Saturday, November 26, 2016

Summer sourdough

So the day before the big tank, moving day, I decided to make another tutorial about how to make sourdough. It would be featuring, Griffin, the sourdough starter again, and how to turn it into wonderful, soft sourdough bread.

The day before last, was uneventful for Griffin. My starter performed as expected, once I split and fed it. I happily collected photos along the way. At about 10.30pm that night, I made up the dough and put it to bed, overnight, on my kitchen counter. Complete with the glass top to preserve moisture.

I have done this evening process, of leaving the kneaded dough on my bench overnight, for many years now. But there's always one thing you cannot predict. The overnight temperatures. If it gets too warm, the wild yeasts, feast quicker.

That's when I woke up to this....

My dough had over-proved. In this particular bowl, the dough just barely touches the glass top, when it's ready. But the dough had lifted the glass top instead, so a skin formed on the exposed dough, billowing out the sides.

If you're fortunate, like I was, the dough hadn't completely broken down it's gluten yet. So I was just able to handle the wet, sticky dough, quickly enough to place it into a greased tin...

There is nothing graceful about handling a sticky dough, which won't hold it's round shape. A little flour on the counter and hands may help, but I wouldn't attempt to deliberately knead more flour into it. As this will give you a heavier, more gritty tasting loaf.

When dough over-proves, after the first rise, you're going to have problems handling it, and you may even have to have a longer than normal proving time, the second time around. That's because all the stores of food, are almost completely exhausted. It's a case of "seeing" if you can rescue it, but with absolutely no guarantees.

As if the first rise wasn't over-proved enough though....

Guess who's timer went off, when I was helping move the water tank into position, and subsequently didn't hear it? I was so elated with the new tank finally being laid, and all the photos I took afterwards, that I completely forgot I left bread to rise, in the switched off oven.

Hence, why the above image demonstrates a flat top to my loaf, instead of a rounded one. All the gluten strands were breaking apart, instead of holding their form. The first rise had already cost my loaf, and now the second rise, had almost done it in.

Nowhere to go however, but forwards. So into the oven, it went...

I really wish THIS is how it turned out. But this is a comparison photo, of what a well timed sourdough loaf, should look like. It has a lovely rounded top, and the crust is really smooth, where it has baked against the tin.

On the other hand, if you don't time your sourdough well, and over-prove your dough, the gluten won't hold it's form, and it will look more like this...

The top is more flat, and the crust is rough, because the dough hasn't risen uniformly. It baked well, in the 27 minutes I put it into the oven. The fact it hadn't completely caved in the middle, meant the dough still had some remaining stores of gluten left, to hold "some" form.

But I wouldn't know it was edible, until I opened it up and gave it a try. I had to wait many hours until it was completely cool, as I knew this loaf would be harder to slice.

The crumb was okay. Which meant the bread wasn't falling apart. There was still some flexibility in the slices. The taste however, was a little more sour than normal. My youngest didn't like it and my oldest, still ate it when made into a toasted sandwich. Is there nothing grilled cheese cannot fix?

The moral to this story, and the reason for this post, is to demonstrate how your sourdough making will take some twists and turns, because of some elements you cannot always control. Temperature will always be one of them. Not hearing when your timer goes off, is another. *wink*

So what can you do when the overnight temperatures get warmer? One option is to put your dough in the fridge and allow it to rise slowly. Make sure to get it out of the fridge several hours before you intend to bake with it though, so it has a chance to come to room temperature. A second option though, with the quicker rising times, is to bake a loaf in a day.

Here's a sample timetable:

  • Get your starter out of the fridge at 7am
  • Split and feed it at 9am
  • Leave your sponge to sit on the counter, until 12pm
  • Make dough and have it start rising, from 12.30pm
  • Knead dough lightly, and place in bread tin, by 6pm
  • Let it rise again for an hour
  • Be ready to start baking your bread by 7pm
  • It will be out of the oven, by 7.30pm

This is a guideline, because on warmer days (especially during summer) your dough and starter will be extremely active. Which means you'll need to watch it's activity level, and intervene when it's the right time. Rather than following a prescribe time format in hours. So what are some of those visual cues you can look for?

