Sunday, July 26, 2009

Timeless recipes

Do you have one of those recipes which has been passed down from an older relative, and never fails to impress? For me, I like those plain but sweet recipes. After trying it out on my very own daughter recently, this family favourite has now won acclaim with her too.

My mum passed this recipe on to me, and it still tastes as good as when she used to make it.


"Raspberry & Coconut Slice!"




BASE:


1 cup self-raising flour
2 tablespoons white sugar
30g softened butter
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 tablesppons water

1. Rub butter into flour, mix in sugar, combine lightly beaten egg yolks and water, gradually mix into flour mixture to form a soft dough. You may need more water to get right consistency.

2. Turn pastry out onto a floured board: knead lightly to form a smooth ball of dough.

3. Roll flat and then press into a greasted, rectangular slic tine (27cm x 18cm). Don't worry about the thinness of the pastry layer, it will rise. Prick base with a fork, bake in moderate oven (180 degrees celcius) for 12 minutes. Cool.


FILLING:

4 tablespoons raspberry (or any berry) jam.

1. Spread over cooled pastry with an even coverage.


TOPPING:

2 2/3 cups desiccated coconut
3/4 cup sugar
4 egg whites
1 tablespoon water
1/3 cup plain flour

1. Combine in medium saucepan: coconut, sugar, water and 1 egg white. Stir over medium heat until mixture becomes moist and lumpy. Don't allow to become brown. Cool.

2. Sift flour into cooled coconut mixture.

3. Beat remaining egg whites until fir peaks form; fold into coconut mixture, combining well.

4. Sprinkle mixture over base, press lightly then bake in a moderate oven (180 degrees celcius) for 30-35 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Cool before cutting.


And that's it! Well worth the effort. I've already cut thin slices for my daughter's lunch box this week. They're wrapped and sitting in the fridge. I chose to cut the small squares for home consumption (the one in the photo) because you can make a mess on a plate. The fingers will make it easier for my daughter to eat in the playground.

I also made some Vanilla Slice last week and that didn't stay very long in the fridge either!



Looks good huh? Well it definitely tasted great. Instead of posting the recipe though, I'll just link you to Mountain Wildlife where I stole, I mean got the idea from. ;)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Good question

I received a good question recently, to do with my chicken coops. I was asked why I had so many? It's one of those things you don't really think about explaining, because the process has still been one of learning for me. But I'm glad they asked, because it's a way of accounting for the process so far.


1st Coop..."Middle Ridge"

When I made a decision to keep and breed, different heritage varieties of chicken, I knew it would require multiple housing arrangments. I just didn't realise to what extent or how urgent separate housing would be sometimes.

I learned a lot of fatal realities after I got chickens. Most sudden deaths I experienced early on, had to do with not understanding flock life and suitable housing arrangements properly. The most susceptible breeds died first, and while I can't bring them back I've always learned something new.

For my set-up now I've learned that happy, healthy chickens - especially for breeding - do best in separate, self-contained housing. The optimal arrangement would be to let them free range all day too, but I have Wedge-tail eagles, domesticated dogs and foxes to contend with also.

I've had to whittle down my chicken ambitions recently, to meet our current financial situation. But each coop is still being used - a different rooster in each coop with hens of their own breed. In one coop I have included a different breed of hen as well, but that's for an intentional cross. I'm looking forward to how that develops in future.

The A-frame remains empty most of the time now, but when I've had chickens become suddenly ill or hen-pecked in the main coop - the A-frame tractor has been an incredible emergency accommodation.



A-frame tractor...

I'd have more coops and tractors if I could, but I've learned to balance need with finances and realistic expectations. I can only spend so much time building chicken accommodation, while the rest of life calls. It's nice to have a dream and working towards fulfilling it, but you've also got to have a life. Mine at the moment also involves raising a daughter, looking after my medical needs so I'm around a lot longer, and being madly in love with my husband.



