible, I've ordered wormwood, scarlet nasturtiums, tansy, comfrey and some barley through Diggers.  No hardship there - I love shopping for seeds and plants.

I also plan to give the whole house a lick of lime wash, the real stuff, made from a bag of builders lime and water, which should not only keep parasites at bay, but provide a real Mediterranean feel!

All we need now is the girls to lay some eggs, but I think we'll be waiting for their moulting to finish before they start to lay again.  In the meantime, a pair of wooden eggs sits in the nesting box, to hopefully inspire that urge to return.

Actually the girls are getting older, so I'm hoping to pick up some young new girls this weekend and our old girls can retire in style.  In their white washed Mediterranean villa.

The crumble wars



I've been going through a bit of British Cookery stage lately.  Perhaps fuelled by the fact we're moving closer to the dream of installing a Rayburn wood stove (built by Aga!) becoming a reality.  There's something about these autumn days that has me reaching for the books of English favourites like Nigel, Monty and Sarah, Jamie, Nigella and Patrick, Dominic and Cass for some nostalgic comfort food.

With Victorian sponges, toad in the hole and kippers on my mind, coupled with the fact of the abundance of apples and blackberries in our garden, we've been eating plenty of crumbles lately.   Served with a dollop of our favourite yoghurt, why it's positively a health food that can be eaten most nights with a clear conscience.

However, I admit to not having found a really good crumble topping yet, so we've been having a crumble bake off, each night trying a different crumble recipe.  Pitting Monty against Nigel, Jamie against Nigella. 

So far, the results are inconclusive, Jamie wins points for containing nutritious oats, Nigel is certainly a front runner at this stage, whose crumble has an almost shortbread texture, due to his refusal to be parsimonious with the butter. Both Nigella and Monty's versions are perfectly acceptable crumble toppings, but none really hit the mark.

Funny enough, it's my neighbour who makes the best crumble I've ever had, it's super crunchy because she cooks the topping on a baking tray in the oven first.  Seems I didn't have to go far after all to find the perfect recipe.  Still, proper British cookery is something I should perfect before the arrival of our hydronic stove.  I wouldn't want her to get homesick. Luckily I have p.l.e.n.t.y. of time to practice!

Harvest Festival

Today is the Harvest Festival at Elsa's school.  Because we can't get there, we thought we'd have a harvest festival of our own in the garden.  We've been picking apples from the trees we planted four years ago, mostly giant bramleys and my favourite cox's orange pippin.  Such a delicious apple ::  a perfect balance of sweet and tart.  I think I need to plant another tree so we can have plenty more to eat. 

With only a few big bramelys, there will be enough for apple pie for dinner tonight. Bolstered perhaps with a few juicy blackberries that grow wild in the corners of the garden, which we naughtily neglect to control. Much to the neighbours disapproval I'm sure.  

In another corner of the garden, there sits an unruly collection of found, recycled, scavenged and reused timber, pallets, wires, kitchen cupboards and a wire door for the new chook house our friend Pete is building.  With a big new chook palace, I'll be off to the poultry fanciers sale in April to find some new girls to enhance our flock.  




Getting sorted

I've started a dozen posts this past fortnight and found myself too easily distracted to finish even one.  Mostly by the garden and the glorious autumn weather we've been enjoying.  I'm going to publish this one.

It's taken us a few weeks to get used to the new rhythm of school and associated going-ons.  Even though we minimise after school activities, I still find myself struggling trying to remember if it is library, piano or soccer, despite having a very nice Frankie calendar on my wall.   Problem solved by a trip the local second hand store, where I picked up on old cream cupboard door for $5 and gave it a lick of chalkboard paint.  It sits by the door so I can remember to which day grab sheet music, violin, soccer boots or home readers on the way out.  That's activities sorted, now I just have to make sure I can find the chalk. 
On the same visit, I picked up a nice old paint splattered step ladder which makes a very fine shoe rack.  Now we can get out the door without falling over a pile of shoes.  That's shoes sorted, now we just have to make sure we don't trip over Mabel, who likes to lie on the door mat in the sun.

Speaking of handsome beagles, you must keep an eye out for the next issue of a stylish country magazine, where a certain pup may just grace the cover.

Next up getting weeds sorted, getting the chooks sorted and getting the washing sorted.  Righto, back to it.

Haws and sloes





The very of notion of England's hedegrows is one I find somewhat nostalgic despite never having actually set foot on old Blighty. Most likely it stems from stories I read as a child of  quiet country lanes lined with hedgerows :: the setting for many Famous Five adventures. You know, the ones sustained by hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, treacle tart with a jug of cream and bottles of ginger beer.


Although clearly not a new thing, over recent years there has been a huge surge of interest in foraging in the hedgerows, with books and courses readily available detailing on how to find food for free. I love the idea of it and it's something I imagine must be fun.


Tasmania boasts a few hedgerows, most notably in the state's north, where the back roads are lined with immaculately kept hawthorn hedges.  


My valley, however, is not so particular with maintaining its hedges.  The hawthorn hedges, probably planted widely when the valley was first settled, are now neglected, straggly remnants of some long dead colonial's dream of recreating a little England at the end of the earth.


There is however, one lush, if not overgrown hawthorn hedge around here.  It's one I notice often as it sits in front of an old ruined building that I love.  This sweet old ruin, once a shop, is unique for its decorative columns, the only building to feature this style in the valley.


So today as I was driving past, I noticed large purple berries amongst the hawthorn.  I screeched on the brakes, braved the wind and lashing rain to take a closer look.  Sloes! Lots and lots of sloes growing amidst the hawthorn. I was so excited, I raced the children home from school, whipped up a batch of one of Pip's baked risotto recipes, (because we are all busy), and grabbed my secateurs, baskets, and gloves and screeched back to forage for myself.


I pruned the branches heavy with fruit and chucked them into the back of the car.  Whilst I was there, I thought I might as well grab some haws, those red berries that grow on the hawthorn. I will make a jelly with those.


So sloes.  What are they? A completely inedible tiny dark purple plum that makes the most wonderful gin.  Sloe gin.  I now have enough sloes to make quite a big batch of gin. Utterly delicious. 


I can't help but wonder though, who was it that planted those sloes all those years ago? Was it the same person who built the shop with stylish columns? That is much more intriguing than any Famous Five mystery.  


Thank you who ever you were, you totally made my day.