When it comes to your sponge, after splitting and feeding, you watch the bubble activity.

This demonstrates some bubble activity, after a recent addition of flour and water. The presence of large bubbles tells you that, the starter is actively feeding. But it's still not enough bubble activity, to tell you the sponge is ready to start turning into a dough yet.

This demonstrates many more bubbles, so the yeasts are multiplying enough, to start to turn the sponge, into a dough. This has probably been sitting an hour too long though. A sign of the warmer temperatures, accelerating the yeast production. How do I know it's been sitting too long? The finer bubbles on the surface (like froth) instead of being trapped in the custard-like sponge.

The above can still be turned into a dough, it just means we have to watch the dough rise the first time, to make sure we don't over prove it, for the second rise. Your dough of course, is ready to be placed into your baking tins, once it has doubled in size (or slightly more). We don't want billowing dough, falling out the bowl though.

These are the skills you will learn as you bake bread through summer. Times will accelerate, with the yeast being so active in the food you feed it.

I have more to share about sourdough making, as I gather the photos for it. But I hope this helps anyone encountering problems, making dough at this time of year. Know that you aren't doing anything wrong in the process, but your times for intervention are accelerating. Keep a timetable in mind, but watch to see when you need to intervene. It will probably be sooner than you think during summer.

Friday, November 25, 2016


Oh my, today was busy.  We were expecting the delivery driver to arrive, with the crane, to lift our new water tank into place, at 8.30am. To our surprise we got a knock on the door at 7am instead. David and I had to be there, to help guide the tank into position, so Sarah would have to miss the bus for school, and David would drive her in later.

So here is what our driveway has looked like for the past several weeks, as we attempted to deepen the hole it would fit into. Today would determine if our calculations were any good. Nail bighting, much? We were more excited than distressed.

So this was the nifty bit of equipment, that would lift our new tank into it's final resting place. As good as David and I are digging holes and moving dirt, we're no good at lifting 400kg plus, tanks with wheelbarrows. So courtesy of our tank manufacturer, they supplied a truck with a crane to help out.

And just like that, it was airborne! The truck had a hydraulic leg, which helped stabilise it on our slope, as it lifted the heavy tank into position.

We had a slight accident with the post hole shovel (leaning against the other tank) which snapped in half. It just clipped it. But we had been working with a split handle for literally years. Now we have a legitimate reason to replace it, lol.

Then it came to rest in that hole, we'd been working on for a very long time! There was no problem with it fitting in the space, and the pad we'd been working on, was level. But the question on everyone's minds was - how did it look in relation to the other tank? Was it going to be higher, lower, or spot on?

It was pretty much, spot on! The new tank was probably 5mm slightly higher, which would no doubt settle over time. Then it would be exactly even. But there's hardly any discernible difference. Which made all that hullabaloo with extra digging, all worthwhile in the end.

We had done it! Our necessary piece of infrastructure, was finally in the ground.

For nearly 10 years, we had always seen one tank. Now there were two. We didn't realise how lonely one tank looked. Why do things always look better in pairs?

While it feels like, somewhat of a success, I would advise people not to dig into a slope, to house a water tank. We were matching what our builders decided upon year ago. But if you can avoid it, please find another way to locate your tank, than in the ground. You'll just be saving yourselves a lot of work.

We have yet to backfill, after the plumber connects it up. But we need to put some water in the new tank first, to hold it steady. Or it could move as we backfill.

As of now though, it looks like it should have always been there. I still can't believe that big old tank, is finally in the ground. Plumber is due to arrive this Wednesday, or Friday - depending how his schedule holds out.

So almost there.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Last Tuesday

Last Tuesday was David's day off, and after the day was over, we were one step closer to having our rainwater tank installed.

We filled the hole with crusher dust, and David compacted it with the equipment we hired for half a day. It took longer to collect the compactor from town, than it did to compact the site.

The only thing left for us to do now, is dig the trench that will take the water from this new tank, up to the pump of our existing one. All things going well, the truck with the crane, will arrive on Friday morning and lift our tank into place.

Then we'll just need the plumber to arrive and connect it all. Almost there.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Sharing and making

David and I have been busy today, but I'll save that story for another time. I've been wanting to share a picture of some sourdough, since I received it yesterday, from one of the lovely ladies at the Toowoomba Simple Living group.