2nd Coop..."Hilltop"

But when I want something unique to exercise that natural curiosity of mine, I turn to keeping chickens. I love what they teach me about responsibility, life, limitation and renewal.

It would be interesting to hear why others keep chickens too, and what lengths they've gone to in the name of poultry addiction. :)

By the way, thanks for asking the question Spots - I've never stopped to think why before.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Veggie giveaway

I love gardening, but what I like even more is sharing the experience with others. I visited a fellow enthusiast in our area, after the word was put out to collect some of her sweet potato glut.

We'd met before and it's always nice to catch up with her (and her garden).

Well, not only did I come home with some sweet-potato, but I was also given some kale, carrots, itallian parsely and striped beetroot: as seen below...



I enjoyed walked around her garden and then forking the ground for sweet potatoes. I've planted a few of the smaller ones in our garden, along with some of the smaller beetroot too. I intend to let the beetroot go to seed, so I can grow more in future.

Thanks to her generosity however, we put together our first meal that was majoritively home grown! It was very yummy, especially the kale concoction we put together...



That kale was a meal in itself! I haven't cooked kale before, but I was told you treat it similar to cabbage. So I fried off some bacon bits, threw in the roughly chopped kale and just before I was ready to serve, I threw in a handful of currants and one grated grannysmith apple (skin included). It was so delicious!

The curried sausages - while not organic - were sourced from our local butchers. But after eating this meal, we both agreed it was filling enough without the curried sausages. Is this what real food tastes like to digest? We hadn't gone 5 minutes into the meal before our mouths were sore from chewing. It slowed the meal down so much, that by the time we were finished, we left most of the sausage behind.

Anyway, I'm feeling a bit of a duff now, as not long after I returned home I remembered the dozen fresh eggs I was going to bring. So if you're reading this, give me an email Em and I'll drop them off at the door. We have eggs to spare! :)

I had a great time visiting and sharing the experience of gardening with another local enthusiast.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Trailers & Tow-trucks

This is a tale of stupidity...namely, ours! There are some elements in life you simply have to pay attention to. If you don't, you shouldn't be surprised when things go wrong. Trailers and tow-trucks is a phrase I don't want to have to repeat again after today.

For today was our free-mulch collection day from our local rubbish tip. But the story doesn't begin there. It had to do with our last trip with the trailer, to collect a load of blue-metal. This is used as the drainage layer in our wall and it was the last batch we needed to finish it.

Dave normally does this trip by himself, which was a good thing about a week ago. Otherwise, how could he call me at home after the trailer was experiencing problems? He was on his return journey after collecting the blue-metal from the landscape suppliers, when I got a call to ask if I could bring some tools - namely a mallet to knock the trailer mud-guard back in place.

He was only a 10 minute drive away, and I understood why he needed to pull over when I saw the extent of the damage.



This is a picture after we got home. I couldn't take one of the bent mud-guard at the time, as I didn't take a camera with me. We had to bash it back into place before we could move off again.

It was a nerve wracking drive back home, as the spare tyre was flat (doh) so we had to drive on the existing tyre. I followed Dave slowly in my car, behind his fully laiden trailer. To let other drivers know to be cautious, we both had our hazzard lights on. Thankfully it was on a country road and only held up a 3 tonne truck behind us, for about 5 minutes.



When we got home, I took the photo of the tyre which had it's tread stripped bare. It was a miracle we got home at all. You're probably wondering how the mud-guard got bent in the first place? Well, we'd done 3 trips with the trailer to the same landscape suppliers with no problems. Dave said with the last trip however, he felt the bobcat nudge the trailer as it was being loaded. He thought nothing was wrong at the time, and got out to pay the driver for the load.

It was that trip I had to go rescue him from the side of the road. Thanks Mr bobcat driver! We couldn't really approach the landscape suppliers for a repair bill afterwards either, as we had no "proof" it was done there. Dave should've been watching the fellow load the trailer at the time - we certainly will be doing that in future.