Home made goodies

Vicki made this beautiful sourdough loaf and marmalade, in her kitchen yesterday, and I couldn't be more pleased. That bread is as good as, if not better, than some of the loaves I make!

She said in her email, it must be like I've given birth. Which made me smile, but I believe I can only be the support partner. Anyone who applies dedication to sourdough making, should be deemed the bearer of it. And I'm really chuffed for Vicki and her personal dedication to see her first loaf of sourdough through.

Well done Vicki!!

Monday, November 21, 2016

My name is...

At the sourdough workshop held on Saturday, I was asked the most befuddling question by NanaChel, of Going Grey and Slightly Green, fame. What was the name of my starter? I knew there was great tradition in naming sourdough starter, but I had never gotten around to naming mine.

Maybe it's because of all the years we've kept living things at our place, some of them are destined to die at some point. Chickens, guinea pigs, other beloved pets and many, many plants, all end up feeding the worms at some point. I even ended the life of my first sourdough starter, when I initially gave up eating gluten.

In the end however, I realised how much I hated buying bread for my family, and decided to make a new starter instead. A few years later, I would be multiplying it like crazy, and giving it out, at the Toowoomba Simple Living Group.

So now, it's fitting to bestow a name...I think.

This is "Griffin", the sourdough starter, from Gully Grove. I chose Griffin because the name origin, refers to fierce. And I hope Griffin will be as fierce in producing bread in your kitchen, as they are in mine.

As I heard from Barb, of Barpet's Patch fame, yesterday, her starter was bursting out of the jar to meet her the very next morning. And so it seems, Griffin is too. All that extra feeding, must have given extra potency!

I'm happy that a little bit of Griffin, has made it to so many enthusiastic bread makers in our region. Thank you to all those who drove extra long distances to make it to the workshop. It was lovely to meet you all. And thank you, Chel for encouraging me to find a name. :)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sourdough fruit buns

I'll be updating several sourdough recipes, in the next week, from the Toowoomba Simple Living Group, sourdough workshop. It's beneficial to see what is possible, with slightly different treatments of the same recipe. All my recipes are based on the basic dough here.

Just a quick correction on oven temps, which I got wrong on the workshop day. It's 210 degrees Celcius (fan-forced) and 220 convection oven. Which is why the loaves I took out, were a little underdone. My apologies for that slight oversight.

Cooked sourdough fruit buns

We did eat some fruit buns at the workshop though, which is worth noting the recipe variances to make a basic white loaf, into these fruit buns. This will yield 12 buns, if baked in a Lamington tin (30 x 24cm).

Make the sponge, by splitting the starter and feeding it 1 cup of bakers flour to 1 cup of room temperature water. Stir well, and then add to your sponge bowl only:

1 1/2 cups sultanas
{I use regular ALDI sultanas}

Allow the sponge to sit 2-4 hours, or until its thick and filled with bubbles. You can let it go up to 8 hours if need be. When ready to make the dough, add to the sponge:
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
few drops of orange essence or a crushed to powder, vitamin C tablet (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon full cream milk powder 
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cups bakers flour

Once you've incorporated enough flour to make it tacky, knead for up to 10 minutes, or until the dough forms a tight (but spongy) ball. Spray the bowl you intend for the dough to rise in, with oil, then cover with a wet tea towel, cling film or plastic lid, over your bowl. This prevents a skin from forming.

First rise

Let rise for approximately 4-8 hours. Or until it has doubled in size. The above photo shows a finished dough, ready to be moulded into balls.

To get 12 rolls, first start by removing the dough from the bowl and kneading it for about 30 seconds on the bench. Roll into a ball again, then with a large chef's knife, make a cut, horizontally and vertically.

Cut into quarters

This initial cross, gives the guide to cut each quarter, into thirds. Think of a clock face, and cutting twice, at each number between, 3, 6, 9 and 12 o'clock positions.

12 pieces

It doesn't matter if some pieces are larger than others, because you can always cut a little off one, and add it to another. Keep using that chef's knife for getting the balls equal.

Then you want to roll each segment into a ball.

Rolling segments

I find it easy to cup my hand around the dough (fingertips facing down on the bench) and moving in a circular motion. The top of the dough, barely touches the palm of my hand. If you press down hard, with the palm of your hand, you'll flatten the roll.

Or do it how best you feel comfortable, achieving a ball shape.

Ready for second rise

Next, spray your Lamington tin with oil and space balls, evenly on the tray. The sides of the Lamington tin, will help the balls, meld together as they rise.  

Remember to use your oven as a prover, set to approximately 50 degrees Celcius (fan-forced) with a bowl of hot water, in the bottom. Preheat oven for 5 minutes, before adding rolls. Then you can switch the oven off, ten minutes, after putting the rolls in. The residual heat and water should make it perfect for rising.

Ready to bake

Let the buns, rise in the make-shift prover for approximately 1 hour. They should double up nicely. When ready to cook remove from the oven and place on a bench, out of the way. Then preheat oven to 180-200 degrees Celsius (fan forced) 200-220 for a standard oven.

Cook for approximately 25-30 minutes. These are delicious and make great snacks for lunch boxes. You can even freeze them individually and wrap in cling film, to keep fresh, if you're not going to be able to eat them, in a few days.

As I learned at the workshop however, each oven differs and you really need to learn what temp works best, cooking in your oven. I know my oven perfectly, but other ovens will vary. After a few goes you'll learn what temperature works best for what time frame.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Sourdough workshop

It was lovely to meet everyone from the Toowoomba Simple Living group today, where I conducted a workshop on making sourdough. For all those who took sourdough starter home with them, this is the care instructions promised:

Before you go to bed tonight:

  • feed your cup of starter with 1 cup of water, and 1 cup of bakers flour
  • stir well 
  • you can leave it on the counter for an hour, if you plan to bake the next day, otherwise, place back in fridge immediately.
  • you can bake at any point between tomorrow and day 4-5
  • keeps active for up to 4-5 days, before having to repeat the process of splitting and feeding again (so long as it's kept in the fridge.
  • You can push it to 5-7 days if you want, but it will decrease in activity over time. See what works for you

This is now your magic, 2-3 cups of sourdough starter (approximately) in which to make your own bread. It fluctuates, depending how much it's expanded.

Be sure to remove starter from the fridge, 2 hours before you split and feed the starter again. As it needs to be awake, in order to feed.

Always use half the contents of your starter jar, to 1 cup of bakers flour and 1 cup of room temperature water, to make one Restaurant size loaf of bread.

In winter, plan to have your starter jar out, 3 hours before feeding, if it's cooler in your house.

Notes on doubling amounts of starter for baking

If you want to double your starter for making 2 loaves
(after doing, above)

  • Split starter and feed each amount, 1 cup of water and 1 cup of flour each
  • Should be about 2-3 cups in total, for each bowl
  • Return one bowl to your starter jar and place back in fridge (as usual)
  • Keep the remaining bowl on the counter, and plan to split the remaining starter/sponge, in 8 -12 hours and feed again. Remember to stir regularly
  • Four hours after the last feed, you can make up your two loaves into dough

You can always increase your starter for 2 loaves on a permanent basis, by increasing your storage jar capacity, and placing both bowls in it, instead of holding one back to split and feed again. Bear in mind though, its better to bake every 4-5 days to refresh your starter again, with baking. So unless your family goes through 2 loaves in 4 days, the starter may eventually wane in activity, with the larger amounts of starter to feed, if you're not using it.

For my separate tutorial on how to make starter from scratch, see this post.
For how to make the sponge, or splitting and feeding, see this post.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment, or contact me at:

 c dot d dot riley at optusnet dot com dot au

Happy Baking!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Pineapple flower

It's been a long time coming, but we finally have another pineapple flowering. They are so pretty with their little purple flowers. Each segment, contains a flower. Now I've read that pineapples don't require much water or nutrients, in order to flower, but I've been growing them long enough to know, that's not entirely true.

My favourite time - fruiting pineapples

They require good drainage, otherwise they will rot and they certainly don't need to be inundated with water. Coming from the Bromeliaceae family, they have adapted to minimal water requirements, through their cleverly designed leaves. However, if you want them to flower, they do have to be kept moist once the heat arrives.