But with our free mulch day approaching on the weekend, we got the spare tyre pumped and changed it over. We even used the trailer to collect some hay bales and mushroom compost from up the road yesterday. Everything looked ready for our free mulch trip this morning. You can see what's coming already, can't you..?

Well the trailer drove to the rubbish tip, got loaded up, drove a few metres forwards so we could tie down the load. It was only driving out of the tip however (pot-holes with a heavy load in the back) that the mud-guard shredded the tyre again!!

And guess what? We didn't have a spare or someone we could call for a mallet!

Dave harrassed the poor office staff at the weigh-bridge for some telephone numbers and managed to call a tow-truck to rescue us. Did I mention Dave was rostered on to work this morning too, of which he missed about 1 hours pay?



This is what the damage looked like after the tow-truck dropped the trailer home today. Pretty bad huh? Needless to say, we had plenty of time before the tow-truck arrived to contemplate where we had gone wrong.

First mistake we made - rushing! The story of the tortoise and the hare has never been so relevant. Dave was rushing to get the last load of blue-metal to finish off our wall. Remember how I said we had a few misadventures building the wall - this was the mother of all misadventures. But our stupidity (or lack of forethought) didn't end there.

Second mistake, Dave didn't check the trailer after the bobcat nudged it. We never should have trusted the staff of the landscape suppliers to ensure our trailer was ready to proceed. How many of us just jump in the car and drive home again? It's been a lesson in FULL responsibility. We should've been monitoring the bobcat driver from outside the vehicle, because only then can we hold them accountable for damage.

Thirdly, and the most irresponsible mistake we made, was failing to fix the spare tyre before using the trailer again! Sure we straightened the mud-guard out and replaced the shredded tyre - but what about the spare!!! Oh, you can imagine the heads of shame that were hanging over that blatant oversight again - both of ours!

So what did this trip down wishful thinking lane, cost us in the end? One hundred and twenty dollars!! And before anyone makes the connection that it was expensive mulch for FREE mulch, we'd like to cop it plainly on the chin. The mulch was indeed free, but the $120 is what our failure to plan, cost us in the end. What an expensive lesson, hey? One hundred dollars for the tow-truck driver and twenty dollars for time lost on Dave's casual wage.

Needless to say, the trailer has been dry-docked and won't be used until the mud-guard is dealt with properly. I have to say, before we took off on our journey today, we didn't realise the problem was with the weight of the load. Trailers normally jump around when travelling, and with a light load, it doesn't push the tyre that far into the mud-guard.

In both cases we experienced problems, it was the weight of the load that pushed the tyre higher into the skewed guard, whenever we travelled over a bump.

So please bare in mind our tale of stupidity, when you next think of hitching up your trailer. Saftey and consideration doesn't end after you attach the safety chain. Get out and watch the vehicles loading your trailer - from the side they are loading it on. Make sure your spare could be used in an emergency and when it doubt, don't venture out!

Our next venture with the trailer will be ensuring it's 100% operational!

Take care out there.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Rock Art

G'day, well I promised to share the art project Dave got into while carving away our rock wall. Thankfully, it was only a few metres of rock, but it was still time consuming all the same.

After about a whole day of chipping away at the rock, Dave got a bit bored and decided to make his labour interesting. He took a pick and started to chisel away at the rock face to create...well, a rock face!



We affectionately nameed it, "Raikia" because as we worked at separate ends of the wall, we left the "rake here", in the middle where the rock was - so we could both use it when we needed to.



And here's Dave, striking a pose with his new creation. It was chiselled from the rock face, closest to his straight leg. What started as a little creativity to break the bordom of rock smashing, became a friendly face to watch over the rest of our project.

So in a way, we will always have part of the original wall to remember.

Raikia is made from sandstone we believe, which is naturally occuring in our area too. So when you're next out in the garden, doing something really quite tedious, make a game of it and you just may find a momento to remember how you got through it all.