Like any flowering plant, moisture triggers the flowers to bloom. These flowers do not require pollination, in order for the fruit to develop, but it doesn't happen at all, unless there's some moisture present. So if you're going to water your pineapple at all, make sure it gets a drink every now and then, once the heat arrives. This is applicable to my climate, which is predominately dry, in Spring. If you receive reliable rainfall through your warmer months however, then you won't have to do a thing.

Catching organic debris

When I added spent coffee grounds, to the nearby lime tree, this pineapple got some caught in it's leaves too. This is how pineapples feed, along with uptake of nutrients in the roots. But the roots aren't very extensive, so anything you can place in the fronds are beneficial.

If you're going to feed the fronds though, make sure it's free draining material, so it doesn't block the leafs from draining water away. Coffee grounds are a good, free draining material, and I've also dropped a banana peel on it. But best of all, are other leaves. Which is why, the best place to plant a pineapple, is under the drip-line of a tree.

Pineapple - left

I have several pineapples, planted in various inhospitable places around the yard, but this spot under the lime tree, is where we've consistently gotten fruit. This is the second plant I've put in this spot, and it's fruited before some I planted at the same time, as the original plant. Pineapples can survive harsh conditions, but the trick is to get them to flower.

Which is why under the lime tree, is the sweet spot we've discovered for growing pineapples. We've let nature do the fertilising, along with the cooler micro-climate under the tree, to help retain moisture. Just don't be overly kind to your pineapples, and feed them heavy fertilisers. It will burn them. Slow releasing, organic materials are best.

Newest propagated pineapple tops

The three pineapple tops I propagated recently, are doing well. The centre of the crown are a deep green colour, and will start producing new leafs soon. It's the centre of a pineapple, that indicates the pineapple's condition. Deep green and it has enough moisture. If it starts going yellow however, then you're killing it with too much moisture. It's rotting. Take it out of the pot, and let the roots dry out a bit, and consider if your potting material is free draining enough.

If the length of the leafs are starting to turn red, then they need some nutrients. Give them some organic material and a weak tea of your choosing (worm, weed or manure). If the centre of the pineapple crown is turning red however, then it's getting ready to send up fruit, so don't worry in that case.

In about six months we should be ready to pick our pineapple to eat. So late autumn. It takes a long time to produce fruit from a pineapple top (anywhere from 18 to 24 months) but for sheer neglect purposes, these are a reliable producer. Especially when tree, drip lines, are involved. The hardest part is in the waiting. Pineapples, pretty much take care of themselves.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Tank update #1

This isn't an update on the tank installation, but progress on the hole we've been digging for it. I haven't done an update on our earthworks, since this post, just over a month ago! It was a lot of dirty, sweaty work, and the last thing I was thinking about, was taking the camera out again.

I did happen to get one ominous photo between then and now, however...

Taken from above ~ nine days ago

I say "ominous", because we were about ready to receive our water tank delivery, and the crane to lift it into place, two days later. We were so excited and proud for almost finishing our first, major infrastructure project. That was, until we discovered the new tank was taller than the old one, once it arrived.

If we didn't want to lose water storage capacity, we'd have to dig down an extra 10 to 15cms. So guess what? All that blue metal, had to come out. Not to mention the 4 cubic metres of crusher dust we had dumped into the hole, since the above photo was taken.

Crusher dust

By the time we were done relocating it all, there were several piles around the site, similar in size, to the picture above.

The day we realised it all went wrong, was probably our lowest point. We asked ourselves questions like..."why did we order so much crusher dust - it was too much"...and, "did we really have to get it delivered into the hole, instead of next to it?"

Of course, if the tank was similar in size, our decisions would have been genius. We would have cracked open that bottle of wine in the fridge, precisely for celebrating this special occasion - about two weeks ago.

So let this be a lesson when upgrading infrastructure. No matter how similar something appears to be on paper, let it arrive on site before making decisions of a permanent nature. That way you can make adjustments as necessary, without double handling materials that get in the way.

Digging down

This shows approximately, how far we had to go down. We aimed for around 20cms, as we didn't want to get caught "short" again. It would be easier to fill up the hole, with the excess crusher dust, than have to take it out and dig down again.

The reason it's taking us so long, is most of it is red clay...

Chunks of clay

Which means it sticks together and takes a lot of weight to separate it. Thankfully, it comes out in large chunks when you do manage to fracture it, but it makes for a heavy barrow when you're carting it uphill too. As we are. We have a landscape project in mind, which clay is best used for. So at least the extra digging, has served a useful purpose.

Of course, most of it is clay, but...

Rock fragments

There just had to be a "but", didn't there? What makes digging clay even harder, is when your mattock or crowbar, hits petrified wood. Rock, in other words! We felt like those cartoon characters who hit something hard, and end up shaking all over the placed. Okay, not that bad, but David's hands certainly felt it.

Early into our second attempt of digging, he affected his mild case of carpel tunnel. He was diagnosed a couple of months ago. Needless to say, he couldn't clasp properly and he experienced significant discomfort. He had to take several days off, until his hands resumed normal operation again.

At this point though, hiring equipment wasn't really an option.  We'd hemmed the site with crusher dust, and had to accept this hole was just going to take as long as it needed us to get through it.

See the red clay streak?

The good news is, we're just about done. There's less than a quarter to remove. Thankfully, there's hardly any rocks now - so it's mostly straight clay.

The hole is approximately 4 metres in diameter, and the tank will be sitting on solid clay, as well as about 10cms of compacted crusher dust. We had NO idea, this project would be so involved. However, for all the twists and turns, it's an opportunity to evaluate how best we work on our piece of land too.

 Break time

David and I both realised, we don't like hiring equipment. This might sound crazy, after ALL we've been through, but we experienced earthworks equipment in the building of our house, about 11 years ago. A lot happens in a short amount of time with large machinery, and afterwards, you don't really appreciate what it took to change the landscape like that.

If our land is going to be scarred today, we want to be the ones doing it by hand. We are noticing what's in the soil as we're moving it, and the conditions we're leaving behind. That's not only important, in making future decisions with, but it also informs us of different "manual" approaches we may need to adopt. Because what if we won't always have extra funds, for the option of hiring equipment? Wouldn't it be best to know and test, what we can actually do with the manual tools permanently on site?

We are testing ourselves through this process too, however. For all the pain and low points, we've learned there's actually MORE to our physical capabilities and mental dexterity, than we thought.  

Patiently waiting

Our large tank, sits above the hole now, reminding us it's not just about spending money. Neither is it about "acquiring" things. Even necessary things. It's about being honest to the process, of what on God's earth, we're doing with our hands. Feeling the sting of our labours, is the essence of living. Not because we particularly like pain, or the inconvenience of it, but because it's an honest reflection of our choices.

There's nothing like holding a decade old mattock, in your hands, and knowing how many endless blows it takes to form a callous with it. Or the teamwork of your family, working side-by-side. Each performing what they can, and talking about the day we all had, before coming to the pit for sanctuary and camaraderie. That tank will be the life of us. Not because we earned it, but because we allowed ourselves to experience it. Human fragility and all.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Beetroot teacake

I don't eat a lot of pickled beetroot. I like it, but I don't eat huge quantities of it. However, I still grow fresh beetroot in my garden, because their preferred use, is in cakes. I haven't eaten chocolate-beetroot cake for a while, because I love my teacake recipe too much!

Be prepared for a shock however, because without cocoa powder (as in the chocolate cake recipe) the purple colour of beetroot, takes centre stage...

Don't be put off though, because during the cooking process it changes completely. Topped with my favourite cream cheese frosting, and this cake is always a winner. Because it's light, tangy and just a little bit sweet.

The tang comes from the lemon juice and zest, while the sweet comes from the currants. There is sugar in the batter too, but it helps hide the savoury flavour of the beets. I wouldn't call this an overly sweet cake though.

I make this with gluten-free plain flour, but you can just as easily use regular plain flour. So here is my recipe for Beetroot teacake:


125g softened butter
1 cup raw sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup plain yoghurt (I use Greek)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 fresh beet (200g) puréed
1 1/2  cups plain flour (Gluten Free or Regular)
1 teaspoon bicarb
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup currants

Preheat oven to moderate (160 degrees Celsius for me - check your type of oven HERE.) Then grease and line a round 8" cake pan, and set aside.

Place butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Cream together with a hand mixer, for about a minute. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending in between. Add the rest of the ingredients, leaving out the currants, and mix for about a minute. When the batter is nice and smooth, stir in the currants with a wooden spoon or spatula. The mix should be more light, than dense, but the currants won't sink to the bottom either.

Pour into prepared pan, and bake for roughly 35-45 minutes. Depending how accurate your temp is inside your oven, it may have to cook up to an hour. Don't open the oven before 35 minutes however, or your cake will sag in the middle. It should spring back, when gently pressed in the centre and have a skewer come out clean, when inserted in the middle. That is when it is cooked.

Once out of the oven, let stand for 5-10 minutes, before turning onto a cake rack. Cool completely before adding the frosting:


125g cream cheese @ room temp (NOT the spreadable variety, it's too soft)
30g softened butter
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup icing sugar
  *add extra 1/2 cup if too thin to hold it's form - depends on cream cheese

Place all ingredients in a bowl with high sides. Blend with a hand mixer, until smooth. This should be enough frosting to spread on top of the cake, and lightly around the sides.

Keep cake in the fridge, as it has a lot of dairy in it. Take cut slices and let them sit at room temperature, for 10 minutes before consuming. It's nice cold, but even nicer when its had a chance to come to room temperature. Is at it's best for 5 days, in the fridge, but can be kept for up to a week.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The tank

After about a month of manual labour, digging by hand to prepare a pad for our new rainwater tank. It finally arrived...

Yesterday afternoon, just after 5pm, we saw our new 5400 Gallon tank, come down the driveway. There was quite a bit of nail-bighting, whether the truck could actually make it down our driveway or not. But the truck-driver handled it like a pro.

We're glad the driveway was sealed, so such a truck could come down our slope, without losing traction. Once the water tank was off-loaded, he just reversed back up again. It was less painless than we thought, and relatively quick.

So the good news was the tank had arrived. The bad news was, it was 10cms taller than our existing tank. Which meant we had to dig down, that much again. Only we already had a truckload of crusher dust, delivered on the pad it's meant to sit on. Way more than we needed too.

It will add another 3 days labour, just to remove the crusher dust and dig down further. We are pretty exhausted at this point and were looking forward to having the tank positioned tomorrow, by a truck with a crane. But it looks like it will take an extra week until we reach that point. Thankfully, the company we bought the tank from, were okay holding off the second truck with a crane, until we're ready.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Geoff Lawton

I'm having down time today, from our rainwater tank project. I needed it. So what do I do with my down time? I generally read the fantastic articles inspired by permaculture. If there's any hope in turning the tide against climate variability, it can be found in permaculture.

Being a parent and family member to others, I'm inspired by articles which show the extent of our human creativity, and the best we can do for all living things. So we can continue to be healthy, abundant, families and communities.

Peter found a garlic flower, and put it in my pocket

I was reminded of this, when I listened to one of Geoff Lawton's "Friday Five", links, in his weekly newsletters. You can listen to it here: it's called, "Alternative systems and true sustainability". It's fantastic to read the weekly links when I have the time. But what struck me in Geoff's talk today, was how he spoke about "Non eco-systems assemblies", as unsustainable.

We tend to look at corporate greed as the problem - and hey - it is. But if we want to break it down to a simple numbers equation; *any* application of energy, which is not based on eco-systems, will ultimately lose energy. It's that continued loss of energy to our natural systems (without replenishment) which makes it increasingly difficult to continue supplying our species with resources.

Geoff speaks about "sustainability" in a way that doesn't favour or prejudice any kind of alternative system that gives our species food, but he does make the claim that permaculture is second to none, when it comes to designing systems with a net gain in abundance. He said, once you generate abundance in a natural system, you're then free to trade in it.

Which is the kind of prosperity our children and grandchildren, need for their future. So naturally I love reading about it and finding ways to implement the information. My idea of down time.

NOTE: you will have to sign into Geoff's website by supplying an email and name. I've been doing this for years though, and it's totally been worth it. If you want to sign up to receive Geoff's, Friday Five, you can do so here.